Help my husband and me settle an argument!

Discussion in 'General Education' started by teachin4ever, Oct 31, 2008.

  1. teachin4ever

    teachin4ever Cohort

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    Okay.

    My kids were required to read a book from the science fiction genre (we've spend the past month focusing on science fiction) and write a book report on it.

    I have a student who wrote a fantastic book report - on Twilight, which is more fantasy than science fiction. I've told the students if they are unsure, ask! This student did not ask, so instead of giving her a 35/35, I've taken 10 points off since she didn't follow the directions.

    My husband says I'm being way to mean and that 10 points is too much. I think I'm being generous - she didn't read a book from the correct genre - I could give her a 0 for not doing the assignment correctly!

    What do you guys think?

    Thanks! :)
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2008
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  3. Jem

    Jem Aficionado

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    I agree. If the focus was a genre, that's pretty huge. You were probably asking them to pinpoint certain characteristics of the genre, etc. If it's the wrong genre, how can it be a science fiction report?? Looking at the fact that you teach in middle school, the student probably just wanted to read a popular book and didn't want you to say no.
     
  4. blessedhands

    blessedhands Comrade

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    Maybe the student thought fantasy was similar to science fiction so she didn't bother to ask you. She probably thought she was sure.

    I think 10pts is a lil harsh. I would have taken 2-5 points off for not following directions.
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2008
  5. CanadianTeacher

    CanadianTeacher Groupie

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    I agree with your husband. It's not enough to say: "If you're not sure, ask." Maybe she was sure but was wrong, in which case, in her mind there was no reason to ask. It probably would have been a better idea for you to just require everyone to get their book approved no matter what, in which case you would have avoided this situation. If it were me, I would look at the big picture: she read a book, wrote a fantastic report and worked very hard to meet her responsibilities as a student--she basically learned alot and benefited from her reading, even if the book was fantasy rather than science fiction (which could easily be confused by a middle schooler or anyone as they are somewhat similar). I would not dock any marks but would make a mental note to next time anticipate that some students may not interpret things properly, and to oversee students' choices more closely as they start off a project.
     
  6. KLily21

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    I agree with Jem. I'm sure you explained the difference between science fiction and fantasy. You are being quite generous. I probably would have made the student read another book and do another book report.
     
  7. Peachyness

    Peachyness Virtuoso

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    Well, when I did monthly book reports based on a specific genre, I also had students confused as to if their book was sci fi or fantasy. Even I had problem with certain types of books. I had to read a chapter to see which type it was. So, I would do what CanadianTeacher said, and make a mental note for next time.
     
  8. KLily21

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    The teacher said that she spent the last month teaching about science fiction. I agree with you that the student did probably work hard by reading a book and doing a book report, however, she clearly did not learn how to distinguish a science fiction book from other books.
     
  9. KLily21

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    Peachyness, don't get me wrong, I can definately see your point about making a mental note about reinforcing the difference between fantasy and science fiction. Sometimes fantasy and science fiction ARE quite similar. I've read Twilight, though, and I think a middle schooler should be able to tell that Twilight is fantasy, not science fiction.

    Perhaps I'm just a big meany, but I think she should be allowed to redo the assignment correctly for full credit or simply take the 10 points off.
     
  10. CanadianTeacher

    CanadianTeacher Groupie

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    The teacher should have had each student get their book approved in the first place to prevent this situation from occuring. Maybe something about her book made her judge it as Science Fiction...we don't know specifically how it was taught or if it should have been obvious to the student by what was taught to her about genres. She may well be able to distinguish Science Fiction from other genres, but there may have been some overlap between characteristics here that confused her.
     
  11. Luv2Learn

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    Wow, I guess I would have made lost that 10 pts as well. I'm with Canadian Teacher on this one. Considering the fact that you yourself said that she wrote a fabulous report, I think taking a few pts off for not following directions would be reasonable.

    Kris
     
  12. Tasha

    Tasha Phenom

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    Wait, I know the answer - you are the teacher, he's not! If you've taught the genre, and specified, they didn't follow the directions. Think of it this way - learn it now when the grade (probably) won't make a huge impact instead of in college when it might be one of 4 grades! I would make kids submit the title and have it approved in the future (JMHO).
     
  13. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    OK, a 35/35 would be an A+... you said her report was great and would have gotten that HAD she follwed the guuidelines- how about ten points off from the 100% so she'd get 90% (B+?)...I think lowering the letter grade by one letter makes sense but a 35/35 (100%) to a 25/35 (71%)?

    Next time I'd require teacher approval of book titles to avoid the obvious confusion.
     
  14. teachin4ever

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    Thanks everyone for your replies.

    The students were taught the difference between sci fi and fantasy and we read four sci fi short stories in class together and discussed in length the elements that make them a sci fi story.

    I get that there's a fine line between sci fi and fantasy, but I just don't see how someone who has spent the last four weeks of school reading and discussing sci fi novels could possibly think Twilight fit into that category. And since the end of the grading period is today, I can't have her redo the book report.

    *sigh* I don't know. Obviously, I've learned my lesson - all students will be required to get their books approved by me for the future. Perhaps I'll give her a (little) break this time.
     
  15. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    I thought Twillight Zone was Sci Fi too. Of course it is too creepy for me to actually watch the whole show with my husband for me to be completely clear but that has always been my impression. I can see where the student got this confused.
     
  16. teachin4ever

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    I'm talking about the book Twilight, not the television show, Twilight Zone. :)
     
  17. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Oops, I thought it was based on that. :eek:
     
  18. JustMe

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    Twilight is obviously not science fiction (vampires!). You taught science fiction in depth and her assignment had nothing to do science fiction. You are not being too mean.
     
  19. HMM

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    I agree...going from a 100% to a 71% seems harsh.
     
  20. kcjo13

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    I have to agree with Canadian Teacher and czacza. That is a huge change in grades when your report is only worth 35 points.

    Did they read their book in class, even now and then? How long did they take to do their reports? I'm just wondering, because I know that Twilight is a long book, and if she was working on this for a long time...maybe you should have asked before the student went to all that work. I've had projects that crashed before, right in my face, but yours seems like an easy problem to solve. Take a letter grade off, chalk it up to a learning experience, and move on! Good luck...and btw, I would never admit I was wrong to my dh!
     
  21. catsos2

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    Sounds like the student is a good student - read a long book and wrote a good report. I think it's probably just a simple mistake - at the bookstore the Sci/Fi and Fantasy stuff is all mixed up.

    I would change the A to a B and check all books next time around :)
     
  22. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I think that if you were SURE you were right, the subject would never have come up with your husband; you would have marked the paper like any other and not discussed it.

    But it seems to me that the purpose of the book report was NOT simply to differentiate between genres. It was also to read a book, to explain to someone about that book, to practice proper grammar and punctuation and spelling and a fulfill a variety of other objectives.

    So taking off almost a third of the grade because of one error, even an important one, seems like too much to me. It means that any child who did a report on the correct genre, regardless of how badly that report was done, starts with an automatic 10/35 points simply on that one aspect of the report. Everything else-- actuallly reading the whole book, knowing its theme and content, writing a coherent report of the right length, getting the spelling and grammar right, and all the rest-- they only amount to the remaining 25 points.

    Do you use any sort of a rubric to grade? Perhaps you want to start using one, assigning a particular number of points to each aspect of the book report. It would clarify things for the kids, and make it easier for you to be consistent on items such as this one.
     
  23. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    "In organizational or marketing contexts, science fiction can be synonymous with the broader definition of speculative fiction, encompassing creative works incorporating imaginative elements not found in contemporary reality; this includes fantasy, horror, and related genres." - from wikipedia

    I think, based on this definition, it could be included as science fiction. She could have gone into a book store and asked for help and been given Twilight, or it could have been in a labeled Science-fiction section.

    I personally don't think the difference is that clear, and if it was so important that they had the appropriate genre, I would have checked their books.
     
  24. runsw/scissors

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    I agree that you should take off fewer points (2-5) than 10. Science fiction and fantasy are so similar they can be hard to distinguish. How would you classify A Wrinkly in Time? Star Wars? Both are science fiction, but they have some elements of fantasy as well. I'd also consider the child who wrote the report. Does this person usually do well but try to get away with stuff, or is this child a hard worker wh usually tries to do his best, or is this a child who would normally put forth a minimum of effort and really worked hard this time?

    I agree with you aggrivation though. I had a student who flat out refused to follow the directions on a writing project and refused to fix the problems even after I spoke with him. He wound up with a 70% simply for turning something in. The paper was great but not even close to what I wanted.
     
  25. Mathfan

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    I can see how the student may have gotten confused with the genre. I would take 10 points off if I would have told the students, in writing, how important choosing the right book was and how many points I was going to deduct if they chose the wrong book. In other words, they did they have a rubric to follow where it was indicated that 10 pts. were going to be deducted if the wrong book was chosen?

    I would also take 10 points off if I would have pointed out to them several times that science fiction was not the same as the genre I was assigning and I provided examples of different books. I have to anticipate common mistakes students make and many students don't ask questions because they just don't think they're wrong.

    It seems to me that the student made a careless mistake and to give her a C for a A report is very harsh. I would give a chance to re-do the report and deduct few points. But, if I wasn't very clear and specific in my directions, I wouldn't penalize that much. I have to apply myself the same expectations I apply to the students.
     
  26. runsw/scissors

    runsw/scissors Phenom

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    I make my kids bring their chosen book to me for approval. I had a few kids wanting to read Room One for a mystery book report even though it is a modern fiction book. The cover has the words "a mytery or two" printed under the title so they thought it would work.
     
  27. forchange

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    I suspect that the main objectives you were teaching were reading and writing objectives. I suspect that the rather minor objective of distinguishing between science fiction and fantasy (which I think can be debated by intelligent, well educated adults) was a minor point. I question whether getting a 71%, when she knows she read a challenging and LOOOOONG book and wrote a good report will do to her engagement with reading and your class. I think if you want to really hammer home the objective, maybe tell her she can earn back those ten points by writing an essay comparing and contrasting her (fantasy) book with one the science fiction stories you read in class. You could then be assured she learned what you wanted her to learn, without dampening her obvious enthusiasm (Twlight is a loooooong book to choose, even if it is popular).

    Just my two cents... and I know I tend to be a little on the soft side (something I'm working on :) )
     
  28. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    This was my thought. Going from an A to a C or D (depending on your grading scale) is really harsh. I would take off enough points to make it drop a full letter grade. After all, the line between sci-fi and fantasy is really fuzzy.
     
  29. teachin4ever

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    All right, so I'm going to drop her grade from an A+ to a B+ and next month, when they do historical fiction, I'll require everyone to get their book approved by me.

    And for those of you who asked if I had a rubric, of course I do. However, dummy me didn't put on the rubric how many points would be deducted if it weren't science fiction. I'll make sure to include that also for the next one.

    Hey, this is my first year. I'm supposed to make mistakes! :)

    Thanks for all the wonderful feedback!
     
  30. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sorry, I was the one who brought up a rubric. I never really use them-- in math it's a lot easier to be consistent about partial credit. So I didn't know they were one of those "of course" items in teaching English :)
     
  31. CanadianTeacher

    CanadianTeacher Groupie

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    Hey, that's how we learn! No shame in that! ;-))
     
  32. Missy99

    Missy99 Connoisseur

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    A lot of bookstores and libraries clump fantasy and sci fi into one heading -- "Fantasy/Science Fiction." That may be one reason the kid was confused.

    But, that said, I think you were right to knock off the 10 points. The kid did not do the assignment that you assigned. Period.
     
  33. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    Then in that case, if it's not on the rubric, I definitely wouldn't take the points off.
     
  34. xmasqueen

    xmasqueen Rookie

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    I guess my question is, did you use a rubric? If you have a rubric it just makes it so much easier to justify your points. When I was younger I thought that fantasy and science fiction were the same thing, it wasn't until years later I realized the difference. I personally think that 10 points is a bit harsh but I teach elementary. I think I would probably go down a grade....if she would have made an A then down to a B. The other thing is, did you ask her why? If she scincerly thought it was SF then I would tend to be less harsh. On the other hand what grade level is this, middle school here is 6th through 8th. I know it's time then for them to learn to follow directions but even as an adult I think I understand the directions and then find out I didn't.
     
  35. JamesSoCal

    JamesSoCal New Member

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    Good & to the point.

    Perhaps the student is stronger in the math/science area and has difficulty following what may appear obvious to those in the language/literature areas. This book, to me, would also have been scifi at that age and grasping the, to me at that time, very slight difference would have been a challenge. While you, and others here, may think it was well explained the result would indicate otherwise. You have a student who did an excellent job with the assignment by your own definition. Grade the project along those lines and take it as a lesson for the future. It is the responsibility of the teacher to communicate to the student and many times that can be a great challenge. I have the reverse problem. I have to try to reach language/literature strong students in the math/science & computer areas where many of them are not particularly strong. It is refreshing to find a student strong in your area but it is fantastic to reach a student who is not strong in your area.

    JamesSoCal
     
  36. Yank7

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    I think if the report was fantastic it shows the child put a great deal of effort into it .I might discuss the report with the child and why she thought it met the criteria for science fiction.If I was satisfied with her answers and she really understood the book,I might let it go and warn her that the next time she must stick to the genre or she will lose ten points.
     
  37. 3Sons

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    When I was in third grade, my teacher assigned us a report and told us we had to read a "novel" -- explaining to us that "novel" meant "anything that could have actually happened".

    So, how was I supposed to know she wouldn't accept the story of a guy who went on a trans-Pacific hot-air balloon trip, crashed on Krakatoa to find a secret society of people living with high (but not magical) technology, paid for by the plentiful diamonds in the diamond mine under the volcano? "Could have happened" is pretty broad, after all.
     
  38. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Asking her to explain her thought process is an EXCELLENT suggestion!
     
  39. sciencewrestler

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    Nov 8, 2008

    :thumb:
     
  40. sciencewrestler

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    +1

    And to add to this, what happens during activities in other parts of daily life, like a job?

    "Well Mrs. Supervisor, I know you taught us how these product displays needed to be set up according to the official handbook, but I thought my way was better."

    That employee will be looking for another job real quick.
     
  41. sciencewrestler

    sciencewrestler Rookie

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    Oh my, there's a BIG difference between sci-fi and fantasy. Though I do realize an author can combine elements of both which could confuse an inexperienced reader.

    I've been a reader of sci-fi since around 1976 and within just one paragraph or so I know which genre I am holding in my hands. I never really warmed up to fantasy and instead still prefer what's known as "hard" science fiction* i.e. basically, space ships (for example) traveling to unknown worlds while the characters or the narrator describes how the ship propulsion system operates and why the aliens on board need to wear breathing apparatus.

    And on a barely on-topic note :) music to read sci-fi by!:

    * Alan Parsons Project, "Nucleus" from their I, Robot album - instrumental chill out music before that term was invented. And a dreamy song by them called "The Eagle Will Rise Again" from Pyramid, as close to a love song as that band got back then.

    * Fleetwood Mac, "Hypnotised" from Mystery To Me. UFO talk with great drumming.

    * entire soundtrack to the thought provoking pseudo-documentary Chariots Of The Gods?, by the Peter Thomas Sound Orchestra. You'll need Realplayer to listen to the stream. From the website: "Probably the best late-60's German pseudoscience documentary music you'll ever hear. Thomas combines crazed electronics, acid-exotica instrumentation, killer beats, and that haunting Title Theme into a cosmic score that goes way-out in search of Ancient Astronauts."



    * Issac Asimov, Arthur C. Clark, Frederick Pohl and especially Robert Heinlein are among my favorites. Most of Heinlein's so-called juvenile novels, which had a siginificant affect on me, are still in print. And the Winston Science Fiction Series, with its very cool cover art, I also enjoyed a lot.
     

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