Here are two paragraphs from an anthropology journal article published in 2009. The researchers focused on how children in different cultures learn responsibility. The tasks below the text excerpt lead you through an analysis.

Yanira stood waiting with a small pot and a buncle with two dresses and a change of underwear in hand. A member of the Matsigenka people of the Peruvian Amazon, she asked to accompany anthropologist Chaolina Izquierdo and a local family on a fishing and leaf-gathering expedition down river. Over five days away from the village, Yanira was self-sufficient and attuned to the needs of the group. She helped to stack and carry leaves to bring back to the village for roofing. Mornings and late afternoons she swept sane off the sleeping mats, fished for slippery black crustaceans, cleaned and boiled them in her pot along with manioc, then served them to the group. At night her cloth bundle served as blanket and her dresses as her pillow. Calm and self-possessed, she asked for nothing. Yanira is six years old.

Yanira’s comportment exemplifies key elements of what constitutes well-being for the Matsigenka: working hard, sharing, and maintaining harmonious relationships (Izquierdo 2009). The Matsigenka are a small-scale, egalitarian, family-level society. As a social group, they have historically survived in isolated extended family compounds in the Amazonian frainforest and more recently have been brought together as small communities by Protestant missionaries, all the while continuing to subsist on fishing, hunting, and subsistence horticulture (mainly manioc, bananas, and sweet potatoes).

Elinor Ochs and Carolina Izquerdo, “Responsibility in Childhood: Three Developmental Trajectories.” 

STEP 1: Read through the text. Highlight any words that seem unfamiliar to you—either completely new words or words that you may have seen befor but that are being used in a new way. Pair up and compare your findings with those of your partner. 

STEP 2: Now choose 5 of the words you marked in Step 1 and try to analyze their meaning within this particular text. Do not use a dictionary or your phone/device. Instead, use the following chart to take notes. Again, discuss your analysis with your partner. In the fourth column, “Word type,” just provide your best guess. The point is to become more aware of the different categories and how they affect reading comprehension.



Guess about its meaning

Word type (everyday, academic, topic-specific)

attuned (to)

Yanira was self-sufficient and attuned to the needs of the group




STEP 3: Now research the meanings of the five words you analyzed in Step 2, using online dictionary, and looking up on Google for additional context. Use the following chart to take notes.


Formal meaning

Accuracy of your guess (good, fair, poor)

attuned (to)