Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Avoiding Plagiarism Handout for Students

Plagiarism is a big problem in my classroom, and it probably is in yours, too. I do my best to teach the concepts; the students know how to avoid blatant copying, but they are often tripped up on the finer points.

Recycle a paper from a previous class? Nope. But it's my own work! Still nope. Paraphrase a source without a citation? Nope. But they are my own words! Still nope.

I made this handout so there could be no confusion. For the first paper after my complete lesson on avoiding plagiarism, I have them attach this sheet and sign it.  Ignorance of the rules (meaning they tuned me out when I was teaching!) is no longer an excuse.

You can download it for free by clicking on the cover below. I hope you find it useful in your classroom!

If you would like a complete lesson plan that includes comprehensive handouts, a worksheet, and a quiz, click on the cover below. Two versions are included: MLA and APA style.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

High Interest Reading - Extreme Sports

Of all the original reading passages I've used in my classroom, the most popular, by far, have been on extreme sports. The appeal is obvious to the athletes, but even students with no interest in sports find the topic fascinating. Why would someone participate in such dangerous and extreme behavior? How did these sports start? What drives the athletes?

P.S. The man on the Slacklining cover is of my friend's son. He's a an out-of-the-box athlete who has also competed on America Ninja Warriors. He's only landed in the hospital once : )

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Top Five Reasons to Use a Seating Chart

Over the years, I've learned that seating charts are beneficial for older students, especially with larger classes. Although some would argue that after reaching a certain maturity level, students should have the freedom to sit wherever they want, I'm still a fan of assigned seating for the following reasons:

1. It makes attendance easy. It also makes it easier to monitor who comes in late and who leaves early. Tardy students can't slip into a back corner seat and hope you won't notice, and it's more difficult for someone to slip out early if he or she knows it will be obvious from the empty seat. It also alleviates the problem of attendance when there is a substitute.

2. Studies show that a carefully crafted seating arrangement can enhance learning, especially for those who are struggling.

3. Assigned seating creates structure and sets a tone of order at the beginning of the school year.

4. Students are less distracted if they aren't sitting next to their best friends or social groups.

5. Students get to know other students that are not in their social group, and loners or those who feel left out are not as isolated. This is especially enhanced when you assign projects to small groups sitting close together.

Of course with a batch of new students, you don't necessarily know who should be seated together for optimal academic performance, or who should be separated. Reserve the right to change up the seating chart at any time, or at times, I've even had a regular schedule for a seating chart shuffle, say once a month.

Depending on the class, the seating chart has been a life saver, or proven unnecessary in a month or two. Either way, it's a good start to the new year.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

New MLA Guidelines - 8th Edition

When I heard the MLA guidelines were changing, the emotion I felt is best described as "Ack!"  I have spent countless hours teaching and developing resources for the seventh edition guidelines, and re-learning and changing my resources seemed like a laborious task.

When I ordered the new book, however, and sat down to read it, I immediately lost that bad feeling. Although I was comfortable with the old guidelines, I immediately saw the wisdom in the changes. In-text citations are the same, but gone are the days of the nitpicky works cited entries, where each type of resource had particular, not necessarily intuitive, specifications.

In a nutshell, the new guidelines for the Works Cited page ask for the most important features of each source. What should be included is flexible, based on the purpose of the source, and any source fits into the general formula. With more varied sources available with technology, it's a plus that you only need to know the basics to figure out how to document the entry.

Here is the list of items you should find, if applicable, for documentation, for any source:

Title of source
Title of container (meaning the journal, magazine, search engine, television series etc...)
Other contributors (translator, editor, producer, etc...)
Publication date
Location (URL or doi)

Once you've got these items, you can easily put together the citation, and you can add any additional helpful information.

In the MLA Handbook, they include a handy chart that also shows what punctuation to use after each entry. I've re-created the chart with some modifications for my classrooms.

For detailed information, examples, and an overall great free reference source, go to The Online Writing Lab at Purdue University: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/

I've also created a product with all the basics for the classroom: guidelines, examples, and charts for both in-text citations and the Works Cited entries. What I thought was going to be laborious turned into a labor of love!