Writing a response in your writer's notebook
One way to make sure you have understood a piece of writing is to write a response to it. It may be beneficial to first write a summary of the text, covering the thesis and main points in an unbiased way. Pretend you are reporting on the "facts" of the piece to a friend who has not read it, the point being to keep your own opinion out of the summary. Once you have summarized the author's ideas objectively, you can respond to them in your writer's notebook. You can agree or disagree with the text, interpret it, or analyze it. Working with your reading of the text by responding in writing is a good way to read critically.
Keeping a writer's notebook
A writer's notebook, or journal, is a place in which you can respond to your reading. You should feel free to say what you really think about the piece you are reading, to ask questions, and to express frustration or confusion about the piece. The writer's notebook is a place you can come back to when it is time to write an assignment, to look for your initial reactions to your readings, or to pull support for an essay from personal experience you may have recorded. Writing about what you are reading is a way to become actively engaged in the critical reading process.