English Instructional Tip – Comprehension Strategies & Paragraphs

Within the Eye Level program, Level G and above discuss different kinds of paragraphs specifically in relation to comprehension. Students will learn descriptive, contrasting and how-to paragraphs. They will also be able to determine what makes these paragraphs different from one another. First and foremost, allow the students to understand what each kind of paragraph is. A descriptive paragraph uses adjectives to describe a certain topic. A contrasting paragraph shows how things differ. Discuss the concept of contrast and difference. This means that there are two subjects being talked about in the paragraph. How-to paragraphs are a procedure with sequence using words like first, second, then and last. The following information will give you information of how to direct students in identifying each paragraph as well as writing one.

Descriptive Paragraphs In order to write and identify a descriptive paragraph, students need to first understand what an adjective is. Descriptive writing uses adjectives to develop the main topic. When reading a descriptive paragraph, have the students underline or circle the words that are describing the main topic. When writing a descriptive paragraph, have students first write adjectives that describe their topic. They can use a spider web graphic organizer to come up with different words. Once the students can describe their topics, have them begin to form sentences using their ideas.

    Some students also need to orally tell their thoughts before they can get them on paper. If they are struggling writers, have the student talk to the instructor and verbally discuss their topic. The instructor can take a few minutes and jot down what the student says. The following graphic organizer can help students compose a descriptive paragraph as well as determine if a paragraph is descriptive.


Contrasting Paragraphs Contrasting paragraphs are used to tell how two things are different. Examples could be two different animals, such as a dog and a cat, or two different sports, such as soccer and football. Students need to first understand information that is alike and information that is different. Contrasting paragraphs have two subjects that are being discussed. Students can benefit from using a T-Chart in order to break down the paragraph to determine whether it is a contrasting paragraph or not. Use two different highlighters to highlight the different topics within the text and its details. See the example below of a T-Chart breaking down the differences of amphibians and reptiles.

How-To Paragraphs A how-to paragraph tells the reader how to make or do something. The steps that are used are in order. Examples of these types of paragraphs could be writing about how to make a cake, how to do laundry or how to build a birdhouse. When reading a paragraph have students underline the different steps within the procedure. Before beginning to write, students need to determine what it is they want to write about and write the steps in number order. These paragraphs can also use sequence words such as first, second, then, and last. See the example below describing how to make hand turkeys.


Some paragraphs will have more steps like in the example on how to do laundry.

Allow students to use highlighters as they are reading to identify which type of paragraph they are reading as well as how to answer any questions that may follow. This will help them identify answers as they reading as opposed to constantly referring back to the questions and reading simultaneously.