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Conquering Hard Passages

Drill: Paragraphs

Write a summary of each paragraph. Start by identifying a topic sentence. If it’s difficult to understand, use your simplifying tools. Pay particular attention to transition words to help you figure out how ideas are related to each other, then add details from the body sentences to your final summary.

1. Despite rampant gender bias in the burgeoning field of aviation early in the twentieth century, some women found ways to compete and even to triumph. Ruth Law, for example, set a new nonstop distance record in 1916 by flying 590 miles from Chicago to Hornell, New York. She was so successful that in 1917 she was earning as much as $9,000 per week for exhibition and stunt flights. Her success exemplified the resourcefulness and fortitude demanded of a woman who wanted to enter a male-dominated discipline.

What does the topic sentence say?

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What are the transition words in the paragraph?

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Final summary:

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2. According to traditional beliefs of the Hopi and Pueblo tribes, kachina, the spirits of dead ancestors, visit their villages on the winter solstice. Each kachina is said to possess both a specific personality and a lesson to impart to the members of the village. Many of the kachina play traditional roles. For instance, a chief brings lessons of wisdom, a mother brings lessons of love and patience, or an ogre teaches about discipline and behavior. However, there are also clown-like characters who act in outrageous ways during otherwise solemn ceremonies to bring comic relief. But this is not their only function; by breaking various taboos and transgressing boundaries set up by society, these clown characters provide examples to the younger members of the tribe of unacceptable conduct.

What does the topic sentence say?

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What are the transition words in the paragraph?

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Final summary:

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3. The remarkable variety of geothermal features in Yellowstone National Park is the result of an ancient volcanic eruption, which created one of the largest known calderas. Although there is no longer an active volcano in Yellowstone, a shallow body of magma is responsible for the impressive geysers, hot springs, mud pots, and fumaroles. As cold water percolates through the permeable ground rock, it comes into contact with magma-heated brine, and is itself heated to well above the boiling point. Pressure, however, keeps this super-heated water from turning into steam. The resulting difference in density between the super-heated water and the cold water around it creates convection currents that send the hot water back to the surface through cracks in the rhyolitic lava flows, creating the iconic features of the park.

What does the topic sentence say?

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What are the transition words in the paragraph?

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Final summary:

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4. By the early years of the nineteenth century, American landscape art was closely associated with the system of republican ideals of the new nation. It had become a potent force in the popular imagination because landscape painters used images to suggest limitless possibilities, which resonated with the view of American as occupying a unique role in world history. In other words, images of the American landscape became symbols of national pride.

What does the topic sentence say?

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What are the transition words in the paragraph?

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Final summary:

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5. Before the invention of the piano, the expressive possibilities available to composers were limited by the harpsichord’s lack of dynamic range. In the early eighteenth century, Bartolomeo Cristofori successfully built an instrument that was loud enough for large public performances and also allowed for expressive control of volume and sustained notes. Consequently, a new era in composition was ushered in with the greatly expanded expressive possibilities of Cristofori’s design.

What does the topic sentence say?

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What are the transition words in the paragraph?

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Final summary:

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