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Directions as written in the book: "Write a sentence using girth. You might want to write about the girth of a whale."

Response as written by the student: "You might want to write about the girth of a whale."

 

I can't decide if I should give credit for ingenuity or mark it wrong for not creating their own sentence. Either way we've had a very good laugh around here.

ETA: This is for 7th grade and the student very much knows what girth means.

 

Edited by cjzimmer1
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Full credit. It fulfills all the requirements. Nowhere did it state that the student had to invent their own sentence; the instruction said "write".
 

ETA: I am answering this question as a college instructor who has to be extremely careful in phrasing all exam questions to be precise and completely unambiguous, because if my instructions were this sloppy, I would have to expect this line of argumenting from my students and would have to agree with them.

 

Edited by regentrude
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19 minutes ago, regentrude said:

Full credit. It fulfills all the requirements. Nowhere did it state that the student had to invent their own sentence; the instruction said "write".
 

ETA: I am answering this question as a college instructor who has to be extremely careful in phrasing all exam questions to be precise and completely unambiguous, because if my instructions were this sloppy, I would have to expect this line of argumenting from my students and would have to agree with them.

 

So, if I copy something, I can claim I wrote it?  

I would laugh and give it an A+, but I would also point out that when we ask someone to write something, we do mean to come up with their own words, and that in another context this would be plagiarism.  

I say this as someone who turned in spelling sentences like "I can use the word caterpillar in a sentence." 

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My first thought is that I don't give grades as such in 7th grade.  (only in high school for transcript reasons).  My second thought is that the understanding of the word "girth" is the important point, not the sentence as such.  So I would accept it.  (But I realize that not all will have my same philosophy). 

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1 hour ago, cjzimmer1 said:

ETA: This is for 7th grade and the student very much knows what girth means.

Just seeing your ETA:
For 7th grade? I would expect a student to balk at this kind of busy work, and I would certainly not grade such stuff.

Edited by regentrude
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51 minutes ago, regentrude said:

Full credit. It fulfills all the requirements. Nowhere did it state that the student had to invent their own sentence; the instruction said "write".
 

ETA: I am answering this question as a college instructor who has to be extremely careful in phrasing all exam questions to be precise and completely unambiguous, because if my instructions were this sloppy, I would have to expect this line of argumenting from my students and would have to agree with them.

 

 

30 minutes ago, Melissa Louise said:

I can see the ambiguity in the way the question is written. 

If it was my material, I'd rewrite the instruction to get rid of the ambiguity. 

I'd remove that question and its mark from total. 

I totally agree about the ambiguity of the directions.  I didn't write the material.  This is my 5th kid to use this exact material and no one has given me a response like this before and it totally cracked me up because technically they weren't wrong even if it wasn't "in the spirit" of the assignment. 

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25 minutes ago, cjzimmer1 said:

Directions as written in the book: "Write a sentence using girth. You might want to write about the girth of a whale."

Response as written by the student: "You might want to write about the girth of a whale."

 

I can't decide if I should give credit for ingenuity or mark it wrong for not creating their own sentence. Either way we've had a very good laugh around here.

ETA: This is for 7th grade and the student very much knows what girth means.

 

Full credit.  But why in the world do they ask them to write a sentence using the word, presumably to demonstrate knowledge of the word's meaning....and then give them a sentence.  Weird.

 

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16 minutes ago, Jean in Newcastle said:

My first thought is that I don't give grades as such in 7th grade.  (only in high school for transcript reasons).  My second thought is that the understanding of the word "girth" is the important point, not the sentence as such.  So I would accept it.  (But I realize that not all will have my same philosophy). 

 

9 minutes ago, regentrude said:

Just seeing your ETA:
For 7th grade? I would expect a student to bulk at this kind of busy work, and I would certainly not grade such stuff.

I don't grade per say.  Kiddo does the assignment, I check the answers and we go through anything that is incorrect so kiddo can understand their mistakes.  But I don't assign letter grades or percentages or anything like that.  Way too much work! 

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2 minutes ago, Scarlett said:

Full credit.  But why in the world do they ask them to write a sentence using the word, presumably to demonstrate knowledge of the word's meaning....and then give them a sentence.  Weird.

 

I've seen that set of instructions before but never an example.  I'm assuming that the writer of the curriculum thought students might not know how to put it into a sentence and was trying to give a gentle nudge and didn't think about the fact the some students would be like "AHA, I'll use that sentence".

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2 minutes ago, cjzimmer1 said:

 

I totally agree about the ambiguity of the directions.  I didn't write the material.  This is my 5th kid to use this exact material and no one has given me a response like this before and it totally cracked me up because technically they weren't wrong even if it wasn't "in the spirit" of the assignment. 

Do people actually think that the word write is ambiguous in academic contexts? 

As a high school teacher I would absolutely fail a kid who was assigned to write something and turned in something plagiarized. I would not accept the argument that the word is ambiguous.  

In this context, I would laugh and I wouldn’t make them redo it but I would also want to be super clear that my kid knew about academic honesty.  

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6 minutes ago, BaseballandHockey said:

Do people actually think that the word write is ambiguous in academic contexts? 

As a high school teacher I would absolutely fail a kid who was assigned to write something and turned in something plagiarized. I would not accept the argument that the word is ambiguous.  

In this context, I would laugh and I wouldn’t make them redo it but I would also want to be super clear that my kid knew about academic honesty.  

In this same book, if gives instructions like "Write the meaning of this word.  Use the dictionary for help." and I would say a definition copied exactly from the dictionary would be acceptable.  So why would one write mean use your own words and one write mean it's okay to copy.   It's also has many other directions where write blah blah blah and what they write is something given in the instructions since the point of the exercise is to figure out which one of the blah blah blah goes with the item.  So in essence the directions are saying copying the correct word to the sentence it goes with.  I get where you are coming from about a writing assignment and not plagiarizing but in this case, yes I really do think the directions were ambiguous because this book doesn't always expect you to create your own thing every time it uses the word write.

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Just now, cjzimmer1 said:

In this same book, if gives instructions like "Write the meaning of this word.  Use the dictionary for help." and I would say a definition copied exactly from the dictionary would be acceptable.  So why would one write mean use your own words and one write mean it's okay to copy.   It's also has many other directions where write blah blah blah and what they write is something given in the instructions since the point of the exercise is to figure out which one of the blah blah blah goes with the item.  So in essence the directions are saying copying the correct word to the sentence it goes with.  I get where you are coming from about a writing assignment and not plagiarizing but in this case, yes I really do think the directions were ambiguous because this book doesn't always expect you to create your own thing every time it uses the word write.

As someone looking for middle school writing curriculum, I gotta ask which book?

To be clear, I think it was funny.  I think what he did was fine and I wouldn’t make him redo it.  I’m not saying he was plagiarizing here.

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Some kids just don't get what's inferred. 

Inferred is 'use this next sentence as an example. Do not copy this sentence. You may/may not use it as a model. You must come up with a different sentence to the one written here as an example.'

Instructions can easily be made explicit to cater for these students. 

Some will always be capable of infering, and think it funny to be silly anyway 🙂 But definitely, needing explicit instruction is a genuine academic need easily catered for by writers of instructional material.

Edited by Melissa Louise
Extended my response.
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For homeschool with my own kids: I would just say that wasn't what the directions meant and tell them to try again.

As a classroom teacher: I wouldn't count it.  Way too many smart alecks in 7th grade to give this a pass.  They would try the same stunt over and over again.

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I would laugh to myself, and then ask my kid to give me a new sentence.  I don't grade daily work, or really much of anything until high school, but I do make sure they understand the work and how to read directions even if they are poorly worded.

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Many years ago, our eldest, in 8th grade read my directions to, "Write, IN CURSIVE, the questions at the end of the chapter".  Yes, I got the questions copied perfectly.  In cursive.  Exactly what I asked for!  I was so focused on asking him to practice his cursive that I did not think about how to better word the assignment.  He swears to this day that he really thought that is what I wanted!

 

Oh, @cjzimmer1, I would give full credit.  Life's too short=)

Edited by Familia
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5 hours ago, BaseballandHockey said:

As someone looking for middle school writing curriculum, I gotta ask which book?

To be clear, I think it was funny.  I think what he did was fine and I wouldn’t make him redo it.  I’m not saying he was plagiarizing here.

It's actually not a writing curriculum at all.  It's a reading program. (from Christian Light Education)

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5 hours ago, Melissa Louise said:

Some kids just don't get what's inferred. 

Inferred is 'use this next sentence as an example. Do not copy this sentence. You may/may not use it as a model. You must come up with a different sentence to the one written here as an example.'

Instructions can easily be made explicit to cater for these students. 

Some will always be capable of infering, and think it funny to be silly anyway 🙂 But definitely, needing explicit instruction is a genuine academic need easily catered for by writers of instructional material.

I made kiddo, write me a new sentence.  Kiddo even admitted that they knew what they were suppose to do but it was much easier to use that one than to think of their own.

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5 hours ago, Junie said:

For homeschool with my own kids: I would just say that wasn't what the directions meant and tell them to try again.

As a classroom teacher: I wouldn't count it.  Way too many smart alecks in 7th grade to give this a pass.  They would try the same stunt over and over again.

Definitely a homeschooled kid.  They've had the same instructions "Write a sentence with (current vocabulary word)" for the last 3-4 lessons so knew what they were "suppose" to do but since this is the first time a suggestion was made like that, they of course took full advantage of it.  

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4 hours ago, Loowit said:

I would laugh to myself, and then ask my kid to give me a new sentence.  I don't grade daily work, or really much of anything until high school, but I do make sure they understand the work and how to read directions even if they are poorly worded.

I laughed so hard that everyone else wanted to know too and all laughed as well.  My adult kids were like 'Mom, that is correct, you've got to give them credit".  Kiddo knew what they were "suppose" to do but just didn't feel like it when they saw an easy out.

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3 hours ago, Familia said:

Many years ago, our eldest, in 8th grade read my directions to, "Write, IN CURSIVE, the questions at the end of the chapter".  Yes, I got the questions copied perfectly.  In cursive.  Exactly what I asked for!  I was so focused on asking him to practice his cursive that I did not think about how to better word the assignment.  He swears to this day that he really thought that is what I wanted!

 

Oh, @cjzimmer1, I would give full credit.  Life's too short=)

I could totally see this kid doing something like that.  I made them write me a new sentence though.  It took them all of 15 seconds because I insist they write legibly. 

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In a homeschool environment, I would give it a pass as a funny mulligan. I assume that the teacher had not said this type of answer wasn't allowed. Now that the student had tried, they now know it is incomplete, so don't try it again. I would also let them know, that in a traditional school environment, it likely would get marked wrong. 

 

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I would return it for re-do, but give full credit if the re-do is correct.

I would also re-phrase the assignment as "compose a sentence ..." for the future.

I would have done that exact thing when I was a kid.  😛

Edited by SKL
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Vocabulary was an issue here, so all of those types of assignments came with the understanding/instruction that the sentences must demonstrate an understanding of what the word meant. So if many other words could be inserted instead of that word, and it would still make sense, though the meaning would be changed, I would not accept it. In that sentence, girth could be replaced by blowhole, teeth, size, color, or any other number of words, so I wouldn’t have accepted it.  Dd was very prone to copying or slightly changing “found” sentences that contained the vocab words, and often could not explain or use them in her own sentences. In your situation, that doesn’t seem to be the case. I might give it a pass, once.

Edited by Emba
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16 hours ago, BaseballandHockey said:

Do people actually think that the word write is ambiguous in academic contexts? 

As a high school teacher I would absolutely fail a kid who was assigned to write something and turned in something plagiarized. I would not accept the argument that the word is ambiguous.  

In this context, I would laugh and I wouldn’t make them redo it but I would also want to be super clear that my kid knew about academic honesty.  

Yes. "Write" is used for copywork (an early language activity) as well as for creative work (typically done later). However, most students don't confuse the two, since the possible interpretations are usually taught at very different levels of understanding. There are two exceptions:

1) People who are doing both activities simultaneously in their language study - most likely with the copywork being a handwriting/memory/"good sentence training" exercise a la Writing With Skill - in which case they'd probably still not accidentally err because they'd recognise that they use different learning materials for each task.

2) A student who is remediating the mechanics of writing while following a typical development path for creative English.

While most 7th graders would generally be safe to assume they were being asked for creative writing and not copywork, I could well imagine a bored/mischevious/experimental one gently poking fun at the ambiguity. This would be a good teachable moment for talking about express and implied rubrics - that is to say, some of the things that need to be done for a task to be complete are not always stated in the text. Plenty of times in life, sloppy instructions will be encountered. Sometimes it is good to provide what was meant and not necessarily what was asked.

Since tests are meant to be the one place where clarity can be expected, I would be inclined to give full credit unless there was reason for the 7th grader to know (rather than guess) that a created sentence was required... ...and ask the student to tell the teacher if they spot any more ambiguous instructions (so you can laugh at the sloppiness together translate it from English to English as necessary).

Edited by ieta_cassiopeia
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