Waaayyy long ago when I taught seventh grade, I had a folder in my filing cabinet called "Paraphrasing". I had a few worksheets in the folder, things that I would use to try to teach paraphrasing, but my heart wasn't in it. I didn't really see the purpose.
Now, of course, I realize that teaching paraphrasing is at the heart of all learning. To paraphrase is to put someone else's ideas into your own words--which is what we do all the time when we are learning new ideas, seeing new images, gathering new experiences. When we teach students how to paraphrase, we teach them how to make information their own. Paraphrasing doesn't just live as a lesson or two in a research unit. Paraphrasing is in everything we do.
Teaching paraphrasing can be far more interesting than dusting off some worksheets! Here are some activities that help students recognize the importance of paraphrasing and learn how to do it.
Paraphrase across genres
Translating images to words (and vice versa) is a good way to help readers to think about how ideas are conveyed. For example, my youngest son and I had a great time at the National Gallery looking carefully at the images and paraphrasing what we saw. Turning a picture into a sentence encourages readers to consider words and explore relationships.
Explain the basics of paraphrasing
At the writing level, paraphrasing comes down to two processes: replacing words in the target sentence or text with synonyms, and/or changing the structure or order of ideas. (You can find more on this in my book, Summarizing, Paraphrasing, and Retelling.)
Paraphrasing skill, then, requires that students be able to replace words with synonyms. Students also need to be able to figure out how rework and rearrange sentences. This is tough! I've had students tell me, "That sentence cannot be rearranged"--when of course it can. Playing around with sentences and their arrangement can help students to improve with paraphrasing.
Show examples of paraphrasing
Showing students examples of two sentences that convey the same idea in different ways helps them to see how paraphrasing works. I like to use a card match activity in which each student has a sentence, and then they have to find the person who has the paraphrased version of their sentence. Partners then look at how the two sentences are similar and different. Which words can be replaced? Which words cannot be? For example, one student has the sentence Jane enjoys hiking through the forest on crisp autumn days while another student has the sentence During the fall, Jane likes hiking through the woods. Autumn can be replaced with fall, but the word Jane must stay as it is.
Help students to find examples of paraphrasing gone awry
We've all read examples of bad paraphrasing--a student who misinterpreted a word or misjudged an author's meaning. I like to show intentional cases of bad paraphrasing, especially examples with the copy-and-delete method. Can a reader just take out words here and there? How does the meaning change? This approach can be more fun than ordinary paraphrasing, especially if you create amusingly bad versions of your classroom rules.
Share lots of related texts
When students ride texts on similar topics, they naturally find and notice examples of paraphrasing. These natural examples help readers to build awareness of how ideas can be expressed in different ways. It can be helpful to make charts to show how important ideas are stated and restated in different ways. Intermediate students are often quick to notice how some beginner texts state ideas in simple terms, but lose some meaning in the process.
Paraphrasing and Summarizing Lessons: Available on TeachersPayTeachers
-Text structure assessments are now available on Frolyc. These assessments are designed to be easy to publish to student iPads. I'm looking forward to paperless assessments! You can find the Grade 3 assessment here and the teaching guide here.