Critical Reading Skills Worksheets

Critical Reading Skills Worksheets
Vanier College: Student Success Series
Prepared by Janice Newton
PURPOSE: This task is designed to hone your analytical and critical skills through
reading and writing exercises. Though it may seem difficult at first, the repetition of this
task will make you more proficient at identifying central arguments and supporting
evidence from readings. You will find it easier to participate in seminar discussions and
you will also become skilled at developing your own unique critical responses to the
readings. After you have completed a required reading, I encourage you to spend five
to ten minutes doing this exercise. If you write your thoughts down, you will have a
record of the development of your critical thinking throughout the course related to
specific readings. This written log will be an invaluable resource when preparing for
essays and future writing projects.
Step #1: PRE-READING: 3 minutes
This is a crucial step that novice readers skip and experienced readers do. Pre-reading
helps to orient you before you start the reading, prepares you for the broad outlines of
what is to come, and it begins integrating new information with what you already know.
You should make it a routine part of your reading.
Notice the title of the article, or book title and table of contents. What do you
already know about this subject?
Examine the title, subheadings or chapter headings. Do they help you anticipate
the direction the author intends to take on this subject?
Read the opening paragraphs, skim the first and last sentences of the
paragraphs in the body of the text, then read the concluding paragraphs. Can
you anticipate the author’s subject, question, argument or evidence?
After you finish a full reading, you can compare what you now know with the ideas from
the pre-read to develop a sharper focus on the author’s points.
Vanier College, Student Success Series
October 28, 2014
(7-10 minutes)
Write out, in your own words, the following:
Subject: What is this piece about? (1-2 words)
Question: What is the central controversy or question the author addresses? (Try to
pose this as an actual question – even if the author does not present the issue in
question format.)
Argument: What is the author's most important point or central argument? Try to
summarize this as concisely as possible (even if the author did not!) (One sentence)
Evidence: List up to three important facts or evidence the author cites that support his
or her case. (3 sentences maximum.)
Your Response:* Respond to any one of the following: and write for at least half a
A/ How do the ideas (or methodology) in this article connect with, support or contradict
other readings you have studied?
B/ What aspect of this reading was most persuasive or least persuasive? What further
evidence or argument is needed to convince you of this argument?
C/ How does the reading match or contradict your personal experience or knowledge of
current or historical events?
D/ Discuss the reading with someone who may have had direct experience of the issue.
How does the reading match or contradict their experience?
* Note: this stage is crucial because it is mapping the new information with what
you already know. Research on learning shows that this kind of exercise is
crucial for learning, recall and retaining new material. It also reinforces prior
Vanier College, Student Success Series
October 28, 2014
Do a separate log for each required reading or chapter in a given week; don’t try
to clump chapters together.
Write informally, don’t bother to polish.
Note down full information for referencing, including the page numbers.
Try to put the author’s points into your own words
Be concise!
Distinguish between your words and ideas, paraphrases of the author’s ideas,
and direct quotations. You don’t always know whether a reading will later prove
useful in an essay, at which point you may forget which words are the author’s
words and which are your own.
Bring a copy of your log to class to jog your recall of key points.
Use your notes to focus class discussion on the central issues raised in the
readings (your professor will likely be thrilled!).
Issues will become clarified through class discussion. What you thought was a
central argument may not turn out to be so central after the discussion. Expect
this to happen and be sure to jot down these additional ideas as the class
discussion clarifies the readings.
You will learn that good writers make it easy for their readers to distinguish their
important points. Be alert to how they do this and apply these principles of clarity
to your own writing.
This may seem time consuming at first, but the more you do it, the more
proficient you will become in your critical skills and the more these skills will be
reflected in your own writing. The repetition and practice is crucial.
Vanier College, Student Success Series
October 28, 2014
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