Joanne O’Carroll, UNSW Global
Paraphrasing for pleasure and success

Being set up to fail in a learning activity is the quickest way to disengage and alienate our students. Yet paraphrasing as an Academic writing skill is often taught using highly complex texts, beyond the reading comprehension levels of many Foundation Studies learners. This leads to poor note-taking, low quality learner texts and plagiarism, creating a cycle of loss of confidence, fear of risk taking and retreat from the learning process. In contrast, setting students up for success in paraphrasing leads to greater engagement, confidence and skills transference.

Tailoring the task to the learner’s abilities by selecting authentic texts about comprehensible, concrete topics allows students draw pictures of what they have understood, then paraphrase in an academic style from these visual notes. Using drawing as note-taking avoids the temptation to merely copy and rearrange ‘chunks’ from the original text. Having proven to themselves that they can paraphrase, students are more willing to take risks in applying their learning to more challenging texts, even in “high stakes” assessable tasks. This presentation will explain how Foundation Studies students learned to enjoy and succeed in paraphrasing using an impersonal and more formal style. Tips for selecting suitable texts and samples of students’ work will be shared.

Joanne O'Carroll is a Senior Academic English teacher in Foundation Studies, in UNSW Global. Over her 23 years there she has taught on Migrant, Workplace and EAP programs in addition to her current work with overseas students preparing to enter undergraduate programs.Joanne is passionate about empowering learners through enhanced literacy skills. Her work includes leading the Academic English consultation team who support students' success by facilitating independent learning.