Practice with Paraphrasing

Students learn to paraphrase for different reasons. In the academic world, students must avoid plagiarism, so to refer to a key idea in a written text they have two choices: include a quote or restate it. In the ESL classroom, we regularly paraphrase to make unfamiliar vocabulary understood. We offer explanations such as, “If you predict something, then you state what you think is going to happen. It’s like guessing”  Students paraphrase aloud as they work to interpret a difficult piece of spoken or written language:
I think the author is saying that…
I think this means…
So what I understand is that…

Does that mean the same thing as…

In fact, those sentence starters are useful for students to know. Along with those expressions signaling a paraphrase, we can teach them tips that go beyond replacing a few words with synonyms. Please see my Paraphrasing_handout. This will offer both tools and a strategy.

I suggest starting with short, simple statements. Let students refer to my charts of intensifiers, downtoners, and common adjectives to restate sentences such as:
The patient was very will.
The movie was rather boring.
The weather in San Diego is very pleasant.

Then work together to paraphrase one or two proverbs. Demonstrate how to apply the tips. Students can work in pairs or small groups to paraphrase additional proverbs. Let the class compare variations. Famous quotes can also provide short pieces of text for paraphrasing.

Related post:
Puzzling Paraphrases: A whole language activity for upper level students

Featured photo by Sid74 retrieved from

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