Mrs. Scribe is still slogging thru the flotsam & jetsam of the second week of school. I've graded 120 papers in the last week, with miles to go before I sleep, y'all! I selected this prompt from Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop: The Message You'd Like to Craft. Think there are quite a few messages in this piece, which first appeared as a guest post at Mr. Teacher's Place.
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 green Flair pen. (No red marks mar my students' work, since the day one of them complained, "Mrs. Scribe, my paper is bleeding!")
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 felt-tip to scribble away?
I flipped the pages 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 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.
The young man specialized as 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 Repeat Offender.