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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Guest post. Guest post. Guest post

Today's Guest Poster is none other than the Prolific Scribbler herself -- The Scholastic Scribe! If you haven't checked out her SX3 challenges on Sundays, then you're really missing out, because they are usually some pretty funny snaps with some pretty funny captions!

The Scribe's post is titled, "The 5-Paragraph Essay," and it really reminded me of a story from my high school days. I'll share that story at the end of the post.

The prose struck me. Fluid. Full of imagery. An intro paragraph that fairly lifted off the page and hung there.

The Boy definitely “gets it,” I said to myself. He captured the thesis—the gist of his analysis—within the first two sentences, and laid it out there for all of us to see. None of this “The book I read is about…” nor “The thesis of my research paper is…”

Manna from Heaven. Or, prose proffered by a pupil, if you prefer. Literate, readable: the yin and yang of the perfect research paper.

Paragraphs two and three stood at attention. Then they marched off the page and into my psyche, begging my green (green, you know, is the new “red” for high school English teachers these days), pen to scritchy-scratch across the sheet. But I kept my powder dry. Only the merest “Good Job!” emitted from the felt point of my Flair.

I knew that calamity surely waited around the bend in Paragraph 4. Or perhaps 5. But the melody of The Boy’s prose continued to sing along with the harmonic balance of his analysis. “Bravo!” I scrawled.

But then came Paragraph 6. Hmmmmmmmm….I know! I’ve read this before! Plagiarist! I knew it was too good to be true! I scurried to my laptop to search for the roots of The Boy’s criminal action.

But nothing clicked. Nothing remotely resembling the research paper before me. What, then, was that “familiar feeling” that kept lurking right behind my eyes, willing my green felt-tip to scribble away?

I turned back to page one. Searching for an answer. Which lay, of course, in the first paragraph of this alleged prodigy’s “masterpiece.”

Yes, The Boy wrote a near-perfect first paragraph. Anchored with a tenacious, bold thesis. His subsequent four paragraphs echoed the thoughts that he meant to argue, and persuaded he his reader—this reader, me—that his points were well worth considering. Until…

Paragraph 6? The same as Paragraph 1. And Paragraph 7? The same as Paragraph 2. And so on and so forth. Word for word.

The Boy had not suddenly learned how to write. Rather, he had absorbed that age-old lesson that we teachers of writing don’t like to admit. Not all of us read every word we assign.

He was a “Copy & Paste” crook. And a gambler, I’d wager. He was betting that 5 solid, golden paragraphs would be a good investment. And then he Copied & Pasted until he had the required 5 pages. Wrote a deceptively wicked conclusion and called it a day.

You might say The Boy was a repeated offender.

I will admit, just now I was sorely tempted to paste this post in again two or three times. . . ;)

Actually, it reminds me of my buddies and I and our junior year chemistry class in high school. We had a standing weekly assignment to find and cut out a science-related article and to write a one page summary of said article.

It was well-documented that our teacher only glanced at the first sentence of the paper and gave grades based on that. So my friends and I would have a contest to see who could outdo the others with the wildest, most redonkulous papers.

A typical paper might read as follows:

"NASA has developed a new, innovative way to protect astronauts from over-exposure to UV radiation during manned space flights. This was never performed on monkeys when NASA shot bozo the chimp up to the moon, but people are another case. My throat feels scratchy when I eat potato chips, and Vodka is a funny sounding word. Is my grandmother supposed to snicker when she breaks wind? Elizabeth Taylor kind of scares me, but my dad likes her. Dogfood and horse doodles, I always say."

And so on, for a full page.

Every time, our papers would come back with a check plus.

Surprisingly, our chem teacher was fired over Christmas break that year (not related to his lax grading standards -- the rumor was always that he was caught in flagrante delecto with a senior cheerleader), and a new teacher arrived.

This new teacher kept the old assignment, and whereas MOST of us began to write an actual page-long review of our article, one of my best friends pushed his luck the first week and continued the nonsensical review.

I'll never forget how much red ink came back on his paper. Some of his sentences, like "But there's still one thing that puzzles me -- there is no mention of the crown jewels!" were repeatedly circled and surrounded by question marks.

Ahhh. . . high school.

Thank you, Scholastic Scribe, for bringing back fun memories!!


Melissa B. said...

And thank you, Mr. Teacher, for featuring moi. In flagrante delecto? Indeed!

Almost American said...

Two fun posts for the price of one!

I had a 7th grade English teacher like your chem teacher. I had to write an essay on the delights of my country as a vacation destination. I couldn't think of any, so my mother helped me concoct an essay of complete rubbish, with an acceptable-sounding first and last paragraph. Sure enough I got an A - because he 'knew' I was a 'good' student. Then my friend Sharon put her hand up and asked, "Did you really like her essay about the haggis bird that flies backwards to keep the dust out of its eyes?" I bet he read every word of my work after that!

Jason said...

Good times! Occasionally, Schattman and I even threw in a few sentences containing no actual words. Like, "Hirult sorgass glifnutu m pulliam grik."

Check plus!

J said...

hee! that is a new one for me, i'm glad my kids never tried to pull any of that nonsense. thankfully i got really good and reading an entire essay in just a few glances. :)