Sunday, May 20, 2007

"Chicken Chicken Chicken": Chicken Chicken in Chicken's Chicken Chicken

Offspring #1 turned in her first research paper this week, and I discovered I had no clue how to grade it. Now I always thought that, despite the badly cliche'd objection to homeschooling that "You can't possibly teach them everything they need to know through high school," I need never fret about literature and composition, being able to wave my M.A. around impressively and all.

But while I can comment on Stanley Fish, and explain my ennui with Bloom (is he going to coast on the Anxiety of Influence forever?), and even share my love of Udolpho with the Offspringen (#1 only made it through a few chapters before feeling compelled to write her own parody, upon which I promptly introduced her to Northanger Abbey), I cannot tell what a sixth-grade research paper on Pythagoras ought to read like. I gave her an 'A' on the theory that she did her own research out of actual books, without recourse to the internet; produced recognizable paragraphs, an intro, and a conclusion; and turned in a third draft free of egregious grammatical or spelling errors. I added a '+' for titling the paper "Pythagoras" and not using the standard MLA title format, i.e. "Sex, Lies, and Right Angles: Pythagoras' Role in the Queering of the Periclean Golden Age."

My difficulty is a lack of models. What does a sixth-grade paper look like? The usual grade-level descriptions give little help. About the only thing I could definitely determine is that she should be using approved citation format, whatever that is. I do remember being taught citation format in high school from an ancient publication--it explained, among its rapturous discourses on proper index card use, how to rotate the typewriter platen a half-line up, to get superscripts--and learning MLA format in one evening my freshman year of college. Besides the fact that MLA citation format changes every few years, and that it varies among academic disciplines, middle school seems a bit early to be getting started on mastering something that takes only a few hours to learn when it's needed.

Turns out there is, though, a resource for all your academic report and presentation needs (via Language Log). And there's a related video for the second-graders in our ISD who are supposed to learn how to assemble a Power-Point presentation (no, not kidding).


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