Reflection: Perseverance Paraphrasing vs. Plagiarism & Drafting Counterclaims - Section 2: Building Knowledge


One of the major shifts of Common Core is an increased focus on evidence-based thought.  In speaking situations, my students are wonderful at this.  My chorus of "why?" during literary discussions has been dramatically reduced throughout the year, because students are naturally backing up their oral contributions with evidence.  Even in informal written responses, students are increasingly likely to include the "because" part of their response without prompting.  One area that I haven't seen this change is in the research paper.  I already adjusted my research process by placing a greater focus on peer review and outlining early in the process (which was then driving notecard collection), but while they have all this information, I'm not seeing students naturally running with incorporating evidence into their arguments.  What I am seeing is a lot of opinions, devoid of the explicit rationale and reasoning behind those opinions.  Despite my harping on students about making their reasoning transparent and visible, many students rely on including evidence that is either informational about their topic OR evidence that completely agrees with their argument.  I'm encouraging my students to incorporate evidence for other uses too, including as building blocks from which they build their inferences and as examples of opponents' statements with whom they wish to disagree.  

The prompting to include more evidence, however, is creating the larger issue that is addressed in this section of the lesson, which is that students are not proficient in paraphrasing, whether through lack of knowledge or laziness.  I'm inclined to think a little bit of both, but after numerous discussions with peers and students alike, I think it also stems from the idea that "academic integrity" looks different in different classrooms (at least in my building).  In some content areas, students are not being asked to cite information that they retrieved from outside sources.  In others, they must cite it, but the "remixing" of source information which I so despise as an English teacher is perfectly acceptable.  I know from my own experience that different content areas have different expectations, and I recall being horrified at how many of my adult, educator peers during my masters classes would have been guilty of plagiarism if they were in my class, yet received no pushback at all from our professors.  Ultimately, this lack of clarity and cohesiveness is confusing our students and giving them the opportunity to demonstrate this sort of "learned helplessness" that someone will come through and sort it out for them.  I'm of the mind that all teachers should be vigilant defenders of unique thought and attribution, and I have been engaged in push to get all of our school and district on board with a cohesive set of high academic integrity standards that students need to follow in ALL classrooms.  To date, I haven't been as successful as I want to be, but that hasn't stopped me from advocating for this cause!  I would implore you to also get involved in helping to better prepare your students for their college and careers by starting discussions about this topic and instituting policies in your own schools. 

Ultimately, this lesson helped me to see that students really do need explicit education about how to paraphrase, even in high school, until the Common Core really gets into motion from Kindergarten through twelfth grade.  It's clear that my students thought that what they were doing with their remixed paraphrases was completely acceptable, and many of my best students were floored that no one had told them sooner.  

It also really helped to highlight how students can utilize various structures and phrases to help them show relationships between their evidence and their claims or reasoning, which is consistent with writing standards of the Common Core.  I was thrilled that our collaborative discussion demonstrated multiple ways to incorporate this evidence, and students were very actively involved trying to get the wording just right for the best consistency with their argument.  I hope to see this same amount of attention to detail in their own essays, despite the extra investment of energy to do so at the beginning.  I'm also hopeful that in the coming years of Common Core implementation, students will be more proficient in paraphrasing and argumentative writing when they get to my grade.  As the literacy standards are more widely practiced for other content areas as well, I am confident that students will have a more cohesive experience with writing in an evidence-based manner!

  Clarifying Relationships & Linking Evidence using Proper Paraphrasing Techniques
  Perseverance: Clarifying Relationships & Linking Evidence using Proper Paraphrasing Techniques
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Paraphrasing vs. Plagiarism & Drafting Counterclaims

Unit 7: Drafting & Revising the Argumentative Research Paper
Lesson 3 of 7

Objective: SWBAT accurately paraphrase source material and effectively connect and integrate selected evidence to their arguments using varied, appropriate syntax.

Big Idea: Tired of seeing remixed paraphrases? Check out this collaborative practice that's sure to get kids saying, "WOW. THAT'S how you do it?!"

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