LEARNING STRATEGY: Substitute/Paraphrase
STANDARDS: Communication 1.3, Comparisons 4.1


Language:Any language

Proficiency Level: Beginning, Intermediate

Brief description of the activity: Students will orally describe the rooms of a household (target culture if possible) based on pictures.


  1. Students will be able to identify and discuss the rooms of the house.
  2. Students will develop fluency skills.
  3. Students will develop household vocabulary.
  4. Students will be able to use a variety of words or phrases to express what they are trying to say.

Language focus: Speaking, Vocabulary

Materials:Pictures of rooms of the house


  1. Introduce the content
    Explain that students are going to use illustrations (or photographs) to help them describe the rooms of a house. Before starting have learners work in pairs to come up with as much house vocabulary as they can in two minutes.
  2. Introduce and model the learning strategy
    Tell learners that sometimes when you are trying to describe something in the target language, you want to use a word that you don't know, so you use other words to explain the concept. Model the activity by describing a room in the house and use other words to describe some of the furniture that you can't seem to name.

    Explain that, when we talk we often need to use a word that we have forgetten or don't know. When this happens, students can use the strategy Substitute/Paraphrase. They can use other words that they know to explain the word the troublesome term.
  3. Practice
    Hold up the remaining pictures of different rooms of the house. You can include different types of rooms and houses. Have learners alternate between listener and describer in pairs or small groups. Students name the room and its contents. When they don't know the word, have them describe the room using words they know. Ask if substituting and paraphrasing helped them speak more fluently. Ask students which unfamiliar terms they paraphrased and provide the target language terms.


  1. Learners write a description of their dream house for homework.
  2. The next time students are doing an oral presentation or a dialogue, encourage them to paraphrase if they reach a stopping point.
  3. As a class brainstorm situations where paraphrasing can help with speaking or writing in the target language.

Teacher Resources (to help teacher enhance activity):
Illustrations and photographs can be found in magazines or on the Web.