Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Margin Project Meets Controlled Research: #SOL15 No. 5 of 31

*It's day 5 of 31 in the Slice of Life Story Challenge sponsored by the Two Writing Teachers blog. 

"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. 

As students have worked their way through the journal articles, I've overheard snippets of conversations. Today, two students debated the merits of Chris Tovani's contention that teachers sometimes drive students to cheat. I've heard others discuss steps teachers should take to curb cheating. One student told his seat mates about a teacher who has students turn their phones over. 

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. 

12 comments:

  1. I like this idea of the Margin Project. I had never heard of it before. Lots to think about it. I am so glad you shared.

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    1. Be sure to look at the original Margin Project to see how it's used w/ books. And thank you.

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  2. Glenda,
    Your post briefly mentions haunting memories from plagiarized instances. Unfortunately, I'm familiar with those feelings, too. Thank you for this assignment idea that would challenge students to delve into the problem of cheating and stealing others' words.
    Melinda, whose "Wonder" entry you commented through the sol Day 4 challenge

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    1. Dealing w/ plagiarism is never easy, but I think kids are less likely to plagiarize if we deal w/ it up front and show them how to avoid it. The discussions have been fascinating.

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  3. Glenda,
    Your post briefly mentions haunting memories from plagiarized instances. Unfortunately, I'm familiar with those feelings, too. Thank you for this assignment idea that would challenge students to delve into the problem of cheating and stealing others' words.
    Melinda, whose "Wonder" entry you commented through the sol Day 4 challenge

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  4. Glenda,
    Your post briefly mentions haunting memories from plagiarized instances. Unfortunately, I'm familiar with those feelings, too. Thank you for this assignment idea that would challenge students to delve into the problem of cheating and stealing others' words.
    Melinda, whose "Wonder" entry you commented through the sol Day 4 challenge

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  5. The higher-level learning of this work is inescapable! Wow! To have them read about cheating collaboratively, in the midst of learning how to dissect writing and take notes...this is awesome. I want to be your student! Also, the opening quote by Oscar Wilde is chilling...something we need students to reflect on.

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    1. Thanks, Maureen; we had a fabulous fishbowl discussion during my 1st period today. It may become a slice, but I will at some point write more about the project.

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  6. This is a new idea for me . I will need to check it out. I have always had a hard time dealing with plagiarism in my sixth grade class because so often student reports consisted just going to the library and just copying information.

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    1. We seem to be dealing w/ a generation who often thinks collaboration means license to copy, who thinks "cheating" is whatever the individual deems it to be. I have seniors who do what your sixth graders do.

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  7. I love this idea! We do lots of annotating with our kids, but we have never done it with two kids having a conversation on the same page. Is there somewhere where the directions about how to do it are written down?

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    1. I don't have a handout prepared for this assignment. I do have a Ppt about text-coding and annotating, however, which I can send your way. Also, I'm happy to write up the narrative I use w/ my classes if you'd like that. Let me know.

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