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        Paraphrasing - Timbuktu in Your Own Words

        Students will be watching a video segment about Timbuktu, which  was once a thriving center of Islamic learning. They will learn about the efforts to preserve the books. They will then paraphrase passages with assistance.

        Lesson Summary


        Students watch a video segment to gain a full understanding of the topic. Then they paraphrase three passages from the video with assistance. 

        Why is this an important concept?

        The ability to paraphrase appropriately ensures learners have a clear understanding of the text. Putting a writer's words into their own words demonstrates learners' comprehension. Also, when learners feel confident with paraphrasing, they will be less tempted to plagiarize texts. 

        Grade Level:


        Suggested Time


        Media Resources


        The Lesson

        Part I: Learning Activity

        1. Before teaching this lesson, you may choose to preview the video and the following related resource links regarding the lesson and the Timbuktu manuscripts.

        2. With the class, discuss the importance of and need to paraphrase in note-taking and writing reports. Discuss with students that the ability to paraphrase can help prevent plagiarism.

        3. Distribute and discuss the Timbuktu Paraphrasing Strategies handout; however, it would be best if you did not do the practice passage yet. As you work through the following procedure, continually refer to strategies A through K on this handout.

        4. Ask the class if anyone has ever heard of Timbuktu. Explain that they will be watching a video segment about Timbuktu, which is located in the West African nation of Mali and is one of the most remote and inaccessible places on the planet. Tell them that Timbuktu was once a thriving center of Islamic learning. Today, a million or so ancient manuscripts are in Timbuktu and are in the process of being studied, catalogued and preserved.

        5. Tell students that they will watch the segment twice. Before showing the segment the first time, ask them to watch the video to get the big picture of what the story is about (refer to Strategy B). Encourage them to monitor their comprehension as they listen and watch (refer to Strategy C).

        6. After viewing the segment, have a whole class discussion to determine students' understanding (refer to Strategy D).

        7. Play the video a second time, asking students to watch and listen for particular segments about which they were unclear; narrate segments and/or pause the video as needed to clarify. Explain to students that to paraphrase text appropriately, it is imperative to understand it (refer to Strategy E).

        8. Distribute copies of the Timbuktu Main Idea handout handout. In small groups of three to four, students should complete the handout (refer to Strategy F). Review the handouts to determine if they understand the main idea and supporting details in the text.

        9. Refer to and review Strategies G through K. Do the practice passage in the Timbuktu Paraphrasing Strategies handout together. Model your thinking as you paraphrase the segment while asking students for active participation.

        For students who need additional teacher guidance:
        • Provide background information on Timbuktu prior to viewing the film. See the resources (at the beginning of the learning activity) for sites about Timbuktu and its endangered manuscripts.
        • Provide assistance with reading Timbuktu Paraphrasing Assessment handout quotations as needed.
        • Provide assistance using a dictionary and thesaurus. Enlarge the Timbuktu Paraphrasing Strategies handout to use as a classroom poster for future reference.
        • Provide mini-lessons and practice of two or three paraphrasing strategies at a time rather than using all 11 strategies at once.
        • Begin by paraphrasing phrases rather than whole passages.
        • Monitor vocabulary and reading level of passages used.
        • Introduce paraphrasing with content that is highly familiar to students, then build up to unfamiliar topics.

        Part II: Assessment

        With a partner, students will complete the Timbuktu Paraphrasing Assessment handout, paraphrasing each passage in their own words. Use the Timbuktu Paraphrasing rubric to assess students' ability.


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