A handful of tips for teaching paraphrasing

For students to see the real value of paraphrasing, it should be incorporated across various courses and in as many contexts as possible (not only writing, but also reading, speaking, and listening).

You may even want to keep a record of students’ successes over time and demonstrate the level of progress they’ve made not only in legitimate paraphrasing, but also in understanding and remembering the information they learn.

We’ve collected a bunch of classroom activities that may be embedded into any content, regardless of the subject you’re teaching. Hopefully, some of it may become a nice addition to your lessons:


Searching for the main ideas:

As a warm-up activity, have students work individually or in small groups to highlight the main ideas in a paragraph and two supporting details. Encourage them to use synonyms for general terms/phrases, change active voice into passive voice, replace noun constructions with verbal constructions, but preserve specific terms unchanged. At this point, it’s important to provide examples and practice gradually changing the wording.


Reading guides:

Ask students to make digital reading guides. For every reading assignment, they’ll jot down the main idea and three extra essential details that would add more context. By exchanging those with their group mates, students may be asked to retell the text based on the notes drafted by their peers or provide a brief paraphrase of what they read based on their own notes.


Concept check-ins:

Paraphrasing is a great way to show how well students understand complex concepts, theories, and terms. Have them explain some of them either verbally or in writing. Once done, they may exchange the definitions with their peers and agree or disagree with the explanation provided.


Lecture paraphrases:

This exercise can be applied to any listening activity. Get students to listen to a podcast, lecture, or YouTube video and ask them to divide the whole speech into logical parts. Then, for each part, they’ll create a listening guide by bringing up the key idea and up to three supporting points. Have students write a paraphrase for one part of the lecture, then provide them with the lecture transcription and ask them to compare the original with the paraphrased version to avoid any copy-pasted statements and assess the paraphrase made.


Timed paraphrasing:

This activity works well for in-class assignments. After listening or reading a text, ask students to take a break and paraphrase what’s just been read/listened to in three sentences within a set period of time. Alternatively, you may provide them with a list of three to five paraphrases and have them pick the one that would better correspond to the original version of the text/recording/video narrative.

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