The Power of Paraphrasing

In searching for new activities for my own lessons, I sometimes forget the value of tried and true forms of language practice. Last week I threw out a brief paraphrasing task to a private student, and he responded positively to the challenge. In fact, he requested that we do this more frequently and in greater quantity in the future. What value does this exercise have? Here are 6 reasons to include paraphrasing tasks in language lessons.

  1. Paraphrasing activates vocabulary and develops the learner’s sense of appropriate word choice. The learner must think of synonyms, recall other word forms, and reflect on connotations.
  2. Paraphrasing teaches synonymous grammatical structures.
  3. Paraphrasing improves learners’ grasp of English syntax by requiring them to play around with it.
  4. Paraphrasing raises a writer’s awareness of variation. Knowing how to reword a sentence can improve a composition by varying sentence length, sentence structure, and vocabulary.
  5. Paraphrasing is needed in academic writing. Learners who are moving on to university courses need to be able to paraphrase quotes.
  6. Paraphrasing emphasizes that forms convey our meaning, and meaning is most important in communication. The relationship between the two is that the more accurate we are with form, the greater chance we have of expressing our exact meaning.

In my next post, I’ll offer some tips for including paraphrasing tasks in your lessons. Till then, here are some resources worth checking out:

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Eric Roth says:

    Excellent, practical tips – and informative resource links.

    While most English teachers recognize the importance of paraphrasing in formal academic writing, it’s also a vital skill in public presentations and daily conversations. Paraphrasing, like so many other skills, also becomes easier with focused attention and consistent practice. Therefore, in both my academic writing and oral skills courses, I make it a standard practice to have students paraphrase sentences and paragraphs from newspaper articles selected by students in class. Students usually make significant improvements and gain a far better understanding of the difference between paraphrasing and plagiarism.

    1. englishwithjennifer says:

      I agree with you. You make a good point about the value of being able to paraphrase outside academic contexts. Also, I think a very good tip is to allow the Ss to select the texts to be paraphrased. They are choosing something of interest to them, and they probably have done a quick scan to judge the language as level-appropriate. Finally, you stress the success of the task lies in frequency. So true. By making it a standard practice, you’ve made the process a familiar one. Thanks for sharing those throughts.

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