Listen to Your Mother…I know I Did

My kids no longer want me to help them with homework. They think I help too much (their teachers might think that, too). I don’t feel that way, though. Most of our family’s homework time is spent relearning, discussing, and sometimes fixing homework. I want them to learn and to want to learn for themselves – isn’t that a skill I can help them with? I wonder about kids who don’t have teachers for parents – are they getting the most out of their home learning?

As frustrated as my kids get (with homework), I am reminded of my own days in middle school. I was lucky to have a great teacher as my mom. Although, at the time, I hated when she forced me to relearn, discuss, and fix my homework – the nerve of her! Here I am, becoming my mom – and I couldn’t be happier. She was doing the right thing – she was my real teacher, my best teacher.

There are many stories I can share about how I learned more from her than my actual teachers, but I will start with this one – I used it every year of my own teaching, because I treated my students as I would my own children – they deserved that.

 How to summarize without plagiarizing – Nancy Lange style

 Step 1- Read the text from which you’re getting your information.

Step 2- Read it again.

Step 3- Close the book (or exit out of and step away from device) and have a snack, get some exercise.

Step 4- From memory, write what you remember from your reading (dates don’t matter, only main idea, cause and effect, stuff worth knowing).

Step 5- Review, reflect, and revise your notes – partners are helpful.

Step 6- Throw it away! In class, we would have a paper shooting contest, or a paper airplane contest.

Step 7- The next day… rewrite your summary, revise, and feel confident that your words are yours (don’t forget to cite- seriously).

That’s it, it’s that easy- however, “how not to plagiarize” must be taught in school, by teachers, every year (probably every time they are summarizing others’ work). Pretend that the students did not learn that skill last year, last semester, last unit. Summarizing is a skill that needs practice and encouragement since there is so much informational text available at our fingertips.

Let’s help students learn this important skill- instead of trying to catch them plagiarizing. The ones you caught are the ones who weren’t taught – whose responsibility is that?

Here’s to you, Mom!!

6 thoughts on “Listen to Your Mother…I know I Did

  1. I hammer this into my students each year from the beginning. We do the same method if we take notes from the book, board, PPT, or website. They must close it up/out. I add an extra step where they can’t even have a pencil in their hands when the are reading. This is for 7th grade. If they could get this method sooner in elementary, by the time they reach middle school, we could work on search skills and other relevant forms of research as well as more in depth focus on content. I’m not an elementary teacher, so I’m not sure how feasible this is though.


  2. Eric, it is not only feasible, but necessary. All students are quite capable of learning this skill, as long as teachers keep modeling, reteaching, and practicing with students every year. Thanks for your input!


  3. This choked me up ( horrible grammar). Loved all the pictures Shane sent:). Thanks for sharing! Love you!

    Sent from my iPad



  4. Two things.
    1. Some kids are proud of their ability to memorize, and use this -to their detriment- when summarizing and paraphrasing. They need to know that including the things they remember verbatim is still quoting and needs to be clearly presented as such.
    2. blog more, ginnie


    1. Theo, two things:
      1. You are absolutely right – I’m hoping that through the 21st century learning focus of skill over content… commentary, critical thinking, and reflection will be more emphasized than just the facts.
      2. Done. Thanks for the encouragement.


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