Most Freshman Composition courses are reading courses as much as writing courses. You need to understand and process words, arguments and ideas from other texts to use in your own. Here is one approach to such reading:
Get an overview—As you read the article for the first time, ask yourself the following questions:
Do an analysis—Often the above questions are enough. However, if you need a more detailed analysis, make a rough list of the subpoints and topics of the article, paragraph by paragraph, along with the reasons the author gives for believing these points to be true. (Are there any strong assertions that seem controversial? Look for strongly stated opinions that may not be supported sufficiently. Ask your tutor or other students to respond to the passages you have picked out. Are their responses similar to yours?)
Get the language—Some words are crucial to the understanding of the article. Others you may not know, but can guess from the context. If necessary, make a list of the words that seem important to the author's point, but that you don't understand. You may want to use a dictionary and write down definitions, making sure you choose the definition that seems to fit the context of the article. (If you are a non-native speaker, don't write in your native language in the margins of the article, because you will never learn the English words that way. Instead, you will always read the translation in your own language. Also write down idioms and phrases that you don't understand. Ask your tutor or other students about words and idioms you don't understand.)
Sometimes particular words have negative or positive connotations that carry important information about the author’s perspective or attitude toward something. Pay special attention to these emotionally charged words. You may want to quote or respond to these words in your essay.
Synthesize different points of view—Writing assignments often ask you to compare and contrast different writers and different points of view. If you read each article in the ways described above, it should be easy for you to find points of similarity and difference. Which author do you agree with more? Which author has better arguments? (Sometimes there are good arguments on both sides, and it is impossible to tell who is right and who is wrong from the evidence you have. Perhaps you need to think more. Perhaps you need to do some more research. Perhaps you need to discuss the issues with other people until you begin to feel that you have a strong position of your own.)