Dilemma (Warning: Long Post Ahead)

My sixth graders completed an assignment this week and I'm grading their work this weekend.

The work I received, I should say. Two-thirds of the classes didn't complete the work over the span of two classes--mostly because they were messing around and chatting too much with classmates--and they were supposed to take the work home, finish it, and return it to me the next day. I even was merciful and granted an extra day to the kids who were absent or missed class because they went to the gifted program. Yesterday, I sent 17 e-mails to parents of students who owed me work. I'm not a vindictive person, but it's now mid-May and if these kids are going to blow my class off, then I'm going to ruin their weekend (long weekend, I might add, because there's a faculty in-service on Monday). Four parents already got back to me because it was their work e-mail or they have iPhones/Blackberries. God bless 'em.

Now, those already have points taken off for lateness. Let's put those aside for a moment.

The assignment was. . .

1. Look up a news article or two about a current event I specified. (We discussed the websites/databases we agreed were good sources, and each selected one he/she wanted to use.)

2. Read the article and take notes/highlight it.

3. Write a one-paragraph (about 5 sentences) report. Cite any quotes or paraphrases in the body of the paragraph using parentheses. They know how to do citations because I taught them for their history papers.

4. Do a bibliography (a.k.a. "Works Cited") page. They just completed an assignment about it, and did really well explaining how to do it.

Or so I thought.

I skimmed the papers I started receiving last week, and numbers 3 and 4 are done, for the most part, poorly. I can see by the writing that they either copied the author's words or changed just a couple of them. No citations, no bibliography--maybe a note on the article's title and author at the foot of the page if I'm lucky.

By rights, I should fail them for plagiarism. If they'd all done it wrong, then I'd know it was my fault. But we went over this a million times. They did great on their bibliography assignment. On top of that, one (one!) student did it exactly right, so I know somebody learned something.


I think what I'm going to do is grade them, as fairly as possible (failing them for plagiarism aside), and see how bad the grades turn out to be.

The question is, do I want to make them rewrite them in class and throw out the awesome Boolean lesson (a candy bar database plus this) I had planned--and on top of that delay grading because I don't even see my Monday class this week?

Or do I just do a review at the beginning of class, offer them the opportunity to do another one on their own for extra credit (being available to help at lunchtime as is what I do pretty much every day), and move on with the planned lesson?

The kicker: I have three classes left with my classes that meet on Tuesday, and only one with my class that meets on Monday. UGH.

I know many of them don't think "special" classes that meet once a week count for anything. I know we had a lot of time taken away from the class because of show rehearsals in February and March, and then Easter vacation (extended for some so they missed even more).

Is it wrong to hope that at the end of the year, they are able to say that they really learned something that they are going to use for pretty much the rest of their lives?


Rob said…
I don't understand that. I waited until the last minute to do my assignments more than I can remember but I always did them. Teachers then would never have considered extending a deadline. They're not just wasting your time, they're wasting their own. Take comfort that the ones doing it right will learn something and the others will regret this some day. Even if you don't hand out punishment, life will.
Kate P said…
Rob--being new to teaching and all, I just keep thinking I have FAILED in some way. I don't know if I'm expecting too much of them or what. I mean, it is an accelerated learning environment, but it's 6th grade.
"Even if you don't hand out punishment, life will." True enough. I'm just afraid of the Angry Parent phone calls about their grades.
I'm a Catholic librarian [almost], too.

I agree with Rob. When we were in school, teachers would NEVER extend a deadline because kids weren't applying themselves. Personally, I'd say fail the plagiarists, but I'm a meanie....it would get them ready for college, though.
Kate P said…
Right. . . but education is a different place nowadays, for better AND for worse. Not to mention once again: Angry Parent phone calls. 6th grade kids need G's (Good, probably the equivalent of C+/B-) and above to get into Jr. Honor Society.

I probably could run their stuff through TurnItIn.com and scare the living daylights out of them.
Pammy pam said…
here's an idea: run it thru turnitin and show them what's up with that. THEN grade them nicely. a gift. give them opportunity to do extra credit. that way, you cover all your bases. Don't fail them. all of you will feel crappy.
Dave E. said…
Yay! Blogger is letting me comment.

My two cents is that you will send the wrong message if you don't address the plagiarism somehow. Give them a chance to learn from it, but say you can't accept it. What parent has a leg to stand on by supporting plagiarism?

Overall? I would give them all a chance to redo it but only if they brought me a bottle of beer to compensate me for the extra grading time. This is why they don't let me teach.
Fresh Garden said…
Vigorously nodding my head in agreement!

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