Learning to Paraphrase: A Group Activity

This page authored by Gretchen Flaherty, Lake Superior College
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In this cooperative learning activity, groups of three students paraphrase from an assigned essay to create an original three-paragraph paper. Each student in the group is responsible for creating one paraphrased paragraph. Students then peer review each other's paragraphs for feedback, revise their own paragraphs, and assemble it into one group paper for submission.

Learning Goals

The goals of this activity are threefold:

  1. To practice paraphrasing skills. This activity is completed for a research-based writing class, and paraphrasing is a basic skill the students will use throughout the semester.
  2. To encourage students to do their best work. Since the group receives one score, students usually try harder at the paraphrasing when others are counting on them for a good grade. It also encourages students to peer review their group members' paraphrases more carefully than if it were an individual writing assignment.
  3. To create a sense of classroom community. As the activity is assigned early in the semester, it helps the students get to know a few of their classmates better, which contributes positively to the classroom environment.

Context for Use

This activity is completed in a College Composition II course. Students in this class must complete College Composition I, a basic essay writing course, before enrolling in this research-based, argumentative writing course. Class size is typically about 25 students, but the activity could work for smaller or larger classes as well.

Description and Teaching Materials

This paper is assigned after students have had some exposure and in-class practice of paraphrasing and peer review. I usually schedule parts of three class sessions to complete the paper.

Class# 1: I handout out the assignment sheet and the essay being paraphrased. I use an essay that focuses on an aspect of education relatable to college learners, giving the students a discussion point as they work with their group members. Students are encouraged to form groups of three on their own, but I will help with group formation if needed.

Class #2: Students bring in the rough draft of their paraphrase. I discuss the importance of peer review and receiving feedback from others. I also give the scoring rubric sheet to the groups, so students can see what my expectations are for the final product. The students are then given the rest of the classtime to review each of their group members' paragraphs, using the peer review sheet.

The students then have one week outside of class to revise their paragraphs, and through email, assemble the three paragraphs into one group paper.

Class #3: One week after in-class peer review, I collect the final paper of each group, along with the individual rough drafts and peer reviews. I grade the papers and provide feedback to the groups within one week after the final paper is due. Students are also asked to fill out an individual reflection sheet to include with their final paper.

Files included are: 1. The assignment sheet. 2. A power point I use for the "rules" of peer review 3. The peer review sheet 4. The score sheet for the final product. 5. The individual reflection sheet.

  1. Handout for Group Paraphrasing Assignment (Rich Text File 49kB Feb17 10)
  2. Peer Review Rules (PowerPoint 99kB Jan25 10)
  3. Peer Review Sheet (Rich Text File 31kB Jan25 10)
  4. Score Sheet (Rich Text File 32kB Jan25 10)
  5. Reflection sheet for Group Paraphrase Paper (Rich Text File 37kB Feb17 10)

Teaching Notes and Tips

  • Students initially can be confused by the assignment - I take as much time as needed to explain it before they get into groups. I've found that they listen better if they are not yet in their group.
  • I explain to them that this is the only paper they will do with others for the class, as some students do not like being graded for group work. Paraphrasing is a difficult skill that takes a lot of practice, but it's needed to be a good research writer.
  • This is a cooperative learning activity, but it forces each student to do the same amount of work. It also gives the students a chance to learn how to do good peer review.


Besides filling out the rubric score sheet for the students, I provide each group with a typed paragraph of comments written specifically for their paper, as well as comments on the paper itself. The comments point out what was done well and what needs improvement for the future.

References and Resources