What Year Did That Happen?

Middle School and High School Teacher

Students will practice rewriting and summarizing paragraphs, paraphrasing the information, facts, and other details in a writing sample.

Grade Level: 6 - 8th

Subject: English/Language Arts

Length of Time: About 2 - 3 Class Periods

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Common Core Alignment

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.7.4 - Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1-3 above.)

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.7.8 - Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.7.10 - Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Objectives & Outcomes

The students will be able to effectively paraphrase and rewrite a paragraph from various sources, successfully convey the content, avoid plagiarism, and follow the usual rules for writing.

Materials Needed

  • One 4-6 sentence paragraph from various sources for each student
  • Access to dictionary/thesaurus resource; each student will need the number of index cards equal to the number of students in the classroom

Prepare ahead of time:  3-5 line paragraphs equal to the number of students in the classroom, best if paragraphs are non-fiction related to science and history topics, assign a number to each paragraph.  Separate example paragraph to display for students to see.


Opening to Lesson

  • Display the example paragraph so all students can read it
  • Ask a volunteer to read it aloud
  • Ask a second student to summarize the paragraph in their own words
  • Ask a third student to summarize in their own words
  • Ask students why writers cannot copy content word for word
  • Discuss the responses, stressing that plagiarism is illegal

Body of Lesson


  • Tell students: Each of you will now have a chance to practice rewriting content without plagiarizing the work.
  • Ask students how they could change the words of a paragraph without changing its meaning or content
  • Allow students to respond, guiding them to the use of dictionaries/thesauruses
  • Refer to the original example paragraph and have students choose a word or two to replace with a synonym from a thesaurus

Guided Practice

  • Distribute the blank index cards to each student
  • Pass out one of the articles to each student
  • Students will paraphrase the paragraph, writing it on an index card, have them write the paragraph number onto the card
  • Once the article is paraphrased, collect all of the original articles
  • Next, have each student pass their paraphrased paragraph to another student (hand it to the student behind them, etc.)
  • With a new index card, the student will rewrite the paragraph that was just paraphrased, writing the number on their index card
  • Important: The students will keep the card they just completed but pass the original to another student.  (The original will be one of the FIRST cards from the original paragraphs.)
  • The previous steps will be followed until each student’s original card is returned to them. In their possession they will have a stack of index cards, one for each of the original articles paraphrased from x number of paragraphs from peers
  • The teacher will collect all of the index cards- combining all of the #1s, #2s, etc.
  • Once all cards are collected, the teacher will read aloud Original Paragraph #1 and the Last paraphrased Paragraph #1 (which was paraphrased the same number of times as there are students in the class)
  • Students will compare/contrast the two paragraphs sharing their comments
  • The teacher will repeat this exercise with several other index cards

Independent Practice

  • Assign for homework a worksheet with five paragraphs students will effectively paraphrase


Stress to students that when paraphrasing a paragraph or someone else’s writing the content should not be changed, the information should be conveyed as originally as possible.  Ask students what difficulties they had in doing the exercise.  Remind students that the use of a dictionary/thesaurus is important.

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Assessment & Evaluation

Review student’s work, create a worksheet with 5 paragraphs students must paraphrase and rewrite.

Modification & Differentiation

Use paragraphs from one multi-page resource related to science/history.  Present the lesson over a longer period of time.  Use half the number of paragraphs to shorten the lesson.

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