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Garden City School Library: Paraphrasing and Summarizing

Essential Question

How can I put other people's ideas and stories into my own words?

Lesson 1 - In Other Words ...

  • Review: Remind the students that we've been discussing plagiarism. Ask for a definition/example. Then ask for suggestions of how to avoid copying. Tell them that today, we'll practice paraphrasing, or putting things into our own words. 
  • Activity: Go through the PPT below, emphasizing that a good vocabulary will help students more easily come up with different ways to state ideas. 
  • Assessment: After going through the PPT as a class, students must paraphrase a sentence given to them.

    4 = sentence flows beautifully with completely different structure from the original

    3 = sentence flows ok, does not reuse any of the phrasing from original

    2 = most words have been replaced, but there may be some from original and/or tortured syntax

    1 = entire phrases from the original remain 

  • Extra credit/extension: Depending on timing/number of class meetings, you may have the class work in groups on  the attached EC file. 
  • Follow-up: Email the students links to two sites that can help them increase their vocabulary:, which will donate to the World Food Programme for each correct answer; and, where you can create an account and play on behalf of Garden City in a national contest.


Lesson 2 - Summarizing Plots 1

  • Introduction: Ask the students to explain the difference between retelling (paraphrasing) and summarizing (retelling is longer and includes more details, etc.).
  • Group discussion: They should all have covered Cinderella in second grade; ask for volunteers to retell the story as you type their version onscreen (I posted it to the blog). 

    Let them know that many different versions exist of fairy tales; for example, the original Cinderella had the stepsisters cutting off parts of their feet to fit in the shoes, and after the wedding, birds pecked their eyes out. (If you have Adam Gidwitz’ A Tale Dark and Grimm, make sure to booktalk it!)

    Then introduce the Somebody / Wanted / But / So / Then framework for summarizing a plot. Walk through some of the potential “somebodies” – Cinderella, her stepmother, the prince – and how the “wants” change. You can also type these summaries up. Point out that they are much shorter than the retelling - but just as valid.

    Discuss why summarizing is an important skill to have when doing research (presents the main idea without extraneous details, helps avoid plagiarism, etc.).

  • Assessment: Students who contributed to the discussion receive participation points.

Lesson 3 - Summarizing Plots 2

  • Review: Ask the students to explain the difference between retelling and summarizing.  Then ask them to give the words that SWBST stand for and write them on chart paper.
  • Readaloud: Read Rumpelstiltskin by Paul O. Zelinsky to the students. Before having the students start their summaries, review the list of potential “somebodies” – the girl, the king, Rumpelstiltskin.
  • Individual work: Using the template below, students summarize the story.

  • Assessment:

    4 = exceptionally well-written summary that encompasses key plot elements in just a couple of sentences

    3 = all elements within framework included and make sense 

    2 = summary element missing or improperly placed​ (kids often have a problem making the "but" transition)

    1 = student clearly was not listening to the story

  • Extra Credit: Students may choose to fill out an additional summarizing paper for a book they have read this year.
  • Follow-up: Next year, I do a lesson on primary v. secondary sources and read Jon Sciezka’s The True Story of the Three Little Pigs to the students to demonstrate the “three sides to every story" adage.


Standards Addressed

AASL: I.B.3 - Learners engage with new knowledge by following a process that includes generating products that illustrate learning; I.C.1 - Learners adapt, communicate, and exchange learning products with others in a cycle that includes interacting with content presented by others; III.D.1 - Learners actively participate with others in learning situations by actively contributing to group discussions; IV.B.4 - Learners gather information appropriate to the task by organizing information by priority, topic, or other systematic scheme.

Common Core: RL.4.2 - Summarize the text; RL.4.6 - Compare and contrast the point of view from which different stories are narrated; SL.5.2 - Summarize a written text read aloud