It’s a yucky, rainy day today. It got up to 70 over the weekend, and now it’s yucky, and cold, and wet, and seven solid weeks until spring break. I can feel a cold coming on, and it’s hard to maintain energy to teach with the odds against me like that! It’s a good week to watch movies and hide in the computer lab doing research.
My English 3 class is in the midst of researching a current event, then putting it together into an informational or persuasive paper including a works cited page and in-text citations. Some are doing really well; others, not so much. A popular topic is the legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado. My exceptionally challenging student chose this topic, for reasons that seem obvious to everyone but him (I can’t tell if he honestly thinks I don’t know he smokes weed or if he thinks he’s being ironic by insisting he doesn’t).
I checked on his work yesterday, and after eight days in the computer lab he had no tangible research to show for it. His words? “I haven’t written anything down because I haven’t found anything I didn’t know.” He asked if he’s just supposed to write a paper “out of his head” and insisted he had writer’s block. No matter how many times we go over the material in class, practice it together and by themselves, there’s always someone who misses the boat…on the bright side, I have a very low-skilled special ed student who I’ve been coaching through the process. I showed her today how to turn her web addresses into MLA citations using EasyBib.com, and she said, “Oh, like we did in class last week?” Love that she made the connection.
My grade-level students struggle with the idea of citing, still. Part of it is because they rarely read nonfiction texts, and so are unfamiliar with bibliographies and citing sources. We only do formal research once a year, so that is another contributing factor. This year, I explained to them that what makes a valid source is that it was published by a real company – someone who was probably paid somewhere along the line to dig up real information on a topic, be it a journalist or a professor or professional author. Bloggers don’t get paid; they aren’t valid sources. Wikipedia authors don’t get paid. My students do not get paid. Once they get paid to get published, then they can cite their own brains, as they phrase it (a favorite question is wondering what would happen if they came up with exactly the same idea and happened to write it exactly the same way as someone else – would that be plagiarizing?). Realistically, most of my regular students won’t be going on to four-year schools where they will regularly utilize research skills, but enough of them will that I want them to do well.
|My senior thesis the day I turned it in.|
I dug up my senior thesis from college that I spent over a year putting together and brought it to class. The finished product is 103 pages long, with three pages of references and lots of in-text citations. I showed them so they could see what a “real” research paper looks like. They have been whining that 1500 words is “so long!” so I could point to this and raise my eyebrows in an dramatically-exaggerated unimpressed fashion. Granted, I went to an Ivy League school where I probably wrote more than the average school, but my experience is all I know. They were duly impressed by my tome, and if the only effect was that they thought I was a little smarter than they were, then perhaps the exercise was a success.
|College Me turning in my thesis before Housing Day – March 2011|