Entries Tagged 'College Prep' ↓
March 11th, 2013 — College Prep, Essays & Research Papers, High school
Are your high schoolers ready for college-level writing?
One test is how well they incorporate quotations into essays and term papers. I’m not talking about tossing one or two overused, ancient proverbs or a boring dictionary definition in the intro paragraph. I’m talking about the big “R” – research!
What’s So Important?
As elementary children, we learn to write summaries. We absorb information and spill it back on paper in our own words. In high school, we meet new expectations. Now we must study source texts and create our own unique opinion (a thesis statement). Every point in a thesis statement must be defended by evidence.
Consider a headline news article. A journalist may make strong assertions, such as:
The police department will take drastic measures to prevent future incidents.
We are much more likely to believe this statement if it is followed by a quote from someone with authority:
Police chief Jason Roberts says, “I will not allow anyone in my department to wear their uniform off duty until further notice.”
Now the writer has offered evidence.
High school and college essays require evidence. If your daughter is writing about Jane Austen’s heroine Elizabeth Bennet, she must include words from the author’s (or the character’s) own mouth. If your son is writing about Northern attitudes toward slavery during the Civil War, he should avoid generalizations by including quotes from different people of that era.
Comma or Colon?
The following sentences are punctuated correctly. Can your student guess why?
- Elizabeth calmly replies, “Indeed, sir, I have not the least intention of dancing.”
- “Indeed, sir, I have not the least intention of dancing,” Elizabeth replies.
- Elizabeth Bennet holds her tongue about her awkward suitor: “Mr. Collins might never make the offer, and, till he did, it was useless to quarrel about him.”
- Elizabeth wisely understands that her cousin “might never make the offer, and, till he did, it was useless to quarrel about him.”
In the first two examples, the quotation is set off by a comma. Grammar rules tell us to always use a comma after a verb such as said, asked, or replied when it appears just before a quote.
In the third example, the sentence would convey a complete thought even without the quotation. Rule of thumb: never use a colon unless there are at least seven words before the quotation.
In the fourth example, the quote needs no commas or colons to set it off because of the little word that. When you use that, you can start the quotation mid-sentence, without ellipses or a capital letter.
A Note about Tense
The Block Quote
A block quotation is set apart with a special indent and no quotation marks. Use the block-quotation format to quote several consecutive sentences – or one especially long and complex sentence. Rule of thumb: use a block quote when the quotation is five lines or longer.
In the blogosphere, block quotes often appear in political or religious commentaries. In high school English essays, block quotes are effectively used to write about drama and poetry. Block quotes are like dessert; they should be used carefully. Too many can give the impression that a writer is lazy, trying to fill the page with words that are not his own.
Consider this block quotation from Robert Frost’s poem “Birches”:
It’s when I’m weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig’s having lashed across it open.
Block Quote or Quotation Marks?
If ellipses were used to shorten the above sentence, it would work nicely with quotation marks: “It’s when I’m weary of considerations, / And life is too much like a pathless wood / Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs / Broken across it….”
Give Credit Where Credit’s Due
Plagiarism is a growing concern in colleges and universities across the nation. Prepare your high school student by teaching him to be above-board as a writer. If he uses someone else’s idea, he must quote their words or mention their name to avoid plagiarizing. If he references someone else’s book, article, or webpage, he must include that source in a “Bibliography” or “Works Cited” page.
Every teacher and professor may have slightly different guidelines, but MLA citation format is a good place to start. A good reference can be found here: MLA Citation Examples.
With thoughtful research, well-chosen quotations and careful citations, your student’s writing will be ready for the college campus… and beyond.
Daniella Dautrich is a WriteShop alumna and a graduate of Hillsdale College. She and her husband fill their home with books on writing, literature, and computer science. Daniella blogs at www.waterlilywriter.wordpress.com.
February 11th, 2013 — College Prep, High school
ACCORDING TO a recent report from the national ACT board, far too many students are graduating high school without the skills needed for college and career.
The statistics are sobering, but take heart! There are steps you can take to help prepare your teens for college.
College Prep Tips and Resources
Start by checking out the following links:
“Don’t succumb to the temptation to throw in the towel, just when the rewards promise to be so great! Homeschooling through high school is worth the effort! It’s one of the best times you’ll have with your children, before they launch and start their own lives at college or beyond. Stay the course, and finish strong.”
~Lee Binz, The HomeScholar
Infographic: Unprepared for College
Here are some additional statistics to remind you (and your teen) of why purposeful college preparation is so important.
Based on a work at College@Home. Used with permission.
October 1st, 2012 — College Prep, Essays & Research Papers
AT ANY AGE, prewriting activities help your kids warm up, think about their topic, and consider the purpose and audience. Simply, prewriting gets them ready to write!
When working with teens, prewriting activities guide them toward shaping and developing their essays and reports. Prewriting can include any or all of these:
- Focusing and narrowing topics
- Determining the direction the paper will take
- Researching and gathering information
- Brainstorming, planning, and choosing details
- Organizing and outlining
From time to time, teens will need to read differently for different assignments. Let’s look at three ways reading helps them prepare for writing.
Read for a Specific Writing Assignment
When a student is asked to summarize an article, respond to a piece of literature, or write a reflection essay on a book, she first must read the selection (not merely skim it, as she might for other assignments). Sometimes she’ll have a choice (“read a novel by Mark Twain”), and sometimes not (“read Huckleberry Finn”).
If she completes the task correctly, her written response will show that she both read and understood the material.
Read to Gather Background Information
Before choosing a topic for an essay or research paper, it’s important to start with general background information. Skimming through encyclopedia articles on two or three topics should provide a good overview. As your student fine-tunes her choices, she can follow up by reading a few articles or books on the subject.
General background reading will:
- Give the student a feel for different topics.
- Direct her toward one or two that especially interest her.
- Help her narrow a broad topic to a more specific one.
- Show how certain topics relate to other topics or issues.
Read for Research Purposes
Once your student has gathered background information and settled on a topic, it’s time for more in-depth reading and research. At this stage, she should start gathering facts, examples, and scholarly opinions to include in her paper. She’ll want to make use of various sources, including periodicals and other library resources, subject-specific articles, newspaper articles, and books on her topic.
Let’s look at three kinds of sources your teen might read in preparation for research:
While encyclopedias are great for general overviews, they’re usually not detailed enough for research purposes. However, libraries usually have a variety of subject-specific encyclopedias that are more focused, have longer entries, and go into greater detail. Examples include:
- Encyclopedia of Food Science & Technology
- Encyclopedia of the Holocaust
- Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History
- Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy
A website’s URL can provide a good clue as to its reliability as a source.
- URLs ending in .edu are usually educational institutions and may be good sources for research.
- URLs ending in .gov are most likely reliable government websites. Usually, these will provide fairly trustworthy and objective statistics and reports.
- URLs ending in .org are often a non-profit organizations. Beware of any political agendas before citing such sources; an .org website may be a trustworthy research source—or it could be heavily biased.
When searching for online articles, discourage your teen from using Wikipedia as a legitimate source of information. Instead of using Wikipedia as a source, she can let it direct her to journal or newspaper articles, official web sites, and other more credible sources.
To get her started, here are some helpful links to online research sites that can supplement and improve your teen’s research efforts.
In these modern times, students are quick to rely on the Internet to provide source materials for their research. However, it’s always helpful—and often required—to find scholarly books on the topic as well.
Once your own home library has been scoured, head for the library in search of biographies, historical texts, or other works. Without reading or skimming an entire book, a quick look at the table of contents and index will help your teen determine its potential usefulness.
If the idea of research is daunting (as it is to most students!), encourage your teen that she doesn’t have to read every bit of every book. A chapter—or even just a paragraph or two—may be all she needs to read from a particular book to gather a timely quote or an important fact.
Set your teen to reading! Each of these activities—specific assignments, general overviews, and detailed research—is an important prewriting activity that will help pave the way for a solid essay or research paper.
August 27th, 2012 — College Prep, Essays & Research Papers
THOUGH IT’S been 14 years, it seems like only yesterday that my first college-bound child began filling out applications, submitting transcripts, making lists of extra-curricular activities, and yes—writing essays.
Each university had its own specific essay guidelines, so each essay she wrote had to be unique as well (not to mention engaging enough to set it apart from the rest of the applicants’ submissions).
Is your child preparing for university? The admissions essay doesn’t have to be a deterrent. Here are four things you can do to help teens prepare for this task:
1. Teach Essay Writing
I’m sure this seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many parents have not begun teaching essay writing to their soon-to-graduate teens.
Whether writing is your weakest area or your strongest, it can easily take a back seat to other subjects in your homeschool. To keep writing at the forefront, make sure to schedule it into your weekly lesson plans. You may need to invest in a curriculum that lays a foundation and equips teens with tools to sharpen and enliven their writing.
In addition, regularly assign essays related to other subjects of study such as literature and history. Frequent practice with essay writing of all types will make the application-essay process that much less stressful.
2. Encourage Excellence
Lee Binz has made it her mission to help parents homeschool high school. In her article “What’s the Big Deal about a Little Essay?” she says, “Colleges want to know two things about your student – who they are and how well they communicate.”
The folks in admissions read hundreds, if not thousands, of essays every year. Many of these essays are poorly written, lacking in content, style, and creativity. It doesn’t have to be this way! When your students’ essays are lively, personal, and carefully edited, they will stand out from among their dull counterparts.
3. Promote Concise, Honest Writing
Admissions personnel are not impressed by pompous writing. Teach your teen—in all essay writing—to speak plainly, articulately, and honestly. While well-chosen, mature vocabulary words can certainly be tucked into the essay here and there, the text should be clearly written and easy to read.
4. Plan Ahead
Beginning in 9th or 10th grade, essay writing should be part of every high schooler’s language arts diet. Whatever you do, please don’t wait till they’re seniors to introduce this skill!
According to Lee, teens should start the actual college-application process on the day their senior year begins (though essay writing itself shoud be introduced well beforehand). She often suggests that students practice writing essays beginning on the first day of their junior year.
“Practice college application essays before senior year,” she says. “If you go to a college fair, grab some application packets and look at their essay topics. Use those for writing assignments.”
Admissions counselors really do read these essays. They want to see how students handle various topics and how well they express themselves in writing. Preparing your teens to write solid essays during their earlier high school years will make them more comfortable with the process and more confident in their ability to communicate—no matter what the topic.
. . . . .
WriteShop II teaches advanced descriptive narration, persuasion, and beginning essay writing (including timed essays). To learn more about WriteShop II for your high schooler, visit our website at www.writeshop.com.
April 7th, 2011 — Brainstorming, College Prep, Essays & Research Papers, High school
I recently overheard someone claim that teaching students to brainstorm is a futile exercise. “In the real world, no one actually brainstorms,” she said. “We just write.”
This statement surprised me, for it reminded me of taking a trip with little more than a vague notion of a plan (“I want to see the USA”). You can set off on your trek, but without a map, timetable, or sightseeing strategy, you’ll end up rabbit-trailing your way to your journey’s end.
While this may be fine for a bohemian, it can frustrate the traveler who really wants to visit a particular landmark but can’t find the turnoff; annoy her for missing some must-see points of interest because she lingered too long in a mediocre little town; and aggravate her when she finds herself going in circles. Worse, she could end up seeing nothing at all because she has absolutely no idea which way to go.
It’s fun to be spontaneous, but to get the most from a road trip, there’s nothing like an itinerary.
The Value of Brainstorming
Like a free-spirited traveler, a writer may have a general idea of where he wants to go. He may even know a point or two he wants to make along the way. But without a sense of direction, he too will miss important details, spend unnecessary time on a trivial side note, or spin his wheels in one rut or another.
One of the most valuable pre-writing tools for launching the writing process and avoiding other pitfalls is brainstorming.
Students often struggle with knowing how to move from a general topic to a written essay because that paralyzing blank page stands in the way. Brainstorming is a problem-solving process that helps you:
- Think freely and openly about your topic.
- Put pen to paper as you write whatever ideas come to mind.
- Explore possibilities and connections between ideas.
- Let new ideas form and shape old ones.
- Start to bring order and organization to your scattered thoughts.
Most importantly, brainstorming has no wrong answers. It allows you to think through your topic without fear of criticism or perfection.
3 Steps of the Brainstorming Process
- Free-listing: Free-listing helps you develop an initial page of ideas about the topic by writing absolutely anything—key words, phrases, examples, main points, subpoints, details, illustrations—that come to mind to jog your thoughts about your subject. Free-listing uses the heuristic inquiry, more commonly known as the 5 Ws (and an H)—who, what, when, where, why, how. Once this primary list is “complete,” note which of your ideas would qualify as main points or categories and which would be better suited as supporting details or examples.
- Mind-mapping: Next, filter your free-listing ideas through a semantic mind-map. A semantic mind-map is used to represent ideas, words, or thoughts that are connected to and organized around a central key word or concept. Mind-maps are designed to help create, visualize, classify, and structure ideas.
- Re-listing: Finally, organize your ideas according to the groups or clusters created by the semantic mind-map. Identify the central idea (main point) of the various clusters and list supporting details beneath and prioritize these clusters/main points into a logical order. Re-listing results in a rudimentary outline of your initial thoughts and ideas.
The brainstorming process reminds me of a coin-sorting machine. You start off with a jumbled, disorganized pile of coins (ideas). Nickels, dimes, quarters, pennies—there’s no rhyme or reason to their scattered placement on the kitchen table. This is your initial attempt at free-listing.
To start putting the coins in their appropriate place, you gather them up and put them into a coin-sorting machine (semantic mind-map). The machine divides the coins (ideas) by kind, just like the bubbles of a mind-map divide your ideas by category.
Finally, watch as your coins come out of the sorting machine in rows of quarters, dimes, and nickels neatly arranged (re-list). In this way, putting your ideas through a mind-map will help you rearrange them into newly organized lists that set the priorities for your paper.
Taking the Trip
You think about the gazillion places you want to visit; explore websites and sort through piles of travel brochures; plot out a route; and plan the details. Along the way you may take a detour or explore a new place, but you’ll never stray far from your original plan. Because you took time to brainstorm, your readers will enjoy the journey with you—and will thank you for being such an excellent guide!
Copyright 2011 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
February 3rd, 2011 — College Prep, High school
Alisa Gilbert joins me today as a guest blogger here at In Our Write Minds. Alisa blogs for bachelorsdegree.org. Today she’s sharing some great tips for parents of college-bound high schoolers.
Everyone under the sun will tell you how important it is for children to develop solid writing skills. It’s a key job skill, after all.
More and more universities are incorporating writing across the curriculum, meaning your college-bound child—no matter her major—will invariably encounter courses in which she is asked to write research papers and essays throughout the semester.
The Price of Unpreparedness
Even though we tout the importance of writing in high school, I believe many parents and educators simply pay it lip service. Writing standards in high school are so far below college standards that many freshmen are shocked to discover how little they’ve learned and practiced to prepare them.
Personally, I was home-schooled throughout elementary school, after which I attended public high school. My high school writing assignments, even ones in advanced English courses, were graded on a completion basis. Aside from correcting a few of the more egregious spelling and grammar errors, teachers paid scant attention to anything beyond very basic writing no-no’s.
When I started college, confident enough in my writing ability to consider majoring in English, I was absolutely stunned when I received Bs and Cs on my papers, all dripping in red ink. Although I eventually endured the rigorous process of unlearning all the bad writing habits that went unnoticed in high school, I’m convinced I could have learned how to write well years before.
What Can You Do?
I was lucky enough to have taken courses with a few professors who really cared, who took the time to teach me what good writing meant. For students who are still in high school, I suggest developing college-level writing skills as soon as possible.
One thing to keep in mind is that writing isn’t like math, where you either understand it or you don’t. It’s an ever-evolving process; it never reaches a stage of “perfection.” Also, learning to revise rigorously, reading over every sentence to ensure stylistic clarity and logical soundness, is just as important as checking for grammar and spelling errors.
Unfortunately, schools generally don’t stress developing strong writing on an institutional level simply because it’s expensive. It takes time to teach one of the most difficult skills anyone can learn. And many teachers are simply not up to the task of working with every single one of their students to improve their writing. It’s logistically impossible. This is where homeschooling comes in.
For starters, if you want your kids to learn to write well, they should read as much as they can. Encourage them to read books that interest them, as well as books that force them to expand their vocabulary and ways of thinking. Have them practice writing beyond school assignments, and read books on writing, too.
Most importantly, before parents or students dismiss the importance of writing skills, thinking that writing well is only within the purview of English majors, consider this: One of the key skills employers cite as deficient among recent graduates is written communication.
. . . . .
This guest post is contributed by Alisa Gilbert, who writes on the topics of bachelor’s degrees. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: email@example.com.
January 6th, 2011 — Brainstorming, College Prep, Editing & Revising, High school, Reluctant Writers
Quick! Take this survey:
- Do your students complain about having to edit and revise their compositions and essays?
- Do they hate having to spend several days on the same writing topic (brainstorming, writing a draft, self-editing, and revising)?
- Do they become apathetic and lose steam by the time they get to the final draft?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, I have good news: Your kids are completely normal! But short of dragging them across broken glass or hot coals, how can you teach them to embrace the steps of the process as a natural, expected part of writing?
Writing Is Hard Work
If you’ve not used a formal writing program before, it’s possible that the writing process is new to your children. Regardless, they’re not alone. I wish there were a magic wand I could wave over them to help them like it better, but in truth, writing is hard work, and it takes time and discipline.
Unless they’re making lists, journaling, or emailing a friend, most writing does require planning, drafting, editing, and revising. This would be true whether you use WriteShop, some other writing program, or simply create your own writing assignments.
Typically, students want to write a paper once and be done with it. They don’t want to brainstorm, and they certainly don’t want to rewrite it. But whether or not these steps of the writing process are built into the curriculum (as they are with WriteShop), it’s really important for children to come to terms with the reality that this is how writers—from students to professional authors—write.
A Look at the Writing Process
There are three main parts of the writing process: brainstorming, writing, and editing and revising.
The student who just sits down to write without having first brainstormed will either stare at the page with a blank look, unable to think of anything, or she’ll write in a fairly disorganized fashion, repeat herself, include unnecessary detail, or omit key ideas. Even in timed-writing sessions, students are encouraged to dash out a quick outline to help them focus on what the question is asking and to keep them from drifting off-topic as they write. Simply, brainstorming focuses a writer. It helps her choose details, plan and organize her story or report, stay on track, and avoid tangents.
Writing is done in stages. The first draft serves to get those rough, new ideas onto the paper. By its very design, the first draft is meant to be revised later.
Editing and revising
Whether or not your child agrees, every paper benefits from revision, and editing gives her a chance to make some modifications. Even this blog article was edited and revised many times before I posted it. I don’t just try to catch typos; I also want to make sure my answers are complete and clear, my thoughts are organized, and my tone is professional yet conversational. This self-editing process tends to be subjective for most of us because we feel an emotional attachment to each and every word. That’s exactly why your child needs to turn her work in to you for objective feedback: She needs an outside opinion in order to write a more polished final draft
Helping Your Student “Get It”
OK. You and I agree that the writing process is important. Yet the $20,000 question remains: How do we get our kids on board? Again, there are no magic answers, but I can offer a few ideas:
Show your teen she’s not alone.
Your student may feel as though she’s the only one who has to plan, write, and revise her compositions. Discovering that the writing process is universal may help her back down a bit. For fun, you might ask her to do a Google search for the term “writing process.” I bet she’ll be surprised to find over 21 million results!
Give freedom to a creative child.
It’s natural to expect a negative response from a reluctant, resistant writer. But if a student who normally loves writing fits this profile too, maybe she feels her creativity is being stifled when she is asked to brainstorm or make changes to her text.
First and foremost, give such a student the freedom to write for the sheer joy of writing—plays, stories, poems, whatever she loves! Separate these experiences from her writing lesson by not requiring her to plan or revise these stories. For her, use the writing process to teach skills in the same way that math drills, piano lessons, or other repetitive activities teach, reinforce, and offer practice. Let her write to her heart’s delight in her free time, but also require her to learn discipline through the structure of the writing process.
As a parent, I’m sure all this makes sense to you. The hard part is communicating it to your student. I find that analogies can help explain things so that she can get it too. Here are some past blog articles that deal with the writing process. Several offer different analogies that compare the writing process with things like gardening, cooking, scrapbooking, and spelunking (caving). See if one or two of these analogies spark understanding in your reluctant student.
Point to the future.
Students who choose to go to college quickly discover that the writing process is taught there as well. And as much as they may grumble and complain, it’s to their benefit to plan, draft, and improve each piece of writing.
Among curriculum sites, public schools, universities, and professional writers’ blogs and websites, the writing process is regarded as key to success. To help your teen see how vital these repetitive skills are, even at the college and professional level, here are a couple of outside sources that further explain the purpose and various stages of the writing process.
In the end, there’s no shortcut to bypass the writing process. Planning and revising are as important to a composition or essay’s success as the actual writing. The best way to avoid arguments, head-butting, and apathy is to train your children while they’re young, perhaps using a program like WriteShop Primary (or the upcoming WriteShop Junior). If they grow up with the writing process, they’ll be more likely to accept and value it, even if they never learn to love it.
Copyright 2011 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
October 28th, 2010 — College Prep, High school
I’ve been giving you an overview of the basic writing stages and writing needs of children at various grade levels. Today I’m wrapping up the series with a look at high school.
Writing is the most important academic skill students need to develop in their secondary education.
Why? Because it’s “the most visible expression not only of what [they] know but also of how well they have learned it” (Carl Nagin, Because Writing Matters).
Use these important high school years to teach, train, guide, and direct. Provide opportunities for your child to work more independently, letting the rope out bit by bit so she has a chance to prove herself. Your goal is to produce a strong, independent writer who is equipped and confident to enter college or the workplace.
Where Should You Focus?
Secondary students need to:
- Write clearly, concisely, and correctly for both academic and personal purposes.
- Develop research skills.
- Vary their sentence structure beyond the subject-verb sentence.
- Use correct conventions (spelling, grammar and usage). Incorrect or sloppy grammar distracts the audience from the content, so continue working on grammar and punctuation throughout these secondary years until you know their skills are solid.
There are no shortcuts to improving student writing achievement in your home. Teens need:
- Skill development that builds incrementally.
- Short, relevant, high-interest assignments.
- Tools to help them refine word choice and sentence fluency.
- An involved parent!
How Much and How Often?
- Have your high schooler write regularly—4-5 days a week—for a variety of subjects.
- 2-3 short writing projects per month makes a good goal. Your child should take these compositions completely through the stages of the writing process, from brainstorming to final copy.
- In addition, assign 1-2 longer research papers, each of which can be spread out over an entire quarter. These can range from 4-15 pages, depending on age and skill level. Requirements for a 9th grader should not be as stringent as those for a senior.
- Tuck in shorter essays, journal writing, book summaries, or responses to current events along the way—assignments that only take a day or so and that don’t require much in terms of editing or revising.
- To prepare your student for college entrance exams and other timed writing situations, make sure to assign timed essays at least every other week.
- Keeping in mind her maturity and attention span, spend about 1 hour per day on writing.
Promote Independence but Remain Involved
When our children become teens, it’s easy to think: “They’re getting older. I’ll back off and let them take responsibility.” There will come a time to step back. But that time comes when your child has proven herself trustworthy and reliable.
Even with such a dependable child, you’ll still need to monitor her work. As part of your involvement:
- Break assignments into manageable chunks.
- Train your student to stick to deadlines.
- Give detailed, consistent feedback.
You need to help your teen develop self-discipline and independence, but you also need to hold her accountable. In doing so, you’re preparing her for the demands of college-level writing.
Helping your K-2nd grader with writing
Helping your 3rd-5th grader with writing
Helping your 5th-8th grader with writing
Copyright 2010 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
WriteShop I and II are great programs for teaching and reinforcing the steps of the writing process to your junior high and high schoolers.
September 10th, 2010 — College Prep, Essays & Research Papers, High school
You sit down to grade a stack of essays. As you read through one particular paper, it occurs to you that the information seems familiar—so familiar, in fact, that you recognize it as the text from an Internet article you yourself printed out in preparation for another writing class. When you look up the article and compare it with this student’s paper, you’re shocked to discover they are identical.
The term plagiarism might be relatively new to your students, but cheating is not. When it comes to writing, especially in a formal setting, these two words mean the same thing. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines plagiarizing as:
- Stealing and passing off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own.
- Using (another’s production) without crediting the source.
- Committing literary theft.
- Presenting as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.
Establishing a Policy
Whether you homeschool one student, tutor several, or teach creative writing or English classes, it’s wise to establish and distribute a policy on plagiarism. Here’s an example:
Plagiarism is the illegitimate use of another person’s words and/or ideas without giving appropriate credit to the original source. Such attempts to copy someone else’s work and call it your own is a very serious offense that will not be tolerated and will have significant consequences. All work done for this class must be your own original composition. When writing, you are required to properly cite any source you use—published or unpublished, from a book or from the Internet. Failure to do so will result in a zero grade for the assignment.
Reinforcing the Rules
Stand firm regarding plagiarism. In any other class setting—whether in a public or private high school, college, or even the workplace—plagiarizing an essay to the extent that our hypothetical student has done will result in an instant F on the assignment, disenrollment from the class, and/or institutional disciplinary measures.
Because most educational institutions have a zero-tolerance policy for plagiarism, submitting a plagiarized essay like this could, at best, result in a lower grade, or at worst, cost the student a scholarship or expulsion over something he may have thought was “no big deal.”
It’s so important to drill into your students that trying to save a few hours’ worth of work by cutting and pasting a two-page essay from the Internet is just not worth the consequences.
Copyright 2010 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
July 12th, 2010 — College Prep, Encouragement, High school
A Success Story
I love hearing from students who have found success in school and life. Recently, I received an announcement in the mail from one of my former WriteShop I students (also a homeschool grad), who graduated summa cum laude from Gordon College.
Along with the announcement, Kaeli included a copy of an essay she had written for a grad school application—an essay limited to just 300 words. The irony of this little requirement didn’t escape either of us, for brevity was never her forte, and was in fact the very fly in her WriteShop ointment.
Back in our WriteShop days, restricting this enthusiastic writer to a single five- to seven-sentence paragraph was practically the same as torture. More than once she pleaded for eight sentences. More than once she made a passionate case for those extra adjectives. Much to her dismay, I always stood my ground.
Not that it’s a crime to write a ten-sentence paragraph or use a string of four perfect adjectives. Rather, it was all about a skill we were trying to develop in our young writers: conciseness.
Teaching conciseness is a foreign concept for many of you—you’re just happy to see a complete sentence materialize on your child’s paper! But we discovered that the same limits on paragraph length allowed parents to teach one simple WriteShop lesson to both struggling and eager writers.
The result? The reluctant child sees a doable goal (“I only have to write five sentences”), and the enthusiastic student learns to hone her writing and avoid rabbit trails and unnecessary verbiage.
Kaeli fit the latter profile. Bursting with ideas, she wanted to say it all. But her year in WriteShop taught her instead how to say it best.
Where Are They Now?
It was good to hear from Kaeli. From time to time I think of my former students and wonder, “Where are they now?” Deb and I haven’t taught a class in several years, but it’s really rewarding to see how successful many of these homeschoolers have become:
- Pastors and missionaries
- Military men and women
- College graduates in a wide variety of majors including journalism, English, sociology, criminal justice, Middle Eastern studies, photography, communications, art, music, and theater
- MA and PhD candidates in English, economics, political science, philosophy, psychology, and theology
In most cases, it’s been eight or more years since I’ve edited their fledgling writing attempts. But I’ve also read some of their recent writing. And what I see now reflects what I saw in my own son as the post-WriteShop years passed: maturity, knowledge, wisdom, growth. They express themselves in different ways, but they have all moved well beyond those WriteShop days.
Laying a Foundation
Some of you are just beginning your journey. You can’t even begin to imagine that one day your child will write an articulate, coherent thought. Others of you have taught WriteShop to several children who are now young adults succeeding in college and the workplace.
We “veterans” have learned that WriteShop served as a launching place, a training ground for instilling the basics of writing, including concreteness, conciseness, clarity, and sentence variety—skills that many incoming college freshmen lack.
Take heart. You’re teaching your children that writing is more than random thoughts tossed onto paper. You’re helping them learn to use important tools that lay a foundation for future writing—writing that will take shape and mature as their knowledge, life experiences, vocabulary, and thinking skills develop.
My girls were intuitive writers, easy to guide and easy to teach. But I didn’t have much faith that my reluctant 12-year-old son (the WriteShop guinea pig) would be able to write. Our journey was hard, and we experienced more than our share of frustration. But diligence paid off. He’s now a 25-year-old PhD candidate whose writing has actually become his work.
Your child may not become a scholar . . . and that’s okay. But good writing skills will take him far in the workplace and in life. So stay the course, and be encouraged that a great deal can—and will—happen between now and adulthood.