Wednesday, December 22, 2004

More and less interesting ways to use a "cheat sheet" during a supposedly memorized dialogue presentation

Had dialogue presentations in class today. (For the blissfully uninformed, this is where students write a dialogue, have me correct the grammar, memorize the corrected version, and present it in hopefully an entertaining fashion for their classmates who are themselves desperately trying to memorize their own dialogues before they have to present or who are relaxing after having presented their dialogues.) Noticed that some students (not all, not even most, I'm happy to say) felt the need to have the dialogue script nearby as they presented. Sometimes they actually used it (which resulted in my lowering their grade, since they were supposed to memorize the dialogue) and some, I think, just felt they needed to feel its aura near them as they presented.

Some students gave the script to someone sitting in the front row, so that person might hiss a key word at them if they forgot. Some students used the scripts as props, pretended they were newspapers or DMs (direct-mail advertising flyers). Some students propped the scripts up on the chalkboard, in full view of everyone (one pair was doing a good job of facing the audience when they spoke--except when they forgot what to day and had to turn around to look at their script). And one student spent a lot of time looking at her forearm--on which, as it turned out, her lines were written. It reminded me of a picture I once saw of the "cheating shirts" that civil examination candidates sometimes used to help them remember the Chinese classics. It also reminded me of the "cheat sheet" that I took to one of my comprehensive exams. We were allowed to bring in a "cheat sheet" so long as it was only one page (double-sided was OK). I managed to get my font size down to 7.5, with margins of 0.2 cm all around.


senioritis said...

Oh, Jon, what a great story! I've got about a million questions, but I'll limit myself to just one: the students knew you were lowering their grades for all these cheat sheets, right? I guess that's really two questions, because the implicit one is, they knew you knew, right?

Jonathan Benda said...

They knew that they were supposed to have the dialogue memorized and weren't allowed to take the script up with them. If they didn't look at the script (but just had it up there for 'moral support'), I didn't take off. But if they looked at it, I lowered their grade just as I would lower the grade of someone who obviously forgot his or her lines and stood there for a long time trying to remember.

This all reminds me, though, to reemphasize to them the importance of being "flexible" about their lines if they can't remember the exact words. Some students, instead of coming to a dead stop every time they forgot their lines, were able to improvise something. But some students weren't able to. (Actually, I empathize with those students--I'm pretty awful at thinking on my feet, too.)