I Used My Own Words! Paraphrasing Informational Texts
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Paraphrasing helps students make connections with prior knowledge, demonstrate comprehension, and remember what they have read. Through careful explanation and thorough modeling by the teacher in this lesson, students learn to use paraphrasing to monitor their comprehension and acquire new information. They also realize that if they cannot paraphrase after reading, they need to go back and reread to clarify information. In pairs, students engage in guided practice so that they can learn to use the strategy independently. Students will need prompting and encouragement to use this strategy after the initial instruction is completed. The lesson can be extended to help students prepare to write reports about particular topics.
From Theory to Practice
- Paraphrasing helps readers monitor their comprehension.
- Paraphrasing encourages readers to make connections with prior knowledge.
- Paraphrasing helps readers remember what they have read.
- In effective strategy instruction, the teacher explains the purpose of the strategy, how to use it, and when and where to use it
- In effective strategy instruction, the teacher models strategy use for students and provides guided practice before expecting students to use the strategy independently.
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
- 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
Materials and Technology
- Computers with Internet access
- Whiteboard (or overhead) for projection of text and shared writing
- Print or digital texts on instructional levels of students in the class
- Individual copies of texts (if computers are not available)
|1.||Visit the listed websites so that you are familiar with their organization and content. Bookmark these on your classroom computers.
|2.||If all students do not have access to computers, print the texts that you will be using from the websites.
|3.||For students to be able to paraphrase effectively, material should be on instructional (or independent) level. This will mean that you may have to have various texts, either print or digital, available to match the instructional levels of your students.
- Demonstrate comprehension by paraphrasing facts from informational texts
- Gain knowledge and apply what they have learned about paraphrasing by reading information about three unusual animals
Session 1: Introduction of Paraphrasing
|1.||Use the following explanations when introducing paraphrasing to students:
|2.||Explain that you are going to use paraphrasing as you learn about the okapi. Ask students what they know about the okapi. Write their responses on the whiteboard.
|3.||Provide examples of paraphrasing by making these sentences available to students (on a whiteboard, overhead, etc.): Although the okapi resembles a zebra, it is actually a close cousin to the giraffe. Discovered in 1900, it inhabits the rainforests of the Congo area in Africa. Okapis tend to be solitary animals, secretive in their habits." Think aloud as you look away from the text and paraphrase these sentences.
For example, you might say, "Okay, I have read this; now I need to think about it and put it into my own words. That'll help me know that I have understood it, and it will help me remember it. Let's see, the okapi looks like a zebra, but it is kin to the giraffe. They found it in Africa in 1900, but that was hard because it lives alone and is hard to find. Now, let's check and see if I remembered the information and put it into my own words." Reread the sentences and compare them to your paraphrase.
|4.||Another example: "Okapis eat mostly leaves, twigs, and fruit which they reach with their long tongues. They may eat as much as 65 pounds of food in one day, mostly during the afternoon and evening when they are most active." Think aloud as you paraphrase.
You might say, "Okay, here I go again, I need to read this, think about it, and then put it into my own words. If I can do that, I know I have understood it and I'll remember it longer. Okapis have long tongues so they can reach leaves and fruit on trees. They eat a lot each day, usually in the afternoons and evenings." Check the text against your paraphrasing. You may want to explain to students that you wanted to remember that they eat a lot but that you could have included "65 pounds" in the paraphrase if you thought that the actual number was important.
|5.||Direct students to look at the first paragraph about okapis from the San Diego Zoo: Animal Bytes website. After they have read the paragraph, think aloud as you share paraphrasing the information with them.
You might say, "Okay, let's do one together. Look at the first paragraph about okapis from the San Diego Zoo: Animal Bytes website. Let's read it together." You can have them read it silently, or you can read it to them. (You may need to explain what the words hindquarters and resemblance mean.) Then say, "Now, let's think about it and put it into our own words. We need to do this to make sure we have understood it and to help us remember the information. We'll write down our paraphrase of this paragraph here on the whiteboard. What shall we write first? How about ‘the okapi is beautiful'?" Ask students to think about the rest of the information in the passage and put it in their own words. Take suggestions from the students, reminding them if necessary that the paraphrase should be in their own words. Write the shared paraphrase on the whiteboard (or overhead). Do the same exercise with the second and third paragraphs, gradually releasing the responsibility for the paraphrasing to students.
|6.||At the end of this session, ask students to write what information they have learned about the okapi without looking at the computer screens or the shared paraphrases. Have students share their writing with each other. Point out to students that they have probably remembered a lot more information because they paraphrased it following each paragraph. Take the writing from them to check for content and whether they have used their own words.|
Session 2: Review and Guided Practice With Paraphrasing
|1.||Review what paraphrasing is, how to do it, when to do it, and why it is important. This can be a brief review reminding students of what they have already learned.
|2.||Ask students what they know about the anaconda. Record their responses on the whiteboard. Direct them to look at the information about the anaconda from the National Geographic Kids: Creature Features website on the first screen. After everyone has had an opportunity to read the text with the first photograph, think aloud as you paraphrase it.
You might say, "Okay, I'm going to paraphrase this first paragraph by putting it in my own words. Remember that I do that to make sure that I have understood it and to help me remember the information. Let's see, the green anaconda is bigger than all other snakes in the world if you think about how long it is and how much it weighs. That must mean that some snakes are longer but don't weigh as much, and some snakes may weigh that much but aren't as long." Again, if you believe the length and weight are important, you could add: "It's 30 feet long and weighs 550 pounds."
|3.||Go to the second screen about the anaconda, and invite students to paraphrase it with you. You may want to write the paraphrase on the whiteboard. A possible paraphrase would be "The anaconda would be as long as 5 kids lying head to foot and would weigh as much as 11 kids all together. If you tried to reach around it, it would be like reaching around a man. There are other snakes like it that are big, too."
|4.||If students seem to get the idea of paraphrasing, ask them to get into pairs, go to the subsequent screens about the anaconda, read each of them, and paraphrase together. Walk around the classroom, checking the paraphrasing of each pair and providing support if needed.
|5.||If students are having difficulty, provide more guided practice as an entire group or group students who need more help into a small group and give more guided practice through the additional 10 screens about the anaconda.
|6.||At the end of the session, ask students to write what they have learned about the anaconda without referring to the computer screens. Ask if they remember more because they took time to paraphrase. Take the writing from them to check for content and whether they have used their own words.|
Session 3: Review and Guided Practice With Paraphrasing
|1.||Remind students what paraphrasing is, how to do it, when to do it, and why it is useful. This explanation should be brief.
|2.||Tell students that you are going to use paraphrasing to find out more about another animal that may not be well-known to them. Show a picture of the echidna from the Australia Zoo: Amazing Animals website, and ask students if they know what the animal is. Discuss what they already know about the echidna or what they could guess from looking at its picture. List the information on the whiteboard.
|3.||Read the first paragraph about the echidna together. This text is more difficult than the texts about the okapi and the anaconda, so you can use it to model your thought process as if you did not understand on the first read. Think aloud, modeling what you would do if you did not remember or understand what was in the paragraph and then reread.
For example, you might say, "Okay, I'm going to put this into my own words so I can be sure I have understood it and can remember it. The echidna has a long tongue and it has spines. Uh-oh, that's all I remember; there was something about curling inside, but I don't remember what. I'd better read it again!" Reread and then start again, "The echidna has a narrow nose and long tongue to catch insects. Its spines protect it from enemies, and it curls up when it's scared."
|4.||Have students read in pairs and paraphrase subsequent paragraphs about the echidna. For each paragraph, have both students read the paragraph. As one student paraphrases, the other student checks for "using your own words" and remembering the points in the paragraph. As pairs of students are practicing, listen to them to be certain that they have the idea. If there are some students who are having trouble, gather them into a small group and provide more guidance for their practice.
|5.||At the end of the session, ask students to write what they now know about the echidna without referring to the computer screens. Collect their writing to check to be sure that they have used their own words and that they have understood the information correctly.
Session 4: Review and Independent Practice With Paraphrasing
|1.||Ask students what paraphrasing is, how to do it, when to do it, and why it is useful. If one student responds, repeat the explanation so that all students understand.
|2.||Explain to students that they have practiced paraphrasing as a way to monitor whether they have understood what they are reading and as a way to help them remember what they read. In this session, students will read and paraphrase independently. At the end of the session, they will share what they have learned with the other students.
|3.||At the San Diego Zoo: Animal Bytes website, each student will choose an animal to read about. If all students do not have access to a computer at the same time, you can print the information ahead of time and have students read the hard copy. Or, if students have access to computers but not all at the same time in the classroom, you can ask them to complete this assignment when their turn at the computer comes. You could also have students work in pairs if there isn't enough time for each of them to have a turn at the computer.
|4.||Students will read the text about an animal of their choice, paraphrase as they read, and write down what they have learned. Remind students not to write until they have orally (or silently) paraphrased the information. At the end of the session, students can share their information either in small groups or with the entire class. Take the written information from students to check both accuracy and that they have used their own words.
Paraphrasing is a good way to prepare students to write written reports. When students put information into their own words, they are not copying directly from a text. After the previous four sessions, a possible extension would be to identify another topic (such as countries, planets, plants), have students brainstorm what kind of questions would be interesting to answer about these, assign print materials or websites for students to read and paraphrase, take notes to answer the questions, and prepare written reports. These would be more formal than the quick writes that were done in the paraphrasing sessions.
Student Assessment / Reflections
- Throughout the sessions, when students are working in pairs or independently, make note of whether or not they are using their own words in paraphrasing. Be ready to intervene with additional modeling and practice if students are having difficulty paraphrasing.
- The quick writes at the end of the sessions should be collected to see whether students are using their own words, whether they have understood the text they read, and what information they have learned about the animals. Compare the prior knowledge that you assessed at the beginning of each session with the information included in the quick writes to see what new information has been learned.