Author Topic: Middle school-is this common?  (Read 1928 times)

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Zilla

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Middle school-is this common?
« on: February 10, 2013, 10:35:28 AM »
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?

WillyNilly

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Re: Middle school-is this common?
« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2013, 10:53:20 AM »
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.

Clareish

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Re: Middle school-is this common?
« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2013, 10:54:49 AM »
Hey,

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.

Clareish

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Re: Middle school-is this common?
« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2013, 10:56:55 AM »
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).

dietcokeofevil

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Re: Middle school-is this common?
« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2013, 11:14:41 AM »
What does the grading rubric say?  That's usually how I judge the content required for my daughter's (5th grade) papers.

Zilla

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Re: Middle school-is this common?
« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2013, 11:29:51 AM »
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.
Sorry, it wasn't so much dragging it out of kid, but she knew how absurd it was and was drawing out the drama of it. :)
And you are correct.  A topic question was given, 3 answers to choose from to answer that topic, and only a single sheet of paper of information was given on the chosen answer.  And without plagarizing, you have to write a paper from the answer's point of view without going outside the informational sheet.

Shoo

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Re: Middle school-is this common?
« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2013, 11:38:16 AM »
This sounds very much like a project my daughter had in 6th grade (first year of middle school here).  The object was to teach the kids how to draw information out of something they've read.  The info they want and need is there, they just need to learn how to glean it and summarize it, figuring out what's important to answering the question and what isn't.

Zilla

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Re: Middle school-is this common?
« Reply #7 on: February 10, 2013, 11:40:54 AM »
Hey,

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.
They have their notebook graded monthly on note taking so that isn't an issue.   There is no reason to approach the teacher, she appears to be a very controlled teacher with a very specific criteria in mind.  I won't presume to try and change her.  But I do this it's absurd that all her projects/assignments are like that while the rest of her teachers encourage creativity and trust their ability to research their own information.  This just once again makes me shake my head at the shame of it.  We will always have teachers/bosses that are dry and boring, it's a life lesson of course.  But it's still a shame.  And all her assignments are like this.  Other parents remarked on her narrow constraints.  There is another social studies teacher for the same grade that teaches the "other" half of dd's grade.  And to see the work posted outside that teacher's doorway indicates a very different style of learning.  All the papers are different and interesting.  Then you read dd's class and it's all uniform and the same.
 
The rubiric is simply referencing 3 points of information found from the sheet and how it answers the topic question using the information from the sheet.  No personal thoughts, or opinions and anything referenced outside the sheet will be docked.  (Some kids quoted some famous quotes from the Alexander the Great last week and was docked points off for going off the sheet)

Zilla

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Re: Middle school-is this common?
« Reply #8 on: February 10, 2013, 11:45:54 AM »
This sounds very much like a project my daughter had in 6th grade (first year of middle school here).  The object was to teach the kids how to draw information out of something they've read.  The info they want and need is there, they just need to learn how to glean it and summarize it, figuring out what's important to answering the question and what isn't.
See I can understand this.  But this one is one topic question, 3 answers to that topic question and only using the information sheet on that specific answer.
 
To not give it away too much here is an example of a previous assignment:
Why was Alexander the Great considered a leader?
A. Because he was inspiring and charismatic B. Because he was ruthless and determined. C. Because he was a great general.
Then you were given papers per answer on what was known about him pertaning to that answer.

m2kbug

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Re: Middle school-is this common?
« Reply #9 on: February 10, 2013, 11:58:09 AM »
The only thing I can think of is ease of grading for the teacher and proper fact checking since she knows the right answers.  I know in grade school when they did their animal projects, they could only choose from a few, and this was largely because the teacher knew the answers.  This was also in 4th grade or 3rd grade, so completely different age bracket.  It seems strange that these kids can't do their own research. 

I'm not entirely sure what middle school is.  We have junior high, which is 7th and 8th grade.  Is middle school 6th, 7th, and 8th?  Or is it 7th, 8th, and 9th?  For a 6th grader I can see more restrictions and monitoring because researching and summarizing a learning process and limiting the direction they go can help the teacher and help them learn these skills, but for a 9th grader, there should not be such a high level of restriction. 

Maybe on Monday you can call the teacher and ask.  I'd love to hear the reasoning behind this.   :)

cabbagegirl28

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Re: Middle school-is this common?
« Reply #10 on: February 10, 2013, 12:16:24 PM »
Middle school is 6th-8th grade.


"To study and practice the goodness of life, the beauty of art, the meaning of music...To speak the words that build, that bless and comfort...And again, to practice./This is to be our symphony."

bonyk

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Re: Middle school-is this common?
« Reply #11 on: February 10, 2013, 01:10:44 PM »
I think the purpose of the assignment is to draw reasons to support an opinion from a reading selection.  It's a valid skill.

Are you in the US?  The new Common Core Learning Standards are very heavy into referencing the text, and perhaps the students are struggling with this, so the teacher narrowed the focus to force them do get some experience doing so.

alkira6

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Re: Middle school-is this common?
« Reply #12 on: February 10, 2013, 02:54:24 PM »
Raises hand  ::)

I think I know what this is about. The TCAP writing test has changed significantly this year for 5th, 8th, and 11th grade. Due to Common Core Standards changing the focus has shifted very, very firmly to writing from informational texts.  You MUST teach to this new test. The TCAP's new rubric is heavily geared towards persuasion using the supplied information and only   the supplied information. Your writing score will go down if you do not pull information from the supplied text.

Sadly, prep for our writing test this year looked pretty much like you described, including marking down answers that had information not on the supplied test prompts from the state website.  My kids (students) are in 11th grade.

PeterM

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Re: Middle school-is this common?
« Reply #13 on: February 10, 2013, 03:05:12 PM »
I think the purpose of the assignment is to draw reasons to support an opinion from a reading selection.  It's a valid skill.

It's an extremely valid and useful skill, but this doesn't strike me as a useful way to teach it. The students are in middle school and they're only being allowed to read a single page of information about a pre-determined answer to a question? The OP says there are 5 or 6 pieces of information on each sheet, and the students have to use 3 of them. I don't see how that can teach them to read multiple books or articles or other sources of actual, real-world information and distill all the information they contain down to manageable points that they'll put in their own words and use in their work.


jpcher

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Re: Middle school-is this common?
« Reply #14 on: February 10, 2013, 04:14:49 PM »
Maybe it's a lesson on following instruction.

Sometimes learning to expand your horizons within a limited set of rules can be a valuable lesson.

At work, I'm often put into limitations. I say "This can be really awesome if we did this, that and the other thing" and am told "No. The customer (teacher) wants this." So I have to realign my thoughts in a successful way in order to make the customer happy.

For your DD, tightening the realm of research in order to put out a stellar paper might not be a bad thing for this particular class. In fact, it might be more difficult.

She has other classes where she has the opportunity to expand her knowledge through her own research.


I would go with coaching your daughter to follow the rules of said paper. Challenge her mind with limitations. See what she can do! ;D