Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Two More Books Read

I finished 2 more books - one light read The Chase by Clive Cussler, and Blackwater Ben by William Durbin which was a middle school novel.

I've read a lot of Clive Cussler who has a series featuring his alter ego, Dirk Pitt, who is a diver and oceanographer who works for NUMA - a quasi-governmental agency that saves the world from one disaster after another. They are quick reads, usually with "thrills and spills" and I started reading them a long time ago on the recommendation of my mom. I really miss my mom's recommendations - she introduced to me a lot of different types of books. They all were on the "light" side of fiction but what a variety -- Georgette Heyer, Daphne DuMaurier, Agatha Christie, Elizabeth Peters, Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton, Patricia Cornwell, Clive Cussler, Dick Francis, Maeve Binchy, Sam Llewellyn, Jan Karon, Dorothy Sayers, Dorothy Eden, Ian Fleming, Ken Follet, Janet Evanovich, Miss Read, Elisabeth Olgivie --- the list goes on. There were some authors she loved that drove me nuts - her Harlequin romances for example, but in general we enjoyed similar tastes for recreational reading. Sometimes when I'm browsing through my local library's shelves, I'm hit with a huge wave of nostalgia and grief when I run into an author my mom loved or an author she introduced me to. For most of my adult life, I lived 1000 miles away from her, but we talked often, and in just about every phone call, we shared what we were reading and recommended books to each other. I really miss those discussions. My sisters and I try to fill her shoes - and we email each other with book recommendations frequently.

The Chase is not a Dirk Pitt novel. It's the story of a turn of the 20th centure detective who is in pursuit of a master thief. It's set in 1906 and the San Franciso earthquake plays a part in the novel as does the railroad.

I read Blackwater Ben as the result of a book project gone wrong! A student presented his book project to the class last week and it was clear from his presentation that he hadn't read the book. Since I hadn't either, I spent an evening enjoying a tale of a young boy spending a winter as his dad's assistant as cooks at a logging camp. The sad part of this is that after talking to the student in question, I discovered that he and another student who I also teach, both plagiarized the written portion of their projects. It was clear from my first glance that the first student had plagiarized but what a convoluted tale transpired. Student #1 offered to write student #2's report if student #2 did the "art part". Student #2 received a report from the first student and typed it. He then left it at home, and mom faxed it to me because she knew it was due. When I received the faxed report, it was immediately apparent that student #2 hadn't written it. When I asked him if he knew student #1 hadn't written it, he admitted that it "seemed better than his usual level of writing." But he typed it anyway. The report had been copied word for word from a review at the Barnes and Noble website . When I talked to student #1 he admitted that he'd copied his book project from the internet too. I hadn't caught it at first because the report he'd turned in had a number of grammar and spelling mistakes. Sure enough when I googled his project I found a Wikipedia entry from a 4th grader that he'd copied!!!
Both students received failing grades and afterschool detentions, and consequences at home. I've had plagiarism before but this one took the cake! The really sad part is that the assignment I asked them to was designed to prevent plagiarism. Instead of a book review, I'd aske them to write a description of the main character, a description of an important setting, a 5 sentence summary of the plot, and a paragraph describing their favorite scene/event in the book. For the "art part" they had to dress a potato like the main character and place it in a diorama depicting an important scene.

Oh, yes, I enjoyed both books.


Panhandle Jane said...

I wish more students had consequences for plagiarism in middle school. Thank you.

I love the design of your project. It's giving me ideas to adapt for something for seniors--really adapted and changed of course because I don't want to plagiarize--but may I borrow the potato idea?

Deb said...

You are more than welcome to use the potato idea. I actually adapted it from another project that was shared amongst teachers several years ago on a internet group I belong to. The original idea had students disguising a potato and then writing a descriptive paragraph about it. I think that the best teaching projects come out of sharing and adapting!