Carolyn Lawton

Map Me a Paragraph

RATIONALE:  When students are learning to read, they are spending the majority of their brainpower on decoding.  After decoding skills have been gained, students need to concentrate on reading the text for comprehension and meaning.  The basic equation for reading is Reading = Decoding * Comprehension.  Now that children have acquired the necessary decoding skills, they need to learn some comprehension strategies.


· Paragraph One: (copy for each student)
            Mammals live almost everywhere. Such mammals as monkeys and elephants dwell in tropical regions. Arctic foxes, polar bears, and many other mammals make their home in Polar Regions. Such mammals as camels and kangaroo rats live in deserts. Certain others, including seals and whales, swim in the oceans.
· Paragraph Two: (copy for each student)
          Animals use their tails in many ways. The tails of frogs serve to move them and to steer them. Squirrels use their tails to keep their balance when they are leaping and climbing. Woodpeckers prop themselves up with their tails. Opossums grasp things with their tails.
· chalkboard, chalk
· blank map for each student ­ center circle with 4 spokes coming off of it and a square at the end of each spoke
· pencil for each student
· overhead copy of Paragraph One, overhead pens to model how to figure out the main idea and details


1. Introduce the lesson by recalling the importance of reading fluently and reviewing the correct and incorrect ways to read by modeling a passage (read once slowly and choppy, read second time with expression and smoothly).

2. "Sometimes when we are reading our science and history books it is hard to figure out what the author is trying to teach us. Usually, when an author writes something they are trying to get us to learn one specific thing, and they give us a bunch of details about that certain thing so we can understand it better.  Today we are going to learn a way to get better at remembering what we’re reading, and we are going to call it “mapping.”"

3. On board, draw a circle with “main idea” written inside it.  Then draw 4 spokes off the circle with squares at the end, and “details” written inside each square.  "This is what our map is going to look like.  It will help us to figure out what the important idea in our reading is, and then we can fill in some of the important details about it."

4. "I’m going to give you each a paragraph to read, and then we’ll work on a map together. While you’re reading, be thinking about what the main idea is the author is trying to get you to learn."  Give each student a copy of paragraph #1 and give students time to read the paragraph silently.  While students are reading, erase the “main idea” and “details” inside the shapes on the board, and prepare to fill in the blanks with information from the paragraph.  Put the overhead copy of  the paragraph on the projector and, while explaining the main idea and details, use the pens to underline/mark what you are talking about. "This author gave us lots of little details to help us understand his point.  Let’s start by talking about what the main idea might be.  We know that the main idea is a pretty big topic, and we also know that the rest of the information in the paragraph will be about that topic.  Let’s test some main ideas out.  Do you think the main idea is that arctic foxes live in Polar Regions?  I don’t think so, because the author tells us that camels live in the desert, and that does not help us to understand that foxes live in Polar Regions.  What are both of these details about?"  (where mammals live)  "Let’s test “where mammals live” as our topic sentence."  Ask questions to guide students to realize that all of the details relate to “where mammals live.”  "Okay, we know our main idea is “where mammals live,” so we’ll write that in our center circle.  Now we need to fill in the rest of the squares with the other details from the paragraph.  The paragraph talks about 4 places where mammals might live.  Let’s put those places, and the animals that live there, in each of the squares around the circle."

5. "Now I’m going to give you each a second paragraph and a chart with a map drawn on it, and I want you to try mapping on your own."  Hand each student a copy of Paragraph #2 and a blank map.  Walk around the classroom and help students if needed.

Pressley, et. al. Strategies That Improve Children’s Memory and Comprehension of Text.  “The Elementary School Journal” ­ Vol. 90. Number 1.  1989.

Paragraph One:  Barbara L. Clauson, Robert M. Timm, "Mammal," Discovery Channel School, original content provided by World Book Online,, 4/11/01.

Paragraph Two:  Jerry F. Downhower, "Tail," Discovery Channel School, original content provided by World Book Online,, 4/11/01.

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