Active Reading of “The Glass Castle”Active Reading of “The Glass Castle”


Read pages 116-139 (Starting on “ONE DAY WHILE” and finishing on “THAT FALL, TWO GUYS”) pages of the book (I attached pdf file).

To help train yourself to be an active reader, there are several things you will be asked to do. To start, you’ll need 3 colored pens:



Red Pen: Identifying/Clarifying Key Terms

As you are reading, use red pen to circle or underline vocabulary terms. These can include both words that are unfamiliar to you, and essential key words that a reader needs to know in order to understand the text. (1 sentence per red pen word)

  • Once you have identified unfamiliar and key vocabulary terms, define them in the margins. Make sure it’s clear which definition goes with which word (an arrow can work well for this).
  • If you’ve looked up a word but you’re still unclear about what the author means in that particular sentence or passage, try defining the word in context. In other words, try rewriting the sentence in your own words using the definition (or synonyms) you found.
  • It is always important to “double check” that you understand the meaning of the words in a passage. Even if you think you understand all of the vocabulary in a text, identifying and defining the words that are most essential to the author’s main ideas will help you think more clearly and deeply about what the author is trying to communicate.


Blue Pen: Identifying/Clarifying Main Ideas

Main ideas in a section of the reading. (3-4 sentences per blue pen text)

  • Underline phrases that you think are the main and most important ideas the author wants to get across. The purpose is not to underline everything! You should be focused on identifying only what is most essential.
  • When you underline, you must paraphrase in your own words what the author is saying in the margins. This is the step that will help clarify your understanding; underlining alone accomplishes nothing. Remember that this is a summary, meaning that it should be brief (just a few words or a phrase). You are not rewriting the whole passage here!
  • Identifying the main ideas in a reading does not necessarily mean you need to summarize each paragraph. You should identify the main ideas when:
    • You don’t understand what the author is saying. (Often the process of paraphrasing helps clarify, especially when paired with the vocabulary work of your red pen!)
    • You come across a passage that is essential to understanding the whole text.
    • The author presents a new idea

Black Pen: Responding/Analyzing Main Ideas OR Figurative language OR Symbols/Symbolism, Theme, Imagery.

  • Responding/Analyzing to the text. Underline the part of the text you want to respond to, and then use the space in the margin to make your notes. (3-4 sentence per black pen text) These kinds of annotations can include:
    • Clarifying Questions (i.e. a question that can be supported with a factual answer). A good active reader might pause and research the answer, and come back and annotate the text once they’ve found it.
    • Analytical Questions (i.e. a question that can help you to gain further insight into a text). A good active reader not only asks analytical questions, but also tries to answer them.
    • Your evaluation/opinion of a particular passage or idea
    • Examples to support the author’s point
    • Examples or counter-arguments to refute the author’s point
    • Inferences or predictions about what might happen next (in fiction) or what the author might say next (in a non-fiction text)
    • Connections to other classes, texts, or personal experiences (Use your outside/prior knowledge to interact directly with ideas stated in the text.
  • Figurative language. Figurative language is the non-literal use of words or phrases to describe an object, person, or action. Underline in blue color words or phrases that relate to Figurative Language (1-2 sentences per black pen text).
    • Metaphor-makes a comparison between two things that are unrelated but share some common characteristics
    • Simile-makes comparison between two things that are unrelated using like or as
    • Hyperbole-An exaggeration
    • Personification-when an object or animal is given human characteristics
    • Idiom-a phrase that is used as a common saying or expression
    • Alliteration-a series of words that have the same starting consonant
  • Symbols/Symbolism, Theme, and Imagery. (2-3 sentences per black pen text)
    • A symbol is an object that represents a larger, usually abstract idea or concept. Look at objects, colors, repeated things and see if there is a deeper meaning to them.
    • Imagery is when an author uses incredibly descriptive language in order to paint an image in the reader’s mind. Imagery relies heavily on stimulating the senses: taste, touch, sight, smell, and sound.
    • Theme is when you analyze a passage from a story, ask yourself what’s the overall, universal message. What is the author trying to convey in this section?
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