Monday, September 12, 2011

Reading Intervention for Comprehension: Paragraph Shrinking

Paragraph Shrinking

Paragraph shrinking helps you figure out the most important idea in what you just read. First, you think about the “who” or “what” the paragraph was mostly about and then you figure out the most important ideas about the who or what  and say this in ten words or

There are three steps to Paragraph Shrinking.
  First, name the who or what that the paragraph is mostly about.
  Second, tell the most important thing about the who or what.
  Third, tell or write a sentence of ten words or less, leaving out details.

“A seabird is any bird that spends most of its time at sea and depends on the sea and its islands for all its basic needs. The sea
provides food, and its remote islands and rocky outcroppings provide safe nesting and resting places. For 60 million years, these
highly specialized and diverse birds have adapted to life on the world’s vast oceans.”
(from Collaborative Strategic Reading, Vaughn and Klinger)

“I am going to show you how to paragraph shrink for the paragraph I just read. First, I figure out if the paragraph is about a “who”(a person) or a “what” (a place or thing). Then I will name the who or what the paragraph was mostly about.  We will call this the topic.”

“This paragraph was about a what. That what was seabirds. I figured it out by reading the beginning sentence. It was a topic sentence telling what a seabird was. The rest of the sentences gave information about seabirds.”

Second I will tell the most important information about the who or what. I learned that seabirds live, get food, rest and nest at the sea.”

“Third, I will say the main idea sentence in 10 words or less leaving out the details. There are three important things I need to remember about the main idea:
1)The main idea must be a complete sentence.
2) The main who or what only counts as one word.
3) A good main idea entence contains information that will help
you remember the important details in a paragraph.

“Seabirds get everything they need fromthe sea.”

  Ask the students if the paragraph is about a who or a what.
  After you have established whether the passage is about a who or what, ask the students to identify who or what it is about (the topic)

After students have determined  the “topic” for the main idea, ask them to identify the most critical information about the “who” or “what.” Be sure to emphasize that the students are looking for the most essential information -- not details.

 Guided Practice
  Next, students need to think about the who or what, what is important about the who or what and generate a main idea sentence in 10 words or less.
  Do a check whether the main idea sentence meets the criterion that a good main idea sentence contains information that will help students remember the important details in a paragraph.

Paragraph Shrinking - Independent Phase
  Read a paragraph (section of the text) aloud or have the students do this.
  Ask the students to work in pairs.
  Give the students a certain amount of time to Paragraph Shrink the paragraph just read.
  Help students if they are having trouble.
  After the time is up, either have the students share out or continue on to the next paragraph.
  Continue with this cycle until the passage is done.
  Have students share out their main idea sentences and explain how they got them.
  Do not assume students know how to identify paragraphs. You may have to teach them to identify the beginning and end of a paragraph.
  Some students may need help to figure out if the paragraph is about a who or what. Teaching them that if it is a fiction text or story, it usually is a who and if it is informational text, it is usually a what.


  1. Wow! Your blog has so much great information! I am hopping back over here tonight after my kids are in bed. ☺

    Teaching Blog Addict
    ♥Teaching with TLC

  2. This paragraph shrinking post is GREAT!!! I can't wait to read more of your blog when I have time! Can you add a "subscribe by email" button to your blog? I'm having a hard time keeping up with my google reader and email seems to be the way to go for me right now. :)


  3. Hey Shannon the link for subscribe by email is at the bottom of this page. thanks for the compliment. I really do like this strategy a lot.

  4. OMG! Was it there the whole time? I am so blind! Thanks!!!! :)