(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.) *
A good paraphrase can demonstrate to the teacher that the student truly understood the source. And if it is clearly written in the student’s normal style and level of vocabulary, the teachers can feel reassured that the writer wasn’t plagiarizing.
Paraphrasing may be a new concept for many of our ESL student. However, we can help them understand how to do it in a way that will let them “experience” what a good paraphrase is through a very natural process.
A Natural Process
This natural process begins with students developing confidence in their understanding of the passage. Next, they orally paraphrase the information in the passage in their own words. Finally, they are ready to write a paraphrase.
Step 1: Developing confidence in their understanding of the passage.
Students can do this by correctly answering comprehension questions, especially multiple choice and true-false ones. Their comprehension can be reinforced by comparing their answers with classmates in Step 2.
Step 2: Orally paraphrase the source information.
This can be done during a small-group discussion about the reading passage. With a carefully organized format and structured questions, students can actually enjoy explaining the content of the source in their own words.
Step 3: Write a paraphrase of the information.
This can be done in the form of short answers to questions or just through paraphrasing the passage.
In the two short units below, you’ll find
1) A short reading passage with comprehension questions.
2) A discussion activity that will involve “oral paraphrasing.” You’ll find two types of discussion questions.
(a) Students talk about the information in the passage.
(b) Students relate to the content by talking about their experiences and opinions about it.
You’ll notice that instead of just listing the discussion questions for all the students to see, they are divided into three parts: Student A, Student B and Student C. With this format, even the quieter students tend to feel like they are involved in the discussion if they are given a role (reading their questions). It also is a way to require students to focus on each other. And it keeps students from dominating the discussion. After finishing these discussions, students tend to understand the passage well because they have had a chance to explain to each other and to hear how others would explain in their own words.
3) Short-answer or short-paragraph questions in which students paraphrase information from the passages.
Here are a couple of sample activities:
Activity 1: Loneliness Might Not Be What You Think: Loneliness ART EX ABC Paraphrasing
Activity 2: Cultural Shyness and Party Skills
Cultural Shyness and Party Skills Article and Exercises
Cultural Shyness and Party Skills ABC discussion
Cultural Shyness and Party Skills questions for paraphrasing
For more about paraphrasing and paraphrasing activities, see • Fluency Writing: Reading, Speaking In Triads, And Listening Culminating In A Writing Task
For more about plagiarism, see • Effective, Stress-Free Approach to Dealing with Plagiarism.
*About the free-download materials. During my 40 years of teaching ESL, I have had many colleagues who were very generous with their time, advice and materials. These downloads are my way of paying it forward.