Need advice on how to handle this "cheater"

Discussion in 'Middle School / Junior High' started by trina, Nov 20, 2008.

  1. trina

    trina Companion

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    Nov 20, 2008

    We are a small private K-8 Christian school, and the class in question is our 8th grade which is VERY bright, and they all get along extremely well. There are only 12 students, and my daughter is in this class. I've taught them all in some form or fashion for 3 years (I teach 6-7-8).

    Initials used for privacy.

    Today in my class (science) JC says "RW is a wizard! She made the highest grade in the class and didn't even read the book!" I knew exactly what he meant because my kid's in the same class, and they had just taken their test yesterday on a novel they read in Lit class. The book was The Hiding Place. RW says, "Yeah, I just went to thebestnotes.com and read the chapter summaries." Several kids joined in with "that's not fair" and "what's that website again?" etc. etc. I was standing there incredulous that she admitted it so openly, but I faked her out by not going nuts because I wanted her to keep talking so I could know more. I said, "And you made the highest grade in the class?" to which she replied, "Yeah. It's a really great website, and I didn't have to read the book." I said, "Well, cheaters never win and winners never cheat" to which she replied, "Well, I guess they do win because I got the highest grade!"

    I went on with my lesson and talked to the lit teacher during lunch. We can't come up with a perfect punishment, so I told her I would post the situation here to see if you guys can give her some ideas on how to handle this child's blatant "cheating." Then we had a long discussion on what defines cheating. What she really did was not complete the assignment which was to read the book.

    She will be calling mom who will go ballistic. The parents are very successful immigrants from a poor Carribean country who take their kids' educatin VERY seriously. Other than that, she's talked about taking points off her test grade (how many? how to substantiate?), having her do punitive busy work (like copying a whole chapter from the book by hand), or giving her a 0 for class participation (which was 75 pts; however, she DID participate, and according to the lit teacher, answered most of the questions during class discussion...probably because the others were not keeping up with the reading and she was reading a sysnopsis online!)

    IDEAS WELCOME!!!!!!!!!!!!! HELP!!!!!!!
     
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  3. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    I wouldn't punish them for using cliff notes. I encourage my AP kids to use them as a review after reading the textbook. Kids do it in my high school often, if your tests are so easy that kids can get by with just the cliff notes that is the problem. Common, in high school in college I bet you used cliff notes/spark notes. Kids in my High School use it all the time. Do the english teachers encourage it? No, but if students are performing by taking a shortcut I don't see a problem. You need to make your tests more difficult if this is happening.
     
  4. Claire23

    Claire23 New Member

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    I completely agree with Brendan. I don't see what she did as cheating. Now I don't know your cheating policy, but she was able to get the highest score in the class by reading an internet site? Kids these days are incredibly computer savvy and if you didn't lay out the guidelines on what is considered off-limits, then I don't think you can consider it cheating.

    Hah... maybe I'm screwed up, but she DID do reading... just not the actual book.

    Now I know you said that she didn't complete the assignment which was to read the book. But you also tested her. So how can you punish her on her test score if those are 2 different assignments? But if you explain your test directions then maybe we could answer your original question on the punishment. Make her do some remedial reading or give her no points at all, but if you didn't actually give your class a score for "Reading" the book then I don't think it should have an effect on her test score. Also what do you consider "Class Participation" points.

    But please explain, because you obviously think it's cheating.
     
  5. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    She shouldn't have been able to get the highest grade in the class by merely reading the abridged version.

    I think the test was faulty. In this day and age, I think we have to assume that kids have access to the internet and are saavy enough to use it.

    Of course she should have read the book. But the test should have caught her.
     
  6. stepka

    stepka Comrade

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    The fact that she openly admitted it tells me that she didn't think she was cheating, and frankly I don't think so either. You've got to stay a step ahead of these kids. I agree with the others that you can't punish the child if there isn't something clearly laid out in the policy, so just let this be a lesson for next time. (for you and the lit teacher that is) I'm not a lit teacher yet, but I plan to use them in my classroom as supplementary material--don't fight 'em, join 'em I say.
     
  7. kcjo13

    kcjo13 Phenom

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    I think you need to think of goals here...what are your (and the lit teacher's) goals for this girl? Ultimately, wasn't it for her to pass the test? And she did that, so I don't think you can call it cheating, per se. Like someone else said, not honest or morally correct, but not cheating. If you hadn't overhead the conversation, no one would be any the wiser, am I correct?

    If the goal is for her to actually read the book, then that is easy. She can stay after school, in the morning, free period, whatever, and read with the teacher. She can do some sort of book report or presentation to prove she read the book. But if a test doesn't catch that she didn't actually read, did the test accomplish its goal?

    As for copying the book, what would be the goal there? Punitive punishment, yes, but what is it teaching the girl? It's certainly not getting her to read the book.

    Taking points off-I think that is a can of worms you don't want to open, likewise with a 0 for participation. Again, she did do what was asked of her, just not in the expected manner. Gifted kids are good at finding short cuts, and really, isn't that what we expect them to do when they become doctors, scientists, whatever? Find the fastest/cheapest/most effective way to accomplish a goal? Just a thought...
     
  8. kcjo13

    kcjo13 Phenom

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    Here might be an effective way to ensure she is reading...ask her to write an essay/do a project/whatever comparing and contrasting this book to another book, which she would be required to read. You must word the assignment so that she would have to apply critical thinking skills, not just facts from either book.
     
  9. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Nov 20, 2008

    I wrote a great essay in university on James Joyce' Ulysses, which I did not read. I tried, honest I did, but could not get past the first 50 or 75 pages. While it is frustrating to teachers when students don't read the books they are assigned to read, the student was able to gain enough information about the book from other sources to ace the test. Honourable, maybe not; cheating, I'm not sure.

    By the way, my university professor was not a Sourthern American Christian educator--he was an Oxford educated, proud British athiest.
     
  10. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    For me it was The Bear by Faulkner when I was a high school senior. I gave a great oral report, but never read the story. The kid who was supposed to go the day before me was absent, so the teacher gave a "little intro" to what I would be talking about the next day. I took notes, and repeated them back to the class. I got an A.
     
  11. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    The grapes of wrath....I had to do a paper on it in High School and i didn't read it...at least not then..I Got an A on a paper about the social issues of the time as portrayed in the novel simply by watching the movie.
     
  12. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    I am ashamed to say that I didn't read Tess of the D'Urbervilles in my senior year of high school. Something about Hardy drove me nuts. However, I took intense notes of all the lectures and paid close attention to my teacher's opinions. I managed to get a 97% on an essay test!

    The really funny part of it is that Hardy is now one of my favorite authors. Tess is an excellent novel with the exception of the last chapter, which I believe he was forced to add. At least, that was my teacher's opinion. :whistle:
     
  13. AF Mom

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    I am having a problem with the comment about the student may not have known not to read 'cliff notes'. If the assignment was to 'read' the book then that is what the teacher meant. Read the book. Using cliff notes or any other means of getting information without reading the book is cheating--not only herself but the student cheated the other kids because they followed the instructions. I agree about the test needing to be changed and I think the student should read the book with the teacher. Now you can add to your assignments that reading the book means reading the book and no cliff notes or other means of 'reading'.
     
  14. trina

    trina Companion

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    Well, to be honest, the responses from the posters are not what I expected. I'm trying to be open-minded about the comments...REALLY I am. But there is something that smacks of pure rebellion about a student not reading a book and finding a shortcut instead. I know this is nothing new as Cliff's Notes and Spark Notes have been around for decades. I guess in our school it has never been expressly said "Do not use cheat sources, summary sources, or help notes of any kind. You are expected to read the book itself." I guess we will from now on because I talked to my daughter about this on the way home, and she said, "Oh yeah, so and so used that site last year when we read The Pigman in your class. She never cracked the book" gosh. I am really out of touch.....

    The test was valid and challenging, in my opinion. I saw it because my daughter is in this class. It had 8 essay questions totally 50 points of the 100. They were very high ordered Bloom's questions, and the teacher took off for spelling, grammar, punctuation in addition to content. She told me most of the class lost points on the essays for stopping short and not answering a 2,3, or 4 part question completely. So OK, the kid learned enough from the site to be able to compare, contrast, evaluate, and synthesize. I still just can't be proud of a 97 under these circumstances. Not my class, however.

    Last point...the lit teacher was in the office this afternoon when mom happened to pop in to ask a question in the office. Lit teacher took her aside and discussed the situation. I was right...mom was LIVID and said she would stand behind whatever the lit teacher decided to do.

    This situation has really made me rethink many of my classroom rules. Thanks to Mrs. Gardener for sharing her site! I really liked it and your policies. I will share it with the lit teacher.

    I'll go now and put my head back in the sand.....
     
  15. fuzed_fizzion

    fuzed_fizzion Comrade

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    Did you go look at the site and check out the notes they have? They are very well put together. It is no wonder the student did well on the test. There is detailed information about each chapter and additional notes about insights and development of the characters. If the student already knows how to give complete answers, I am not surprised she did well on the test.
     
  16. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Perhaps the teacher needs to assign a book which doesn't come in Cliff Notes? Maybe something current?
     
  17. Budaka

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    I don't know what book doesn't have some kind of Cliff Notes on the internet. I am so glad that I teach writing not reading. I love to read and have never even looked at a Cliff Note in my love. But I know almost none of our reading studens actually read their books unless the teacher makes them read it in class. I even have upper classmen who proudly boast that they have never read a book in their lives. Sad.
     
  18. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    The unfortunate part about students using Cliff notes or sites, is that the students don't have to think through and develop their own conclusions. The conclusions are drawn for them - and that totally defeats the purpose of studying the book. I don't think the goal of reading a book is to ace a test on it. By evading the real work of the assignment, I think the student was cheating. Honestly, unless they do the actual reading in class, you can't be completely sure of their diligence.
     
  19. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    I admit to using Cliff Notes, not expressly to replace the reading of the book, but because Cliff Notes gives other detailed information about characters, plot, theme, etc which helped me understand the book more and also helped me pass the class with flying colors.

    I wouldn't be surprised if more students in your daughter's class have used the site, and this particular child just has a loud mouth that a teacher overheard.
     
  20. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Even when I was in HS, the teachers had to expressly forbid us from using cliff notes. They also read the cliff notes themselves and designed test questions that would be impossible to answer if the student had only read those instead of the book. It's human nature to try to find the easy way out. It's the teacher's job to make sure, in this case, that the student doesn't succeed if he/she tries.
     
  21. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    My textbook for APUSH is outlined on hundreds of sites on the web. Should my students ignore these helpful tools online? No. Do some of them just read the outlines and pass my reading quizzes? sometimes. I have had students tell me they didn't read the text and do I feel them? Do I punish them? Nope. Their punishment will be when they have my test and they aren't prepared. If your test is easy enough that students can pass them by not reading the book, that is a bigger problem than the students not reading the book.
     
  22. Sheba

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    You really have no idea what a _______ you look like, in your response to getting out-smarted by a 13-14-year-old you should be thankful to be able to teach who did absolutely nothing wrong, do you?
     
  23. trina

    trina Companion

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    Nov 22, 2008

    Thanks to all who are weighing in their opinions on this situation.

    Upsadaisy, your last comment seems to be the one that best reflects what that lit teacher is feeling. I feel the same way as I am the lit teacher for 7th grade. I TOTALLY agree with your comment:
    The conclusions are drawn for them - and that totally defeats the purpose of studying the book. I don't think the goal of reading a book is to ace a test on it.

    Brendan, I think that is where we differ in opinion. Your school of thought seems to apply to a content-based subject like SS and algebra. Literature class is very different in my opinion. For example- I teach science, English, and literature. While we are learning about mitosis and meiosis in science, do I think it is cheating if a student goes online to find photos, video, and games that teach these two processes? No. Should students refrain from any online grammar sites to help them learn and reinforce grammar skills? No. Facts are facts, so get them anyway you can. Our textbook is not the sole authority.

    But a piece of literature, no matter the genre, is a different animal. A child cannot fully grasp characterization using only cheat notes. He cannot enjoy beautiful figurative language and imagery. He cannot encounter assonance, alliteration, onomatopoeia, tone, and other skillful uses of our language. And like Upsadaisy mentioned, he cannot draw his own conclusions which is a skill we strive to teach.

    Overall, I guess the fact that we are a Christian school also plays a part in this. It's NOT just about passing the killer test using any means necessary. We believe in helping form that student's moral character and helping it to line up with biblical principles. In fact, parents pay money for us to do that. This child did not make an honorable choice in our opinion (and the parents agree). She then boasted of this and even quipped that cheaters do sometimes win because she did and made the highest grade. I'm sorry if no one else sees poor character in this statement, but we do, and we will not stand by and say nothing to address it. We have far more to teach in our school than the content standards.
     
  24. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    Beautifully said, trina.
     
  25. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    I understand your point of view, I taught English for 10 years.
     
  26. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    ...and yet somehow the student managed to get the highest grade on the test...sounds to me like the test wasn't a true measure of whether anyone grasped any of the content you listed above as all of that is not well-covered in 'Cliffs Notes' type study aides (they're study aides, not cheat sheets)...Ever consider that the students were cheated by not being required to use higher order thinking skills? Such critical thinking skills should be modeled, taught and assessed...:2cents:
     
  27. stepka

    stepka Comrade

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    I don't believe the child made an honorable choice either. But my point is, that unless you have it specifically spelled out in the rules, you really can't punish the child for taking that route. What you can do is to turn this into a learning experience for all the kids, and discuss with them your future expectations. Some will always be trying to use them, but it is not the same level of cheating as plagiarism. I used them pretty extensively when I was studying for the English language test, but what I found is that reading the cliffsnotes made me want to go read the book. Maybe that will happen with the kids. I've often thought that a good assignment would be to have the kids read a book that doesn't have notes and then make their own--that is have them write up their own cliffsnotes version.
     
  28. Sheba

    Sheba Companion

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    Bingo. It sounds very much like a couple of teachers are upset that they weren't able to control an adolescent who's smarter than them the way they liked. And it also sounds like a certain teacher seriously needs to re-think her methods of assessment. I also strongly suspect that now a number of students will be discouraged from finding on-line sources that relate to what they're studying, or may just be more furtive about it. And I can only imagine how one clever girl's attitude might change towards school and her teachers.
     
  29. Soccer Dad

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    Assign an essay. One that involves quotes, specific examples, etc. That way, the student is forced to spend more time than the other looking for quotes and so forth, but you're not blatantly punishing her for something she MAY not have known was wrong (which is doubtful). And if never hurts to practice essay writing. =)
     
  30. dtrim

    dtrim Rookie

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    Nov 24, 2008

    I tend to agree with you, Soccer Dad: assigning an essay is a good way to test a student's analysis.

    However, you'll find lots of literary criticism in online Cliffs Notes (or Spark Notes, etc.) that students can import into their essays.

    You'll also find ready-to-print essays online, too.

    I'm not sure what the answer to this problem is. When I was teaching, I heard students proudly tell me they'd never read an entire book. Well, I swore that wouldn't happen on my watch, so we read large chunks of books (popcorn style) aloud in class. There's some great research about the value of reading aloud to students at any age.

    I invited the Spark Notes and Cliff Notes to class, too. As a class, we'd discuss characterization and fill in our graphic organizer. Then my designated cheater would refer to the notes and we'd evaluate their information and possibly add to the organizer.

    The fact is, like standardized tests, taxes, and rain, these literary cheat notes aren't going away. We can either embrace them or go nuts trying to fight them.

    That's not to say that I advocate relying solely on cheat materials to pass a test. There's an ethics issue here that many posts have cited. But, I can't help but believe that the A-student wasn't the only one using them in class. She was the only one to crow about it, though.

    Instead of shaking out student folders and trying to outwit the kids, I think a better use of my time is trying to show students how to arrive at the Cliffs Notes themselves and using Cliffs or Spark Notes as a supplement.

    Best wishes for success! This is certainly an interesting thread!
     
  31. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Any way an essay could be designed that could compare / contrast different novels or short stories being studied? That kind of analysis is NOT available in study guides.
     
  32. stepka

    stepka Comrade

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    Nov 24, 2008

    dtrim, I love that--"Designated cheater." I bet the kids did too.
     
  33. Sheba

    Sheba Companion

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    Nov 24, 2008

    I strongly agree with you about encouraging students to use study aids.

    If secondary school students are getting away with Interenet plagairism or ace-ing examinations on books they haven't even read it shows an incredible lack of skill on the part of their teachers.
     

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