Friday, September 28, 2012

Curse Citations!

Research has really occupied my time of late. Seventh and eighth grade classes are moving full steam ahead on research projects, and I have to admit that I love every minute of it. Wow! Did I just say that I love research? When I started teaching 16 years ago (can that be right?), I hated the idea of teaching research. It was torture for me, torture for my students. This was, of course, before I understood what collaboration with a media coordinator could add to my instruction. Now, I know more about the research process and how to organize it to help students be more successful. More importantly, I know how to collaborate with the teachers at my school.

A large portion of this process is helping students understand copyright and plagiarism. Lessons on this usually focus on giving credit to the original creator of the work or citing your sources. When introducing the concept of a Works Cited page, I feel like it is always such a negative lesson. The scare tactic I have employed with students has been that you must provide citations or be accused of copying someone else's work. This then results in a lower grade. During a recent lesson, I was having my own interior monologue about needing to find a better way. What about instilling fear makes students want to provide citations? Um,  nothing. 

The solution hit me in a rare moment of clarity. We have an eighth grade language arts teacher who is extremely well-read, and it took teaching his classes to come up with that positive spin. I explained that the citation served as a path to locate the original source. I went on to explain since Mr. Bojangles (not his real name, but you already knew that, right?) enjoys learning, we want to be sure that if he reads your assignment and is truly interested in learning more, he can find the original source. His students really responded to this and to make things even better he jumped in with a story to help illustrate this point. Last year I created a sample project for a lesson I was doing. Mr. Bojangles took a lot of time looking over my project about Charlie Chaplin, and he found he had a real interest in the topic. He used my citations to locate a book I had used. He read the book in its entirety. I had actually forgotten that last part until he shared it with class, but it worked out so well that we had the conversation multiple times that day.

This allowed students to see citations in a positive light. Needless to say, I no longer feel the need to curse the dreaded citations. All it took was time and the right situation.

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