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Anonymous Paraphrasing

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Time Estimate

45 minutes


To have students practice creating paraphrases


Class blackboard or overhead with transparencies

Computer Lab Option and Follow-up Option Materials

Digital projector

Word processing software

  1. Begin by giving students a short lesson on how to write a useful, non-patchwritten paraphrase. Suggestions include useful note-taking. See Paraphrase handout for details.

  2. Have students read a short passage – select one – (see Paraphrase or Summary handouts), take notes on that passage, and then work to create a paraphrase of that passage on another sheet of paper.

  3. Ask students to then anonymously put their paraphrases into a pile so that the instructor can choose several at random and copy them either onto an overhead or onto the blackboard. Several students can be enlisted to help the instructor put sentences on the blackboard. Alternatively, have students write their paraphrases on a transparency that can then be easily projected.

  4. Finally, help students evaluate the posted paraphrases, looking for accurate paraphrases that do not lose the original meaning and for paraphrases that are “too similar” to the original language.

Computer Lab Option

The instructor can email the handout to students and the students can type out their notes and paraphrases on a word processing document.

Instead of using the blackboard or an overhead projector, use the instructor’s computer with the digital projector; students can email their documents to the instructor (or post their summaries anonymously to proprietary classroom management software like Blackboard). If the instructor cuts and pastes paraphrases into a word processing document, s/he can compare the original and the students’ versions side by side. Additionally, the instructor can highlight passages that are “too similar” in a particular color, emphasizing the similarity.

Follow-Up Option

Time Estimate

30 minutes


The anonymous paraphrases from the Anonymous Paraphrasing exercise; the Paraphrase handout

Computer Lab Option Materials

Digital projector

  1. Distribute the student paraphrases from the last Anonymous Paraphrasing exercise and ask students to repeat the same action -- writing another paraphrase of the paraphrase they have in front of them. Essentially, students are paraphrasing a paraphrase, which should be somewhat difficult. Give them some extra time to take notes, like last time, and write a new paraphrase. (15 minutes)

  2. Like the previous exercise, collect the anonymous paraphrases and compare them to the original, now twice-removed. The meaning should be roughly the same. The comparisons will likely take longer this time as well. (15 minutes)

Computer Lab Option

Like the previous exercise, use the instructor’s computer and a word processing program to compare the paraphrases.

If students are using word processing software to compose their paraphrases, they can simply leave their seat and work at another student’s computer, composing a paraphrase on another workstation.