Say That Again!

images (1) This is a good activity for practising paraphrasing skills, or for introducing an FCE, CAE or CPE -style Sentence Transformation exercise.  I’ve used this activity in both CAE and CPE classes and I think the students have been surprised at how many different ways they can think of to say something.  They’re also surprised when they find the transformation exercises easier.  Credit goes to where I got this idea from.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Either have students write short sentences on bits of paper, ideally something they might say in everyday life, eg. “I like your hair,” OR use the original sentences of a Transformation exercise.
  • Collect the slips of paper and re-distribute, face down, to groups of 3-4.   A student takes the top one, turns it face up and reads the sentence. They then have to produce a paraphrase of the sentence, as does the next person and the next etc, until someone can’t come up with something that hasn’t already been said. For example:
    • Student A: ”In 2010 I went to Ecuador and I will never forget it.”
    • Student B: “I’ll always remember going to Ecuador in 2010”
    • Student C: “I was in Ecuador in 2010 and it was unforgettable”.
    • Student D can’t think of anything new, so keeps the slip of paper.
  • The winner is the person in each group with the fewest slips of paper at the end of the activity.


  • I’ve done this activity as a speaking exercise but it could be used as a writing exercise if you want to keep the variant phrases to correct or comment on later.
  • If your class are strong and find this easy, impose limitations.  For example, ask the students to analyse the original sentence for style and to interpret the attitude of the speaker.  Their paraphrases must then also portray the same attitude and fit the same register.  Or you could give them a time limit, eg. how many different ways of paraphrasing the sentence can they come up with in one minute.

Suggested follow-ups:

  • Give the students the Transformations exercise to do.  They should find it a lot easier than normal!
  • Recall the different phrases from a round and discuss the different attitudes of one could ascribe to each utterance.
  • As teflgeek suggests, take the input from one of the writing paper questions and divide it up into sentences on separate bits of paper and ask learners to come up with alternative phrasings.

If anyone tries this and has any other ideas for follow-ups or variations, I’d love to hear them!



  1. A great idea. I’ve used this method too with IELTS and CAE learners and it works a treat. Thanks for outlining it so clearly here.

    1. Thanks, Dianna! There are so many great ideas out there and my aim is to try them and collate them here. I´m glad it´s working for you too!

  2. Hi Emma,
    Just to let you know that we’ve shortlisted this blog post for this month’s TeachingEnglish blog award and I’ll be making a post about it on today’s TeachingEnglish facebook page, if you’d like to check there for likes and comments.


    1. Wow! Thank you, Ann!

  3. […] Say That Again!. […]

  4. Ron Ratchford · · Reply

    Several generations of students ago I was teaching at the end of the period of traditonal grammar in the lower levels. The various words had definitions and limitations. Some decried this use of an ancient method but I found it to be helpful is giving a tangible view of verbal communications in the sense of a game with rules that could be applied of circumvented. But all this is not how I speak.
    There are rules in language and the recognition is not as important as the use.

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