SHHHHH: The blog post you don’t want your students to see

The movie Three O’clock High is one of the most underestimated high school films of all time. In this scene the bully punks his young victim into helping the bully cheat on a test.

Cheating drives teachers crazy. The official reasons are:

We want kids to be honest,

We want to protect the sanctity of our grades: one year at our school a large group of Honors-level students wanted to stand-up and walk out of the ceremony when the Valedictorian gave his speech because they felt he had successfully cheated his way to the top.

We want to reward hard work instead of laziness.

The state testing requires a cheat-free environment.

Blah…blah…blah

The real reason why teachers hate cheating is that we hate when a kid tricks us, or gets one over on us. We want to be the wise man on the mountain and mountain men don’t get punk’d.  (Or so we think)

I know that the real way to keep students from cheating is to not give tests or quizzes. That we are supposed to make our learning environment 100% PBL (Project Based Learning); IBL (Inquiry Based Learning) our students are writing papers, and essays, and performing plays, and giving speeches etc…

Wow that was such a nice thought I got carried all the way to Nirvana.

nirvana one

Not that Nirvana- although… that Nirvana is kinda awesome

But back in the real world of “21st” century learning we still find ourselves giving tests and quizzes.  Heck just look a  few of these great cheating videos (Four of hundreds) on how to get away with cheating on a test.

Here are a few of my favorites:

BlueTooth

Water Bottle (I’ve seen other versions of this that use the backside of the label)

Pencil

Eraser

Dear Gollum!  How can I possibly stop such a run-away problem Mr. T.? Well through the power of the Internet I’m going to share with you over twenty steps you can take to minimize cheating in your room.  It’s weird, but the majority of the students will appreciate these because everyone hates when they worked hard and someone shows up and just cheats their way to the top.

barry bonds

It wasn’t the PEDs it was that giant elbow pad with the illegal hinge that bothered me.

Many of these you only have to do once in order to get students to know you are serious, and I’m not expecting you to do all of these every time you give a quiz or test.

  1. You must move around the room. You cannot just hang out behind your desk on the computer or even at the podium. Walk rows. Hang out in the back. Look at open backpacks etc…
  2. Have students move to a different seat before taking exam. Put the front row kids in the back and vice versa- that way it will break up the routine that encourages the perception of a regular spot for cheating.
  3. Have students spread seats apart or move students so there is more space.
  4. Have students close backpacks or put them in the front of the room. (I think closing them is good enough)
  5. Have students remove jackets. Jackets make it REALLY easy to cheat. You can just put a cheat sheet on the inside lapel of a jacket and lean forward- the jacket poofs out and you can see the sheet. When the teacher comes by you just lean back and BOOM cheat sheet gone.
  6. Have students roll up sleeves. Cheat sheets and other devices are easily stored up a sleeve. There are new watches out/coming out what information can be sent to the watch. I have students show me their watch faces.
  7. Make sure no one is wearing a hat. Hat and long hair are easy cheating aids.
  8. I’ve seen students put a cheat sheet onto the inside-bottom of their slip on shoes or sandals. Then they cross their legs and flex their foot to see the cheat-sheet. When you walk up they put their feet on the ground.
  9. I’ve seen students use holes in their jeans to their advantage. Write the formula on their skin where their pants cover, then when you are not looking they will move the hole in their pants over the writing and then move it back.
  10. Have students hold up hands and spread fingers. I’ve seen teachers check students’ hands, but did you know you can write answers between your fingers? Then when you show your palm nothing is there, but move the fingers individually and you can see formulas, spelling words etc…
  11. Put away ALL papers. We had a student write down answers on a scrap sheet of paper and then he used a black light pen to show up the writing. Give students scratch paper from your room instead of using their own.
  12. Make sure each student turns in a test and answer sheet individually so the test doesn’t leave the room.  This is a biggie of course.
  13. Copy the test on two different colors of paper. You made only one test and one answer key, but they don’t know that.
  14. Tell students that if they are going to stretch their neck or move their head they must close their eyes first. I remind them of this before every test.
  15. Do not allow students to hold the Scantron up or put it near the end of the desk.
  16. Do not allow students to tap or fake cough or use hand signals (don’t say this, but just watch for it. )
  17. When you are helping one student with a problem on the test don’t turn your back to the rest of the room. Randomly look up and around while you are doing this.
  18. Do not allow the student to say the test question number or test question item out loud. Other students will get the idea that there is something tricky or confusing about that question. Just have the student point to the question.
  19. If students are grading quizzes in class make sure that when you have them exchange papers that they don’t exchange pens. Also make sure that any lines that were left blank are filled in with a dark line BEFORE you start grading the exam in class. No blank lines. Do NOT have the students fill in the correct answer because if they have the same color of pen they will argue that they had already put the answer there.
  20. Students think that they can game the Scantron. Nothing works. I even bought an issue of the hacker magazine 2600 one time because it had an article on how to cheat the Scantron machine with Chapstick. If you ever feel a line of Chapstick or Vaseline down the grading part of the Scantron kids are trying to cheat.
  21. Have students write down: Cheating is wrong and I promise not to cheat in any way whatsoever on this test and then date and sign it before starting a test. Just put it on top of the quiz or Scantron. It’s been proven to help decrease the incidents of cheating.

A few comments about written work such as an essay.

1. An old and common tactic for a kid who doesn’t have enough time to write a whole paper or finish the Works Cited section is the following: They staple the whole thing together including a blank page. Then they rip the last page off of the staple and turn in what they did finish. Then they go home and print the unfinished part of their paper on the sheet of paper with the torn corner. The next day they try and turn that in by telling you it must have ripped off in their backpack. Don’t fall for it.

2. Students will also try and email a document with Gobbly-gook counting on your poor computer skills or the fact that it’s going from a Mac to a PC to explain why there is a string of unrecognizable characters on the page instead of an essay. If you are worried about this make your students save the work to PDF or upload the work to Google Docs and then share it with you.  Whenever I collect work I create one Google Docs with everyone’s name and then I let them have editing access to that Doc and I tell them to paste the share link to their doc onto the student name list doc. That way I don’t have 180+ emails or documents waiting in my Google Drive. Just one document with linked student names by period and their papers or projects.

If you are really interested in the topic of cheating and getting to the root of it philosophically, psychologically, and sociologically then I strongly recommend you buying:

Dan Ariely’s Book The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty.

The-Honest-Truth-About-Dishonesty

He will give you proven methods to help reduce cheating and other things that bother teachers in the classroom. It’s a great read. I don’t want to cheat him any money so I’m not going to go into specifics about what he wrote. You need to buy the book yourself or check it out at a local public library.

Good luck.

3 responses to “SHHHHH: The blog post you don’t want your students to see

  1. Some great ideas! I’ve found that if I simply seat all the kids facing away from me and tell them they are not allowed to look back at me or I will lower their grade, I can cut out any cheating. They never know when you are looking at them because they can’t see your eyes. Also, forget the multiple choice. Give them open-ended questions and then it becomes even harder to cheat.

  2. Janet: Funny Comment
    Tim: My class used to have steps/levels with my desk at the top. It made them so nervous to have me behind them… maybe I need to change my room around. Hmmmm. Podium Front/ Desk back.

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