What types of activities can Mrs. Garcia use to increase her students’ reading skills?

Page 5: Paragraph Shrinking

Students studyThe second activity in each PALS session, Paragraph Shrinking, is designed to improve comprehension. Mrs. Garcia learns that this activity will help students to:

  • Monitor their own comprehension and focus on the main idea of each paragraph
  • Pay attention to important details
  • Elaborate on content

Paragraph Shrinking consists of the four main steps outlined in the box below.

Paragraph Shrinking
(10 minutes)

Step 1. The higher-performing student reads for five minutes, starting where the second reader left off in Partner Reading and stopping at the end of each paragraph.

Step 2. At the end of each paragraph, the higher-performing reader identifies the main character (i.e., who or what) and summarizes the main idea in 10 words or less.

Step 3. After switching roles, the lower-performing student picks up where the higher-performing one left off in the text, reading for five minutes and stopping at the end of each paragraph.

Step 4. At the end of each paragraph, the lower-performing reader identifies the main character and summarizes the main idea in 10 words or less.

Corrective Feedback

The Coach monitors and offers corrective feedback when his or her partner commits one of these errors:

  • Not naming the main character
  • Naming too many main characters
  • Summarizing using more than 10 words
  • Not generating a main idea

Having completed his or her section of the text, the Reader identifies the main character (the who or what) in the paragraph and summarizes the main idea. The Coach should be prepared to help the Reader if he or she experiences any of the four difficulties listed below.

Difficulty Coach’s Response
Not naming the main character “That’s not quite right. Try again.”
Naming too many main characters “Remember to choose the most important main character.”
Not generating a main idea Prompt the Reader by asking who, what, when, where, and how.
Summarizing using more than 10 words “Shrink it.”

If the Coach is unable to help the partner summarize the paragraph, he or she should ask for the teacher’s help.

(Adapted from Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies [PALS] for High School Students, by L. S. Fuchs, D. Fuchs, S. Kazdan, P. Mathes, and L. Saenz, 1997, p. 56)

PALS in Action

View the movie below to watch two students participate in the Paragraph Shrinking activity. For the sake of time, the movie highlights only one student reading and answering the Prediction Relay questions (time: 1:22).

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