Categorized | Student Work

Paraphrasing with Taylor Swift!

A notebook, pages blowing in the wind, sitting on an electric keyboard.

Image source: “Music with Lyrics” by Tarun Kumar from Flickr

Original: “But I’ve got a blank space, baby/And I’ll write your name.”   (“Blank Space,” by Taylor Swift, Max Martin, and Shellback)

Paraphrase: I’m single, so we should date. (Lindsey E., ’21)

It can be challenging to learn to use your own words to express ideas and facts that you get from reading you do while carrying out research. Conveying an idea from your reading in your own words is called paraphrasing. Recently, the seventh graders got some great paraphrasing practice, translating Taylor Swift lyrics into “everyday” spoken English. Here are some lyrics, if you want to give it a try:

  • “’Cause, darling, I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream.”(“Blank Space,” by Taylor Swift, Max Martin, and Shellback)
  • “But she wears short skirts/I wear T-shirts/She’s cheer captain/And I’m on the bleachers” (“You Belong with Me,” Taylor Swift and Liz Rose)
  • Nice to meet you, where you been?”(“Blank Space,” by Taylor Swift, Max Martin, and Shellback)
  • “Someday I’ll be living in a big ole city/And all you’re ever gonna be is mean” (“Mean,” by Taylor Swift)

Students listed tips on paraphrasing effectively, which included:

  • Read until you understand what the sentence is saying,
  • Identify terminology that is specific to your topic (you can use it in your paraphrase),
  • Articulate the big idea, and
  • Cover it up the original source and say it in your own words.

Of course, when you paraphrase, what you write is often about the same length as the original.

When you want to quickly convey the big ideas of a longer passage, that is called summarizing.  A fun way to practice summarizing is picking a song you love, and telling the story or the moral that song conveys in one, short sentence:

Song title: “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” (Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman)

Summary:A fun word to say and make you feel good with also confusing people.” (E. Lewis, ’21)

Song title: “Sorry” (Julia Michaels, Justin Tranter, and Justin Beiber)

Summary:I let you go and now I want you back.” (E. Smith, ’21)

Can you take your favorite song and summarize its meaning? How about paraphrasing some of your favorite lines? It is a great way to get a feel for the difference between the two skills.

Of course, whether you are paraphrasing or summarizing, you have not done it right if you don’t give credit to the source that gave you the information or ideas that you use. So, a huge “Thank you!” to Amber Lovett, a library school students at the University of Michigan, for the idea of using Taylor Swift lyrics.

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