"Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation." --Oscar Wilde
Author Jen Malone created The Margin Project as a collaborative reading experience. When I first learned about The Margin Project, I thought about J.J. Abrams unique novel S. Then I said to myself:
"Self, The Margin Project can move beyond students reading published imaginative texts. You should use it to start conversations about informational texts, too." I concurred with my inner teacher voice and decided to unite The Margin Project to The Controlled Research Paper.
I first wrote a controlled research paper, which some call a synthesis paper, as a college freshman. In my first English class, I wrote two such papers, one on Huck Finn and one on Hamlet. I still own the copies of both texts that came with the scholarly articles I used to write my papers. Very bad papers. Embarrassingly bad papers. But I digress.
The past week my students have been reading, text coding, and annotating four articles, all on cheating, a topic I chose after a colleague recently dealt with a spate of plagiarized papers and because I'm haunted by memories of two horrible experiences from last year.
Today I'm sharing a slice of the project, some images from the student written conversations:
Often students struggle to read difficult texts and to understand annotating. By having them share texts, they become part of a conversation with one another. By making no stipulations about with whom they share, a dialogic conversation emerges among students who often don't converse with one another. Additionally, students deepen their understanding of the issue as they read the annotations and examine the highlights of their peers.
Throughout the process, I asked students to put their names on each article they annotate. Additionally, I taught them how to take notes during the process, including selecting quotations, summarizing an entire article briefly, paraphrasing an idea, juxtaposing paraphrasing with quoted phrases, accurately citing a quote within an author's article, and composing notes based on their own ideas so that their papers don't devolve into a string of quotes from the four sources.
Typically students work in isolation on their research projects because each one has a different topic. Through conversing about a common topic utilizing common texts, The Margin Project uniting with the Controlled Research Paper is a learning experience written in the language students speak and understand.