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Middle school-is this common?

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Kid is in middle school and got a project from social studies.  She came home and told me the topic.  I told her great as she likes to research topics and write about them.  She said well no the teacher gave them 3 specific "answers" to the topic that they can choose from.  I then told her well it will be good debate practice researching a set point of view.  She then said, well no the teacher gave them a single sided sheet of paper per answer that has information for that answer.  They are NOT allowed to go outside this paper to research or write about.  They have to reference at least 3 bits of information from the paper in their project.  The paper has 5 or 6 bits of information on it.
Is this normal?  This is halfway through the year, they kids are writing detailed research papers in all their other classes.  But this specific teacher is giving me a vibe that she doesn't want to see creativity, research or give herself too much of a headache to grade papers.  These types of assignments will ensure her a very uniform and same paper from all the students.  Or am I missing something here?  What's the point of these super narrow constraints?

I'm not sure we, or perhaps even you, are understanding the assignment.  I say that because of the way you had to drag the info even out of your kid.  Are you saying the teacher gave the kids 3 pages of info, each page on its own topic and they have to essentially rewrite one of the pages to say what they learned from reading the one page?  That sounds just bizarre.


I would say that this is not abnormal. What you are looking for from this project appears to be different from the teacher's criteria. In middle school, an important skill that is being learned is the ability to take information and summarize in your own words. In essence, this is note-taking. Not all projects are research-based, this one appears to be skill-based.

If you are questioning the activity though, please contact the teacher, or better yet, ask your DD to go to their teacher after class to clarify. If possible, your DD might be able to add on a research option ON TOP of what was assigned for higher marks, but again, that just might not be the point.

In addition to what I already said, this might be a scaffolding activity meant to build up to fuller research assignments. A lot of times, research assignments are assigned without scaffolding (sometimes teachers assume that a skill has already been worked on, and then are surprised when they receive what could be seen as plagiarism from students who don't have that knowledge about how to properly summarize and glean information).

What does the grading rubric say?  That's usually how I judge the content required for my daughter's (5th grade) papers.


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