Friday, January 30, 2015

Review What You've Learned!

Today I saw a post that bothered me. A lot. It regarded a kid, with aspergers, having to write something akin to a book report. Remember those? Book reports? Yeah, those wonderful babies. You read a book and then they want you to write something about it. You know they've read the book, why do they need you to tell them about it? Or worse, why do they need 20+ of you to tell them about it? It seems so weird. It is a very strange thing to write a book report. Anyway, it seems he got into a place where he just rewrote the story. I don't have all the details, I don't know if the entire story was rewritten or just a part.

I remember these things. I probably did a lot of extras for extra credit. However, what I remember most about them was the fine balance between writing exactly what was written in the book, and yet be able to tell something about it. I don't remember if I ever got in trouble for writing exactly what the book said, or if we were told loud and clear up front that we shouldn't do that. When I think of doing book reports, I remember wanting to write exactly what the book said, more or less. This was a tough one! 

At some point I must have learned what the teachers wanted to hear, because I did well in school, including book reports. But I'm telling you the pull to write down pretty much exactly the book's contents was a struggle. I guess what I probably did was become an expert in synonyms. I pretty much wrote what the story said, in my own words. Which is the point right? Is that really the point of a book report? Wait, wait. Why are we doing this? I mean, I can see learning from what you read or something, but why do we have to retell the story? Anyway..

So I eventually learned what qualified. But I don't remember how I learned that. I also remembered that instead of just answering a question, I was supposed to repeat back the question in the answer. "Why did the chicken cross the road?" - "The chicken crossed the road because ...."
But being good at book reports was a fight against my own brain. I knew what I wanted to write, but I had to write what they wanted me to write. That was hard! I guess, in a way, I feel like I became good at pretending.

I think that this is common in girls with aspergers. Boys, however, seem to not want to "play the game" and they just are who they are. That means if the assignment is to do a book report and review what they've learned, they will write down, word for word, what the book says. That's not plagiarism, thats telling what happened. And copying word for word is telling what happened.

Maybe if we phrase the word differently. "Tell me the story, in your own words" might help. Or even changing the entire viewpoint of the question. "What did we learn in the story" might be a better way to get out of us what you're really asking. I mean, it really is a vague, confusing question. What on earth are you trying to get at by asking us to tell you what happened anyway? I mean, if you don't want us to copy word for word what the book says, don't ask us to tell you the story. Especially when we KNOW you know the story. Why are you asking us a stupid question like "what happened" when you KNOW what happened.

It completely defies logic. I don't blame the kid, I would likely have done much the same thing. My son has the same problem. Aspergers means that you know a lot about things, and you might be very eloquent in it, but at the same time, once you have your mind set on a certain way a story goes, its very difficult to twist the phrases any other way. Aspergers means being pretty direct, we say what we mean and we mean what we say (though often not like people take it!).

Anyway. This has been sitting as a draft for a long time, so I finally sat down and finished it and I'd like to knwo what you think. Do you know someone or are you someone who has a hard time changing the words in a story to write things like book reports? 

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