How Can Paragraph Shrinking be Used to Improve Learning in the Classroom?

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Check Out the New Blog HowCanParagraphShrinkingbeUsedtoImproveLearningintheClassroomWhen reading through technical content, it is natural for students to feel confused and lost amidst difficult words and elaborate descriptions. Students often lose track of the context and relevance of the content and fail to comprehend and learn from the text. The strategy “Paragraph Shrinking” was developed as a part of Peer Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS) and allows and encourages students to work in pairs, taking turns in reading, summarizing key points in a paragraph and providing feedback to enhance comprehension.

Introducing Paragraph shrinking:

Once the technique has been explained and modeled to the class, the teachers will carefully pair the students. Pairing is done such that a student with a specific difficulty in reading or learning is paired with another student who can help them.

The text to be read is assigned to the class and students are instructed to take turns being a “coach and a player”. The “player” should read the text aloud without re-reading. At the end of each paragraph, the player should stop and summarize the information. The “coach” can ask the player to identify the key points regarding questions based on “who, what, why, when and how” or to list down the main ideas within the paragraph. Students can also ask each other to summarize the information using either only the key words or in 10 words or less.

If the player gives a wrong answer to the question asked by the coach, he is instructed to find the right answer by skimming through the paragraph again.

Students can take turns to be the coach/ player after every five minutes or after completing each paragraph.

To add on:

To make the strategy more enjoyable and educative, teachers can also try these ideas.

Score cards: These cards keep a track of how many re-readings are required for the student to answer all the questions correctly. Each individual can keep a score card that is scored by his current coach. With practice, students can monitor their proficiency using the scores they attain i.e. if they are able to answer all the questions in the first attempt.

Question slips: A simple method of using question slips is to formulate questions for each paragraph that is asked by the coach. Gradually, the teacher can instruct them to read more number of paragraphs at a stretch (starting with two and progressively increasing) and have questions that are more objective for recollection of details and increased comprehension. Creating two set of question slips will ensure that each player answers a different set, ensuring that the students are recollecting from the text and not the answer already given by the previous player.

Write it down: Another method to strengthen learning is to encourage students to note down the key points. This can be a timed task and the player can be asked to answer the question by writing down the key point. The question type can be a fill in the blank type, choosing the right answer or listing down two or more main ideas.

Jumbled lines: Teachers can provide each pair of students with cards that have lines from the text, key ideas or miss-spelt words and instruct the players to arrange the lines or key points in order without referring to the text, or spelling the word correctly in an allotted time. In this activity also, different sets of questions can be created to be used by both players.

Discuss here: What are some strategies that you use to help students learn to summarize content?

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