Critical Reading Strategies

To show how some critical reading strategies are used, let us first read the following excerpt from the presidential address of Manuel L. Quezon delivered to students and teachers on August 19, 1938:

The Policies and Achievements of the Government and Regeneration of the Filipino

Critical Reading Strategies

Below are some techniques to help you develop critical reading skills. Let us apply each one to the previous text.

1. Keeping a reading journal

Have you ever kept a diary? If you did, you must have felt free while expressing whatever was on your mind. This is because there are no rules in keeping a diary; you write for yourself.

A reading journal is similar to keeping a diary, except you are writing your feelings and ideas in reaction to your reading assignment. This process allows you to develop your impressions of the text and connect them to your personal experiences. This allows you to better relate to the essay and understand the author’s ideas.

When keeping a reading journal, it is best to have a separate notebook for this purpose. Include the titles of the reading assignments you are responding to and add dates to your entries.

Make it a habit to reread your entries so you can see how your ideas and writing have evolved. Keep in mind that your teacher and classmates may read your work—so only write about what you feel comfortable sharing.

Try it out on the previous reading. Let us say that you found the following quote interesting: “We have attained our freedom, but our spirit is still bound by the shackles forged from the frailties of our nature. We owe it to ourselves and our posterity to strike them down!’ What are the occasions where you felt like you were not maximizing the freedom given to you because of some challenges? Why do you feel this way? What can you do to overcome your weaknesses? Bring out a notebook and create a short entry on this.

2. Annotating the text

Annotating the text simply means making notes on your copy of the reading. This includes highlighting or underlining important passages and writing notes, comments, questions, and reactions on the margins. By doing this, you are entering into a dialogue with the author and not just passively reading the text. It is usually best to annotate the text after you have read it more than once to ensure that you understand it properly.

In the text above, try to make annotations on the paragraph that begins with this: “The Filipino of today is soft, easy-going.” Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?

3. Outlining the text

Creating a rough outline of the text will also be helpful in getting to understand it more critically. By locating the thesis statement, claims, and evidence, and then plotting these into an outline, you can see how the writer structures, sequences, and connects his or her ideas. This way you will be able to better evaluate the quality of the writing.

Try outlining President Quezon’s speech. Your outline can simply consist of a one-sentence summary of each paragraph, and you can group paragraphs which talk about the same topic together.

4. Summarizing the text

Summarizing the text is similar to outlining, in that you need to get the gist. A summary consists of getting the main points of the essay and important supporting details. Summarizing is a useful skill because you can better understand the reading if you can recognize and differentiate major and minor points in the text.

Usually, locating the thesis statement and topic sentences are helpful in creating your summary. The supporting details in a paragraph and succeeding paragraphs may be used to develop or clarify the writer’s point.

Try to summarize the speech by giving the thesis statement and choosing two to three supporting details.

5. Questioning the text

Questioning the text involves asking specific questions on points that you are skeptical about. These may be topics that do not meet your expectations or agree with your personal views. Alternately, you should also take note of things that you found impressive. The following may be asked:

  • What type of audience is addressed?
  • What are the writer’s assumptions?
  • What are the writer’s intentions?
  • How well does the writer accomplish these?
  • How convincing is the evidence presented?
  • How reliable are the sources? Are they based on personal experience, scientific data, or outside authorities?
  • Did the writer address opposing views on the issue?
  • Is the writer persuasive in his/her perspective?

Try to ask these questions of the given text. What answers do you think you will be able to come up with?