Skip to main content

Classroom Strategies

Paragraph Shrinking


Paragraph Shrinking is an activity developed as part of the Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS). PALS is a classwide peer tutoring program in which teachers carefully partner a student with a classmate. The Paragraph Shrinking strategy allows each student to take turns reading, pausing, and summarizing the main points of each paragraph. Students provide each other with feedback as a way to monitor comprehension.


Paragraph Shrinking does not require special reading materials and consequently enables teachers to use the reading material of their choice. This offers teachers flexibility for incorporating the strategy into various content areas. Paragraph Shrinking provides direct opportunities for a teacher to circulate in the class, observe students, and offer individual remediation. 

Create and use the strategy

Choose the assigned reading and introduce the text to the students. Then create pairs within the classroom by identifying which children require help on specific skills and who the most appropriate children are to help other children learn those skills. Model the activity to ensure that students understand how to use the strategy. 

During this process teachers should:

  1. Each member of the teacher-assigned pair takes turns being “Coach” and “Player.” These pairs are changed regularly. All students have the opportunity to be “coaches” and “players.”
    Note: It is important for teachers to monitor and support students as they work together.
  2. Each student reads aloud for five minutes without rereading a text. After each paragraph, students stop to summarize the main points of the reading. Students are asked to summarize the following information:
    • the who or what of the paragraph; 
    • the most important thing about who or what; and 
    • the main idea 

If a “Player” ever gives a wrong answer, the “Coach” asks the “Player” to skim the paragraph again and answer question a second time. Students must state the main idea in ten words or less which encourages them to monitor comprehension while taking turns reading. The pair earns points when the above goals of the strategy are met. 

Further reading

Research Citations

Fuchs, D., Fuchs, L., & Burish, P. (2000). Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies: An Evidence-Based Practice to Promote Reading Achievement. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 15(2), 85-91.

Fuchs, L., Fuchs, D., & Kazdan, S. (1999). Effects of peer-assisted learning strategies on high school students with serious reading problems. Remedial and Special Education, 20(5), 309-318.

Saenz, L., Fuchs, L., & Fuchs, D. (2005) Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies for English Language Learners with Learning Disabilities. Exceptional Children, (71). 

Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development. (n.d.). Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies. Retrieved 2008, January 21, from