ISEE Lower Level Reading : Identifying and Analyzing Main Idea and Theme in Literature Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ISEE Lower Level Reading

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Example Question #1 : Identifying And Analyzing Main Idea And Theme In Literature Passages

Adapted from The Call of the Wild by Jack London (1903)

Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have known that trouble was brewing, not alone for himself, but for every tide-water dog, strong of muscle and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego. Because men, groping in the Arctic darkness, had found a yellow metal, and because steamship and transportation companies were booming the find, thousands of men were rushing into the Northland. These men wanted dogs, and the dogs they wanted were heavy dogs, with strong muscles by which to toil, and furry coats to protect them from the frost.

Buck lived at a big house in the sun-kissed Santa Clara Valley. Judge Miller's place, it was called. It stood back from the road, half hidden among the trees, through which glimpses could be caught of the wide cool veranda that ran around its four sides. The house was approached by graveled driveways which wound about through wide-spreading lawns and under the interlacing boughs of tall poplars. At the rear things were on even a more spacious scale than at the front. There were great stables, where a dozen grooms and boys held forth, rows of vine-clad servants' cottages, an endless and orderly array of outhouses, long grape arbors, green pastures, orchards, and berry patches. Then there was the pumping plant for the artesian well, and the big cement tank where Judge Miller's boys took their morning plunge and kept cool in the hot afternoon.

And over this great demesne Buck ruled. Here he was born, and here he had lived the four years of his life. It was true, there were other dogs, There could not but be other dogs on so vast a place, but they did not count. They came and went, resided in the populous kennels, or lived obscurely in the recesses of the house after the fashion of Toots, the Japanese pug, or Ysabel, the Mexican hairless—strange creatures that rarely put nose out of doors or set foot to ground. On the other hand, there were the fox terriers, a score of them at least, who yelped at Toots and Ysabel looking out of the windows at them, protected by a legion of housemaids armed with brooms and mops.

Who is "protected by a legion of housemaids armed with brooms and mops"?

Possible Answers:

Buck, Toots, and Ysabel

The fox terriers

Toots and Ysabel

Only Toots

Only Ysabel

Correct answer:

Toots and Ysabel

Explanation:

In the passage's third paragraph, it states, "On the other hand, there were the fox terriers, a score of them at least, who yelped at Toots and Ysabel looking out of the windows at them, protected by a legion of housemaids armed with brooms and mops." Based on the context that the fox terriers are yelping at Toots and Ysabel who are "looking out of windows at them," and given that "housemaids armed with brooms and mops" are more likely to be present inside the house rather than outside of it, we can tell that Toots and Ysabel are being protected from the fox terriers by the housemaids.

Example Question #1 : Identifying And Analyzing Main Idea And Theme In Literature Passages

Adapted from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (1900)

Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and Aunt Em, who was the farmer's wife. Their house was small, for the lumber to build it had to be carried by wagon many miles. There were four walls, a floor and a roof, which made one room; and this room contained a rusty looking cookstove, a cupboard for the dishes, a table, three or four chairs, and the beds. Uncle Henry and Aunt Em had a big bed in one corner, and Dorothy a little bed in another corner. There was no garret at all, and no cellar—except a small hole dug in the ground, called a cyclone cellar, where the family could go in case one of those great whirlwinds arose, mighty enough to crush any building in its path. It was reached by a trap door in the middle of the floor, from which a ladder led down into the small, dark hole.

When Dorothy stood in the doorway and looked around, she could see nothing but the great gray prairie on every side. Not a tree nor a house broke the broad sweep of flat country that reached to the edge of the sky in all directions. The sun had baked the plowed land into a gray mass, with little cracks running through it. Even the grass was not green, for the sun had burned the tops of the long blades until they were the same gray color to be seen everywhere. Once the house had been painted, but the sun blistered the paint and the rains washed it away, and now the house was as dull and gray as everything else.

When Aunt Em came there to live she was a young, pretty wife. The sun and wind had changed her, too. They had taken the sparkle from her eyes and left them a sober gray; they had taken the red from her cheeks and lips, and they were gray also. She was thin and gaunt, and never smiled now. When Dorothy, who was an orphan, first came to her, Aunt Em had been so startled by the child's laughter that she would scream and press her hand upon her heart whenever Dorothy's merry voice reached her ears; and she still looked at the little girl with wonder that she could find anything to laugh at.

Uncle Henry never laughed. He worked hard from morning till night and did not know what joy was. He was gray also, from his long beard to his rough boots, and he looked stern and solemn, and rarely spoke.

It was Toto that made Dorothy laugh, and saved her from growing as gray as her other surroundings. Toto was not gray; he was a little black dog, with long silky hair and small black eyes that twinkled merrily on either side of his funny, wee nose. Toto played all day long, and Dorothy played with him, and loved him dearly.

Today, however, they were not playing. Uncle Henry sat upon the doorstep and looked anxiously at the sky, which was even grayer than usual. Dorothy stood in the door with Toto in her arms, and looked at the sky too. Aunt Em was washing the dishes.

What does the second paragraph accomplish in the passage?

Possible Answers:

It describes Dorothy's feelings about coming to live with Aunt Em and Uncle Henry.

It describes Aunt Em and Uncle Henry's neighbors' occupations and personalities.

It describes the Kansas scenery in detail.

It describes the house in which Aunt Em, Uncle Henry, Dorothy, and Toto live.

It describes Uncle Henry's lifestyle, personality, and appearance.

Correct answer:

It describes the Kansas scenery in detail.

Explanation:

The second paragraph of the passage consists of a detailed description of the dry and desolate scenery around Aunt Em and Uncle Henry's house, so the correct answer choice is "It describes the Kansas scenery in detail." 

Example Question #4 : Locating Details In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (1876)

Within two minutes, or even less, he had forgotten all his troubles. Not because his troubles were one whit less heavy and bitter to him than a man's are to a man, but because a new and powerful interest bore them down and drove them out of his mind for the time—just as men's misfortunes are forgotten in the excitement of new enterprises. This new interest was a valued novelty in whistling, which he had just acquired, and he was suffering to practice it undisturbed. It consisted in a peculiar bird-like turn, a sort of liquid warble, produced by touching the tongue to the roof of the mouth at short intervals in the midst of the music—the reader probably remembers how to do it, if he has ever been a boy. Diligence and attention soon gave him the knack of it, and he strode down the street with his mouth full of harmony and his soul full of gratitude. He felt much as an astronomer feels who has discovered a new planet—no doubt, as far as strong, deep, unalloyed pleasure is concerned, the advantage was with the boy, not the astronomer.

The summer evenings were long. It was not dark, yet. Presently Tom checked his whistle. A stranger was before him—a boy a shade larger than himself. A newcomer of any age or either sex was an impressive curiosity in the poor little shabby village of St. Petersburg. This boy was well-dressed, too—well-dressed on a weekday. This was simply astounding. His cap was a dainty thing, his close-buttoned blue cloth roundabout was new and natty, and so were his pantaloons. He had shoes on—and it was only Friday. He even wore a necktie, a bright bit of ribbon. He had a citified air about him that ate into Tom's vitals. The more Tom stared at the splendid marvel, the higher he turned up his nose at his finery and the shabbier and shabbier his own outfit seemed to him to grow. Neither boy spoke. If one moved, the other moved—but only sidewise, in a circle; they kept face to face and eye to eye all the time.

Which of the following best describes how Tom feels about the new boy?

Possible Answers:

Tom is afraid of the new boy.

Tom is ecstatic that someone new has moved to town.

Tom is impressed by the new boy.

Tom is embarrassed to be seen near the new boy.

Tom is annoyed by the new boy.

Correct answer:

Tom is annoyed by the new boy.

Explanation:

After the passage's second paragraph describes the new boy and his fancy clothes, it says that the new boy "had a citified air about him that ate into Tom's vitals." From this statement, we can assume that Tom is annoyed by the new boy, because when something "eats at" you, it bothers you or annoys you.

Example Question #4 : Identifying And Analyzing Main Idea And Theme In Literature Passages

Adapted from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (1876)

Within two minutes, or even less, he had forgotten all his troubles. Not because his troubles were one whit less heavy and bitter to him than a man's are to a man, but because a new and powerful interest bore them down and drove them out of his mind for the time—just as men's misfortunes are forgotten in the excitement of new enterprises. This new interest was a valued novelty in whistling, which he had just acquired, and he was suffering to practice it undisturbed. It consisted in a peculiar bird-like turn, a sort of liquid warble, produced by touching the tongue to the roof of the mouth at short intervals in the midst of the music—the reader probably remembers how to do it, if he has ever been a boy. Diligence and attention soon gave him the knack of it, and he strode down the street with his mouth full of harmony and his soul full of gratitude. He felt much as an astronomer feels who has discovered a new planet—no doubt, as far as strong, deep, unalloyed pleasure is concerned, the advantage was with the boy, not the astronomer.

The summer evenings were long. It was not dark, yet. Presently Tom checked his whistle. A stranger was before him—a boy a shade larger than himself. A newcomer of any age or either sex was an impressive curiosity in the poor little shabby village of St. Petersburg. This boy was well-dressed, too—well-dressed on a weekday. This was simply astounding. His cap was a dainty thing, his close-buttoned blue cloth roundabout was new and natty, and so were his pantaloons. He had shoes on—and it was only Friday. He even wore a necktie, a bright bit of ribbon. He had a citified air about him that ate into Tom's vitals. The more Tom stared at the splendid marvel, the higher he turned up his nose at his finery and the shabbier and shabbier his own outfit seemed to him to grow. Neither boy spoke. If one moved, the other moved—but only sidewise, in a circle; they kept face to face and eye to eye all the time.

What is going on in the final sentences of this passage?

Possible Answers:

Tom and the other boy are sizing each other up.

Tom is attempting to walk around the other boy and ignore him.

The other boy is getting ready to run away from Tom.

Tom and the other boy are making fun of each other.

Tom is realizing that the other boy is his cousin.

Correct answer:

Tom and the other boy are sizing each other up.

Explanation:

In the passage's second paragraph, we are told, "The more Tom stared at the splendid marvel, the higher he turned up his nose at his finery and the shabbier and shabbier his own outfit seemed to him to grow. Neither boy spoke. If one moved, the other moved—but only sidewise, in a circle; they kept face to face and eye to eye all the time." Based on this description, we can tell that Tom and the other boy are sizing each other up—that is, making judgments about each other based on first impressions and appearances.

Example Question #2 : Identifying And Analyzing Main Idea And Theme In Literature Passages

Adapted from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (1876)

Within two minutes, or even less, he had forgotten all his troubles. Not because his troubles were one whit less heavy and bitter to him than a man's are to a man, but because a new and powerful interest bore them down and drove them out of his mind for the time—just as men's misfortunes are forgotten in the excitement of new enterprises. This new interest was a valued novelty in whistling, which he had just acquired, and he was suffering to practice it undisturbed. It consisted in a peculiar bird-like turn, a sort of liquid warble, produced by touching the tongue to the roof of the mouth at short intervals in the midst of the music—the reader probably remembers how to do it, if he has ever been a boy. Diligence and attention soon gave him the knack of it, and he strode down the street with his mouth full of harmony and his soul full of gratitude. He felt much as an astronomer feels who has discovered a new planet—no doubt, as far as strong, deep, unalloyed pleasure is concerned, the advantage was with the boy, not the astronomer.

The summer evenings were long. It was not dark, yet. Presently Tom checked his whistle. A stranger was before him—a boy a shade larger than himself. A newcomer of any age or either sex was an impressive curiosity in the poor little shabby village of St. Petersburg. This boy was well-dressed, too—well-dressed on a weekday. This was simply astounding. His cap was a dainty thing, his close-buttoned blue cloth roundabout was new and natty, and so were his pantaloons. He had shoes on—and it was only Friday. He even wore a necktie, a bright bit of ribbon. He had a citified air about him that ate into Tom's vitals. The more Tom stared at the splendid marvel, the higher he turned up his nose at his finery and the shabbier and shabbier his own outfit seemed to him to grow. Neither boy spoke. If one moved, the other moved—but only sidewise, in a circle; they kept face to face and eye to eye all the time.

Why does Tom feel especially happy at the end of the first paragraph?

Possible Answers:

He rescued a bird.

It has finally stopped raining.

He made a new friend.

He has learned to whistle.

He saw his parents.

Correct answer:

He has learned to whistle.

Explanation:

 In the middle of the first paragraph, we are told, "This new interest was a valued novelty in whistling, which he had just acquired, and he was suffering to practice it undisturbed." So, we know that Tom is practicing how to whistle. Near the end of the paragraph, we are told, "Diligence and attention soon gave him the knack of it, and he strode down the street with his mouth full of harmony and his soul full of gratitude." So, Tom feels especially happy at the end of the passage's first paragraph because he has learned to whistle.

Example Question #3 : Identifying And Analyzing Main Idea And Theme In Literature Passages

Adapted from “A Defense of Slang” in The Romance of the Commonplace by Gelett Burgess (1902)

Could Shakespeare come to Chicago and listen curiously to "the man in the street," he would find himself more at home than in London. In the mouths of messenger boys and clerks he would find the English language used with all the freedom of unexpected metaphor and the plastic, suggestive diction that was the privilege of the Elizabethan dramatists; he would say, no doubt, that he had found a nation of poets. There was hardly any such thing as slang in his day, for no graphic trope was too virile or uncommon for acceptance, if its meaning were patent. His own heroes often spoke what corresponds to the slang of today.

The word, indeed, needs precise definition, before we condemn all unconventional talk with vigor. Slang has been called "poetry in the rough," and it is not all coarse or vulgar. There is a prosaic as well as a poetic license. The man in the street calls a charming girl, for instance, a "daisy." Surely this is not inelegant, and such a reference will be understood a century from now. Slang, to prove adjuvant to our speech, which is growing more and more rigid and conventional, should be terse; it should make for force and clarity, without any sacrifice of beauty.

The passage as a whole suggests that a “nation of poets” __________.

Possible Answers:

can be found in working-class Chicago

should be considered vulgar and coarse

existed in the upper classes of American society

could not exist without a sacrifice of linguistic beauty

could have been found in Elizabethan England

Correct answer:

can be found in working-class Chicago

Explanation:

To solve this question, you have to read in-context. The author states that if Shakespeare came to Chicago and listened to the “man in the street,” he would hear a “nation of poets.” The author even expands his definition of “man in the street” and tells the reader that it is “messenger boys and clerks.” This suggests that a nation of poets would be found in the working classes of Chicago, and of America. The important point here is to extrapolate from information found in the text. The author does not explicitly make a statement about working classes, but he uses idioms such as “man in the street” to implicitly make his point.

Example Question #32 : Identifying And Analyzing Main Ideas In Humanities Passages

Adapted from “A Defense of Slang” in The Romance of the Commonplace by Gelett Burgess (1902)

Could Shakespeare come to Chicago and listen curiously to "the man in the street," he would find himself more at home than in London. In the mouths of messenger boys and clerks he would find the English language used with all the freedom of unexpected metaphor and the plastic, suggestive diction that was the privilege of the Elizabethan dramatists; he would say, no doubt, that he had found a nation of poets. There was hardly any such thing as slang in his day, for no graphic trope was too virile or uncommon for acceptance, if its meaning were patent. His own heroes often spoke what corresponds to the slang of today.

The word, indeed, needs precise definition, before we condemn all unconventional talk with vigor. Slang has been called "poetry in the rough," and it is not all coarse or vulgar. There is a prosaic as well as a poetic license. The man in the street calls a charming girl, for instance, a "daisy." Surely this is not inelegant, and such a reference will be understood a century from now. Slang, to prove adjuvant to our speech, which is growing more and more rigid and conventional, should be terse; it should make for force and clarity, without any sacrifice of beauty.

The primary purpose of this passage is to __________.

Possible Answers:

explain a situation

honor an accomplishment

establish an argument

predict an outcome

refute an argument

Correct answer:

establish an argument

Explanation:

When approaching questions that ask you to identify the author’s primary purpose, it is important to consider the passage as a whole. There are two useful ways in which this problem could be solved if you did not immediately know the answer. The first is to identify a thesis or topic sentence. In this passage, the topic is laid out in the first two sentences. The author states that had Shakespeare found himself in contemporary Chicago, he would recognize a nation of poets using slang in creative and useful ways. This topic should lead you to believe that this passage is establishing an argument. The second way to solve a “primary purpose” question is to look for key words that provide clues as to the author’s direction. In this passage, the author uses the word “surely” to begin a point and “should” to convey a perceived truth. This is argumentative but affirmative language. If, for example, the passage featured heavy usage of words such as “however” or “nonetheless” it would be more likely that the primary purpose was the refutation of an argument.

Example Question #4 : Identifying And Analyzing Main Idea And Theme In Literature Passages

Adapted from Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery (1908)

Mrs. Rachel Lynde lived just where the Avonlea main road dipped down into a little hollow, fringed with alders and ladies' eardrops and traversed by a brook that had its source away back in the woods of the old Cuthbert place; it was reputed to be an intricate, headlong brook in its earlier course through those woods, with dark secrets of pool and cascade; but by the time it reached Lynde's Hollow it was a quiet, well-conducted little stream, for not even a brook could run past Mrs. Rachel Lynde's door without due regard for decency and decorum; it probably was conscious that Mrs. Rachel was sitting at her window, keeping a sharp eye on everything that passed, from brooks and children up, and that if she noticed anything odd or out of place she would never rest until she had ferreted out the whys and wherefores thereof.

There are plenty of people in Avonlea and out of it who can attend closely to their neighbor's business by dint of neglecting their own; but Mrs. Rachel Lynde was one of those capable creatures who can manage their own concerns and those of other folks into the bargain. She was a notable housewife; her work was always done and well done; she "ran" the Sewing Circle, helped run the Sunday-school, and was the strongest prop of the Church Aid Society and Foreign Missions Auxiliary. Yet with all this Mrs. Rachel found abundant time to sit for hours at her kitchen window, knitting "cotton warp" quilts—she had knitted sixteen of them, as Avonlea housekeepers were wont to tell in awed voices—and keeping a sharp eye on the main road that crossed the hollow and wound up the steep red hill beyond. Since Avonlea occupied a little triangular peninsula jutting out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence with water on two sides of it, anybody who went out of it or into it had to pass over that hill road and so run the unseen gauntlet of Mrs. Rachel's all-seeing eye.

She was sitting there one afternoon in early June. The sun was coming in at the window warm and bright; the orchard on the slope below the house was in a bridal flush of pinky-white bloom, hummed over by a myriad of bees. Thomas Lynde—a meek little man whom Avonlea people called "Rachel Lynde's husband"—was sowing his late turnip seed on the hill field beyond the barn; and Matthew Cuthbert ought to have been sowing his on the big red brook field away over by Green Gables. Mrs. Rachel knew that he ought because she had heard him tell Peter Morrison the evening before in William J. Blair's store over at Carmody that he meant to sow his turnip seed the next afternoon. Peter had asked him, of course, for Matthew Cuthbert had never been known to volunteer information about anything in his whole life.

Which of the following pairs of terms best describes Mrs. Rachel Lynde?

Possible Answers:

Neglectful and ill-tempered

Busy and forgetful

Nosy and perceptive

Shy and unobtrusive

Bored and lazy

Correct answer:

Nosy and perceptive

Explanation:

Let's consider what the passage tells us about Mrs. Rachel Lynde. In the first paragraph, it says that "not even a brook could run past Mrs. Rachel Lynde's door without due regard for decency and decorum; it probably was conscious that Mrs. Rachel was sitting at her window, keeping a sharp eye on everything that passed, from brooks and children up, and that if she noticed anything odd or out of place she would never rest until she had ferreted out the whys and wherefores thereof." Also, at the end of the passage, we are told that "Mrs. Rachel knew that [Matthew Cuthbert] ought [to be planting turnip seeds] because she had heard him tell Peter Morrison the evening before in William J. Blair's store over at Carmody that he meant to sow his turnip seed the next afternoon." Based on these lines, we can tell that Mrs. Rachel Lynde is nosy—she makes it her business to find out what everyone else is up to. We are also told that "anybody who went out of [Avonlea's peninsula] or into [Avonlea's peninsula] had to pass over that hill road and so run the unseen gauntlet of Mrs. Rachel's all-seeing eye." Because her eye is described as "all-seeing" and she is described as "keeping a sharp eye one everything that passed her door" in the first paragraph, Mrs. Rachel Lynde is also described as being perceptive. So, the correct answer is "nosy and perceptive." The passage doesn't support any of the other answer choices.

Example Question #4 : Identifying And Analyzing Main Idea And Theme In Literature Passages

Adapted from The Call of the Wild by Jack London (1903)

Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have known that trouble was brewing, not alone for himself, but for every tide-water dog, strong of muscle and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego. Because men, groping in the Arctic darkness, had found a yellow metal, and because steamship and transportation companies were booming the find, thousands of men were rushing into the Northland. These men wanted dogs, and the dogs they wanted were heavy dogs, with strong muscles by which to toil, and furry coats to protect them from the frost.

Buck lived at a big house in the sun-kissed Santa Clara Valley. Judge Miller's place, it was called. It stood back from the road, half hidden among the trees, through which glimpses could be caught of the wide cool veranda that ran around its four sides. The house was approached by graveled driveways which wound about through wide-spreading lawns and under the interlacing boughs of tall poplars. At the rear things were on even a more spacious scale than at the front. There were great stables, where a dozen grooms and boys held forth, rows of vine-clad servants' cottages, an endless and orderly array of outhouses, long grape arbors, green pastures, orchards, and berry patches. Then there was the pumping plant for the artesian well, and the big cement tank where Judge Miller's boys took their morning plunge and kept cool in the hot afternoon.

And over this great demesne Buck ruled. Here he was born, and here he had lived the four years of his life. It was true, there were other dogs, There could not but be other dogs on so vast a place, but they did not count. They came and went, resided in the populous kennels, or lived obscurely in the recesses of the house after the fashion of Toots, the Japanese pug, or Ysabel, the Mexican hairless—strange creatures that rarely put nose out of doors or set foot to ground. On the other hand, there were the fox terriers, a score of them at least, who yelped at Toots and Ysabel looking out of the windows at them, protected by a legion of housemaids armed with brooms and mops.

Buck is a __________.

Possible Answers:

cat

bird

dog

human

magical creature

Correct answer:

dog

Explanation:

In the first paragraph, it is said that "trouble was brewing, not alone for [Buck], but for every tide-water dog, strong of muscle and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego." This compares Buck with other dogs, suggesting that Buck is also a dog. Also, in the passage's last paragraph, it states, "And over this great demesne Buck ruled . . . It was true, there were other dogs. There could not but be other dogs on so vast a place, but they did not count." These lines also compare Buck to other dogs, suggesting again that Buck is a dog.

Example Question #194 : Isee Lower Level (Grades 5 6) Reading Comprehension

Adapted from Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll (1871)

One thing was certain, that the white kitten had had nothing to do with it—it was the black kitten's fault entirely. For the white kitten had been having its face washed by the old cat for the last quarter of an hour (and bearing it pretty well, considering); so you see that it COULDN'T have had any hand in the mischief.

The way Dinah washed her children's faces was this: first she held the poor thing down by its ear with one paw, and then with the other paw she rubbed its face all over, the wrong way, beginning at the nose: and just now, as I said, she was hard at work on the white kitten, which was lying quite still and trying to purr—no doubt feeling that it was all meant for its good.

But the black kitten had been finished with earlier in the afternoon, and so, while Alice was sitting curled up in a corner of the great arm-chair, half talking to herself and half asleep, the kitten had been having a grand game of romps with the ball of worsted Alice had been trying to wind up, and had been rolling it up and down till it had all come undone again; and there it was, spread over the hearth-rug, all knots and tangles, with the kitten running after its own tail in the middle.

'Oh, you wicked little thing!' cried Alice, catching up the kitten, and giving it a little kiss to make it understand that it was in disgrace. 'Really, Dinah ought to have taught you better manners! You OUGHT, Dinah, you know you ought!' she added, looking reproachfully at the old cat, and speaking in as cross a voice as she could manage—and then she scrambled back into the arm-chair, taking the kitten and the worsted with her, and began winding up the ball again. But she didn't get on very fast, as she was talking all the time, sometimes to the kitten, and sometimes to herself. Kitty sat very demurely on her knee, pretending to watch the progress of the winding, and now and then putting out one paw and gently touching the ball, as if it would be glad to help, if it might.

Which of the following best describes what happens in this passage?

Possible Answers:

The black kitten unwinds the ball of worsted.

Dinah washes her white kitten.

Alice spends time with her cats.

Alice waits for her family to arrive.

Alice talks to her cat and kittens while rewinding a ball one kitten unwound.

Correct answer:

Alice talks to her cat and kittens while rewinding a ball one kitten unwound.

Explanation:

When answering a main idea question, it is important to select an answer choice that is not too general and not too specific. For example, “Dinah washes her white kitten” and “The black kitten unwinds the ball of worsted” are each too specific to be the main idea of this passage. Neither mention Alice! (Also, the black kitten unwound the ball of worsted in the past of the passage, but even if the timing was correct, the answer choice dealing with it would still be too specific.) “Alice waits for her family to arrive” cannot be the correct answer because we’re not told anything about Alice waiting for her family in the passage. This leaves us with “Alice spends time with her cats” and “Alice talks to her cat and kittens while rewinding a ball one kitten unwound.” This latter answer is a more specific description of the entire passage, so it is the better answer choice.

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