Free Student Papers -- For Teachers
We all know that there are plenty of term paper sites out there. You practically trip over them. The first impulse is to warn students against using them and to worry that they will use them. When I'm teaching, I find a more useful impulse is to use them for my own ends.
If you go, for example, to Schoolsucks.com, you'll find plenty of student papers. Here are two ways to use a site like this:
- See if the paper topic you want to assign is heavily represented. If it is, you might consider changing it. For example, there are plenty of papers on King Lear, most of them fairly traditional: loyalty in; role of the fool; evolution of drama. Now those may all be important things for a writer to consider, but are there other ways to get your students to consider them without going the traditional route? Compare loyalty in Lear to something contemporary; perhaps there's a recent op. ed. on loyalty in the Bush administration you can assign your students to read?
- The papers in schoolsucks are usually typical student writing -- average at best and often not even that good. As such, they provide writing which can be used for any number of purposes: tutor training in a writing center; Writing Across the Curriculum workshops; instructor training on how to respond to writing for those new to teaching; and my favorite, coaching students on being peer reviewers for one another.
- Find an essay that you want to work from, one which, based on your knowledge of your students, matches or falls a bit below the writing you're seeing.
- Take a portion of the essay and share it. In a face-to-face class, I like to print the essay on blank transparency sheet so I can project it on a whiteboard. In an online class, I post the portion to a discussion board or distribute it via email or might use a blog.
- Tell students that the writing comes from a student, but not anyone in the class. Don't say where it's from yet. A simple, "here's some student writing from another class, what do you notice about it?" will usually begin to elicit a range of comments. Some will be on grammar and punctuation of course, but many will be about how something in the writing is or is not working. Students will point out where writing became vague or confusing or hard to follow.
- You'll be surprised --and your students will be pleasantly surprised-- by how astute their insights can be. Make note of the good comments coming in from the students, how well they can describe a piece of writing's strengths and weaknesses.
- Ask the students to revise the piece for the larger order concerns the class has identified -- what would you do differently. In a F2F this is where the white board is useful. Students can come up to the front and line edit --crosswords out, insert new sentences between the lines, write on the side. Or they can be asked to make suggestions.
You also show your students that the writing at those sites isn't very good.
But mainly, you can point out to your students that they are good readers, and that they know how to analyze writing and how to recommend useful changes for a writer or how to make them directly (for their own writing). Students often don't know they have these abilities, just as they don't often think that you have the ability to find scammed papers. You get a lot of useful lessons taught from going to a term paper mill first and turning these sites into something that you can use.