Lesson 7 - Reading Techniques for Adult Basic Education (ABE) Learners Illinois State Library

Paraphrasing, Inference

Page 8 of 9


Paraphrasing is a technique through which a tutor can help the learner understand text. This technique focuses on building comprehension. The learner reads the paragraphs slowly, then locates the main idea and the details. Then the learner reviews the paragraph for this information. Next the learner puts the main idea and details into their own words. Finally the tutor writes down the learner's words or records them on a tape recorder. Using a tape recorder rather than writing is very appropriate for learners with learning disabilities or who speak another language. The tape can be used as a study aid for the lesson.

Guide for Using Paraphrasing




Meaning is not always written in words, sometimes it is inferred. As a tutor, when you are sure the learners understand the facts, you can ask questions that require higher-level comprehension skills. For instance, tutors can ask learners to draw logical conclusions about ideas not fully developed in the text.

The use of tables, proverbs, or parables is a good way to introduce this concept of inference to learners who may not have any experience with meaning not written, but inferred. As learners begin to infer meaning, they will think beyond the words of a text in response to their own experiences.

Tutors may find that using political advertisements and debates, as well as editorials from newspapers and advertisements from magazines, will assist learners in reading meaning into the information that is not actually written. Your goal as a tutor is to help learners not only in their literacy lessons, but also in understanding how literacy impacts their lives.

Reading opens doors to thinking. Encourage your learners to think of the who, what, when, where, why, and how when they are reading and writing. You can help learners explain their thoughts using the following techniques:

  1. Use questions to encourage discussion about events, opinions, and procedures in written material (e.g., Who would you say is the most important character? Why? How did you think they should have proceeded?).
  2. Ask questions that will structure learner's answers in a brief and logical order (e.g., Yes, I agree that the main character seemed to overreact to his partner. But what happened first?).
  3. Ask questions that will lead the learner to read between the lines (i.e., Why did so few supplies reach the people who needed them? What do you think the author wants us to think about that government?).
  4. Try to avoid questions that require only a yes/no response (e.g., What did you think about these books?).
  5. Ask learners to formulate questions. Model some questions first and then encourage them to ask themselves other questions as they read.

Paraphrasing and inference techniques build understanding and comprehension. Comprehension is the basis of literacy, of reading and writing, of listening and speaking. As a tutor, learn to know when comprehension is taking place. Learn how to help learners help themselves as they begin to use comprehension strategies. As learners achieve success in increasing their reading skills, they will become more self-directed and independent.