The Writing Revolution in the classroom: post 2

In this series, I’m going to be looking at one aspect of The Writing Revolution per blogpost, and how I’m using it in the classroom.

A couple of weeks ago, I gave some examples of how my department is using ‘fragments into sentences’ exercises that are embedded in the content. This week: paraphrasing. Before analysing the deeper meaning of a quotation, we have to ensure that students actually understand it on a literal level. This is such a crucial step, and one we often miss out because of our understandable enthusiasm for encouraging students to find meaning in literature. This is obviously most important when the language is dense (Dickens, Shakespeare etc.)

We have found paraphrasing activities to be a useful first step when looking at quotations. It encourages students to think carefully about what a writer or a character is actually saying and helps them to better articulate why it is a suitable quotation later on when planning a response.

When starting these activities for the first time, it’s useful to give students good examples and bad examples of paraphrasing. Eventually, they will be able to paraphrase something without a preamble. You might want to start with some really simple examples to introduce the concept, such as, ‘I’m absolutely starving!’ – students could paraphrase as ‘I am really hungry’ or ‘I really want to eat something.’ Then, the next step could be to embed the paraphrasing activities into the subject content as per the examples below, written by me and my HoD. Note: the students would have already read and discussed the passage that these quotations come from. These are from a written resource that students read through with the teacher, but you could also use them as a guide for explaining paraphrasing to students verbally.

Example 1

If you paraphrase someone, you express what they have said or written in a different way.

Imagine you are answering the question: How does Mr. Brownlow show his uncertainty when talking to Nancy?

This would be a good example of paraphrasing:

Mr. Brownlow asks, ‘for what purpose can you have brought us for this strange place?’

In other words, Mr. Brownlow is asking why Nancy has taken them somewhere so unusual and hidden away.

This would not be a good example of paraphrasing:

Mr. Brownlow asks, ‘for what purpose can you have brought us for this strange place?’

In other words, Mr. Brownlow is asking why Nancy is so afraid. — this isn’t what Mr. Brownlow is saying. He might be thinking it, but this is not what he is saying in this quotation.

Or Mr. Brownlow asks, ‘for what purpose can you have brought us for this strange place?’

In other words, Mr. Brownlow is asking why Nancy has brought them to a strange place. — this is too similar to the original quotation. It hasn’t been paraphrased.

Your turn: How does Nancy reply? Try to paraphrase Nancy’s words

Nancy replies by saying that she has, ‘a fear and dread upon me to-night that I can hardly stand.’

In other words, Nancy is saying__________________________________________________

 

Example 2

Imagine you are answering the question: How does Mercutio mock Romeo?

This would be a good example of paraphrasing:

Mercutio asks, ‘Why, is not this better now than groaning for love?

In other words, Mercutio makes the point that making jokes is better than feeling sad because of love.

This would not be a good example of paraphrasing:

Mercurio states, ‘Why, is not this better now than groaning for love?

In other words, Mercutio is saying that Romeo should forget about love.– this is implied in what he says, but this isn’t exactly what he is saying here.

Your turn: try to paraphrase Mercutio’s words:

Mercurio states, ‘drivelling love is like a great natural,that runs lolling up and down?’

In other words, Mercutio is saying_______________________________________________

the-writing-revolution-1

 

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