Saturday, November 22, 2008

Too good to be true

Recently, I gave my writing students a somewhat simple and in my eyes easy homework assignment. Their job was simply to write a paragraph. A 5-8 sentence paragraph that began with a topic sentence and ended with a concluding sentence. In class, we worked on the pre-writing tasks. First, we brainstormed about the general topic, "Western Holidays". Then, we made cluster charts (you may refer to them as bubble charts) to help organize our ideas. For homework, they were supposed to pick one segment of the bubble chart (they couldn't possibly talk about the whole thing in one paragraph) and create a brief outline and paragraph. Some of the students managed the task quite well. Others showed me why I still have a job teaching English. Still others...well, their compositions were just too good to be true.

I'm in my fourth year of teaching in China, and I'm well aware that those practices we term "cheating", "plagiarism", and "copying" do not carry quite the weighty negative connotation here in China that they do in America. My students have given me ample opportunities to hone my skills at detecting copied work from a mile off. I believe that my detection skills have reached master level. Armed with google and quotation marks I've found many a speech and essay online. However, I was a little surprised (not a lot, just a little), when I discovered more than a few paragraphs that had been copied from the internet. I mean really, couldn't you write six sentences in less time than it takes to find a paragraph on the internet about holidays and to hand write that paragraph? I was also a little insulted at how daft my students must think I am. Do they really believe I'll think they wrote a sentence like, "At the very beginning, Thanksgiving Day was proclaimed by the Governor of Plymouth in the autumn of 1621 to express the colonists' gratitude to the Father for the first harvest in the New World."?

And yet, there was one paragraph which totally relieved my frustration by sending me into fits of laughter. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the following paragraph:
What is the meaning of the word Christmas? C stands for the C. Child who was sleeping on the day. H is for the Heavenly Host who worshipped that day. R is for the radiance on Mary's holy face. I is for the lowly Inn, a poor and humble place. S is for the star that shines to guide the shepherds there. T is for the travelers who brought him treasures rare. M is for the manger where he was born. A is for the angels who hovered round his bed. S is for the Savior who brought peace and hope to earth. It's so interesting, isn't it? That's what I introduce about Christmas for you. I wonder if you will like it.
Why yes, yes I do like it. Life is never dull here! And in case you're wondering...I have held off on the decorations...


Pru's Corner said...

i was wondering...:)
have you been peeking at the Pfeifllins blog too? cuz i have not repeat posted anything on prucorner, that i could tell anyway.

hey, the orphanage has a water heater, refrigerator and disinfecting cabinet on the way! merry c-mas to the orphans and their faithful caretakers. love to you as well!

more posts coming...

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