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The Research Paper II

So.  13…no 14 days later and we are still working on the research paper.  Actually, today is their last day.  They have done the research.  They have written the outlines.  They have learned MLA citations.  They have learned how to place headers in their papers. They have learned how to spell "Works Cited…"

Okay, well, maybe not that last part.

But one of my classes is currently happily typing away on gosh knows what…I say this because they seem to be pretty confident, but I’m
hoping that I don’t get the papers on Tuesday only to go WHAT DID YOU THINK THIS WAS and watch them tear up because they really thought they were doing the paper properly.  Or worse…watch them shrug because they knew they weren’t doing it properly and they didn’t care.  At least with the one’s who care, I can help them learn from their errors.  Maybe.

Back to typical child, today:
TC: Mrs. Whitley, I need help getting started.
Me: Yesterday you wrote your introduction and your conclusion.  Start by typing that, and I’ll come to you to help you with the body. Remember your outline?  Start with the outline you created.
TC: Yeah, I didn’t really finish the introduction yesterday.  I finished the conclusion though.
Me: Okay, start typing that.

I go away to help the other kids that are yelling for me.  Yelling things like "Mrs. Whitley, how do I capitalize this?"  "Mrs. Whitley,
how do I put this in italics?"  "Do I underline or italicize this?" "Where does the period go after the parentheses?"  I come back when
TC raises her hand.

TC: Okay, where should I start typing the conclusion.
Me: What do you mean, where?  On the page….  You can add the rest later on top of that.
TC: Great.
Me: Do you have the rest of your stuff?
TC: My notes?  From yesterday?  It’s in my binder.  At home.
Me: It’s not doing you any good at home.
TC: Yeah, I know.
Me: Well, can you remember your thesis statement?
TC: What’s that.
Me: Your argument
TC: Swine Flu.  I’m writing about Swine Flu.
Me: That’s not an argument, that’s a topic.  What about your "guiding question".
TC:  Oh yeah, "What is Swine Flu?"
Me: That’s not arguable…what did you come up with yesterday.
TC: Well, I wrote it down…but I don’t remember it.  It was good though.
Me: . . .  . . .
TC: Oh, yeah…should we be concerned about Swine Flu taking over like other viruses have in the past.  And what should we do about it.  And
if we should help other countries out if they have Swine Flu problems.
Me: Awesome.  And now, answer those questions.
TC: Yes.
Me: Yes?
TC: That’s the answer to those questions.  Yes.
Me: Answer them in a complete sentence.
TC: Yes, we should be worried about it spreading because it has happened in the past and we should help other people.
Me: Why? Why should I care about other people?
TC: Why what?  Why should we help others? Mrs. Whitley! You don’t care about dying kids?
Me: No, not really… Here, pretend I’m a cranky old man, yelling at people to get off my lawn.  *In cranky old man voice* Why do I care if they get sick and die?  Serves ’em right for living in Mexico!  Blargh!  Less population to breath up my oxygen and get me sick!  Yargh!  *back to teacher voice* that’s what your paper has to tell me, why I should care.
TC: Well, if they get sick, you’ll get sick.
Me: Good, there’s your thesis.  Just don’t use the word "You"

Ten minutes later.  Raised hand.

TC: How do I write the thesis without using the word "you"?
Me: Actually, you know what, just type it however you want, and we’ll revise it after you get done with it.

And so, the self-inflicted hair pulling continues.  I’m just waiting for another printer to break.  Another computer to flip out.  And just ONE student to tell me that they don’t have their paper, printed and ready to go, on Tuesday, May 26th at the beginning of their class period. Because I’m so done.  I love them…and I know that they’re trying…but I’m tired.

I need a better method…something that will have them helping each other instead of having me running to all of them.
Better method…anyone?  You!  You have your hand up over there.  Yes?  …Oh…you were just stretching…oh, okay…

The Research Paper

Teaching a research paper has to be the hardest thing I’ve ever taught, especially in the era of the kids having all the information coming to them, pre-packaged.  They all need my help, and they all need it at once.  Despite the pep-talks before hitting the library, despite any attempts to impress upon them the need to HAVE THEIR TOPIC READY, and despite the attempt to encourage them to DO MORE RESEARCH, they leave the library befuddled and confused and completely research-less.

The laugh and whine and kvetch because they don’t know what’s going on,

"I need a topic!" they cry.

For example:
Student: I can’t find anything in the library about Swine Flu!
Me: Of course you can’t find anything about Swine Flu in the library, it’s new, what might you find that’s related to swine flu that could help your research?
Student: I don’t know! I just want to know about Swine Flu!
Me: Well, what are you researching?
Student: Everything about Swine Flu.
Me (trying not to grit my teeth): What specifically?  Are you trying to find out what might happen if it spreads?
Student: Yeah.
Me: Well, why don’t you find out what has happened in the past that might be able to tell you what will happen now?
Student: Like, research other flu outbreaks?
Me: Yes, find a book about influenza.
Student: Okay, where are those?
Me: Look it up
Student: Where?
Me: The catalog!
Student: Where’s that?
Me: On the computer

10 minutes later
Student: How do I look it up?
Me: Go to this website.
Student: Check.
Me: Type in the subject you are looking for.
Student: Nothing turns up, what now?
Me: Try again with a different term.  Instead of swine flu, try "influenza".
Student: Yay books!  How do I find them?

And yes, it goes on…and on…through teaching this student about call numbers, and then how to use the table of contents to find the specific section, and then how to take notes as she is reading… And while I’m doing this time consuming tutoring, the other students are just as needy.  Argh…