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– Vera Nazarian

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Build Vocabulary

Build Vocabulary

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Reading for Success: Literal Comprehension Strategies

~ With any piece of literature-from fiction to poetry-your first goal in reading is to understand what the writer is saying. There are strategies you can apply to help you understand even complex writing.
Reread or read ahead. Reread a sentence or a paragraph to find the connections among the words. Read ahead. A word or detail you don't understand may become clear further on.
Use context clues. Context refers to the words, phrases, and sentences that surround a word. Look for clues in the context to help you figure out the meaning of an unknown word.
• Break down confusing sentences.
Restate for understanding. Paraphrase, or restate a sentence or a paragraph in your own words. Summarize at appropriate points; review and state the main points of what has happened.
Respond. Think about what the selection means. What does it say to you? What feelings does it evoke in you?
DIRECTIONS: Read the following excerpt from "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allen Poe and apply the reading strategies to increase your understanding. In the margin, write notes showing where you reread or read ahead, use context clues, break down confusing  sentences, and restate for understanding. Finally, write your response to the excerpt on the lines provided.

from "The Tell-Tale Heart·· by Edgar Allen Poe
In the following excerpt of this murder mystery story, the narrator is recalling how he planned the crime.
Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watch's minute hand moves more quickly than did mine.Never before that night, had I felt the extent of my own powers-of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To  think that there I waSt opening the door, little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea; and perhaps he heard me; for he moved on the bed suddenlYt as if startled. Now you may think that I drew back-but no. His room  was as black as pitch with the thick darkness, (for the shutters were close fastened, through fear of robbersJ and so I knew that he could not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily,steadily.
I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening, and the old man sprung up in bed, crying out-flWho's there?fI
I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was stili sitting up in the bed listening;-just as I have done. night after night, hearkening to the death watches in the wall.
Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief-oh, no!-it was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me. I say I knew it well. I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart. I knew that he had turned in the bed. His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself-lilt is nothing but the wind in the chimney-it is only a mouse crossing the floor, II or "it is merely a cricket which has made a  single chirp." Yes, he had been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions; but he had found all in vain. All in vain; because Death, in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim. And it was the mournful influence of  the unperceived shadow that caused him to feel-although he neither saw nor heard-to feel the presence of my head within the room.
When I had waited a long time, very patiently, without hearing him lie down, I resolved to open a little-a very, very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it-you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily-until, at length, a simple dim ray, like the thread of a spider, shot  from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye.
It was open-wide, wide open-and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness-all a dull blue, with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones; but I could see nothing else of the old man's face or person: for I had directed the ray  as if by instinct, precisely upon the damned spot.
And have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over acuteness of the senses?-now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old man's heart. It increased my fury, as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.

English Vocabulary