Are You Using ChatGPT?

When I first started reading about OpenAI ChatGPT, I knew it would have an impact on education and pedagogy.  Teachers of writing already have difficulty with plagiarism in the classroom, even when we teach using a writing process and evaluate students at every stage of the process.  There are always those few students who are savvy enough to “game” the system and turn in a plagiarized paper.

Now, we have to be mindful of those students who are playing with apps like ChatGPT,

Yet, I am fascinated by it!  And I am following educators like Alice Keeler and Matt Miller, who, by the way, is writing a book about using ChatGPT to come out toward the end of this month. And yes, I am playing with it as well.

Here are some things I have done with it:

  1. I entered a writing prompt into ChatGPT and produced a “model” paragraph. Using that paragraph, I showed students how to incorporate textual evidence to strengthen and support the argument.

2. I created a “kid-friendly” rubric for a recent writing assignment. I just had to tell it the assignment’s parameters and put it in a table format.

Criteria Excellent (4) Proficient (3) Developing (2) Emerging (1)
Relevance to the topic The paragraph is focused on the most important character relationship in the novel, and all details support the main idea. The paragraph mostly discusses the most important character relationship in the novel, but some details are unrelated or unclear. The paragraph mentions the most important character relationship in the novel, but the details are not well developed or organized. The paragraph is not focused on the most important character relationship in the novel, and the details do not support the main idea.
Accuracy of information All information is accurate, and sources are cited if needed. Most information is accurate, but there are some minor errors. Sources are cited if needed. Some information is inaccurate or unclear. Sources are not always cited when needed. Information is inaccurate and unreliable. Sources are not cited when needed.
Use of RACES strategy The paragraph demonstrates excellent use of the RACES strategy (Restate, Answer, Cite evidence, Explain, Summarize). The paragraph mostly follows the RACES strategy, but some parts are unclear or not well developed. The paragraph attempts to follow the RACES strategy, but some parts are missing or not well organized. The paragraph does not follow the RACES strategy, and the ideas are not well organized or explained.
Conventions and Mechanics (Spelling, Grammar, Punctuation, and Capitalization) The paragraph is free of errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and capitalization. The paragraph has a few errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, or capitalization, but they do not distract from the overall meaning. The paragraph has several errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, or capitalization, which may affect the meaning. The paragraph has many errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, or capitalization, which make it difficult to understand.

3. When grading a recent writing assignment, I noticed that students wrote rather shallow responses.  I asked ChatGPT to identify some challenges and misconceptions students might have when addressing the prompt.

what are some of the misconceptions and challenges that students may face when writing about character relationships in novels? How can these be addressed during instruction?

There are several misconceptions and challenges that students may face when writing about character relationships in novels. These include:

  1. Limited understanding of character development: Students may struggle to analyze the development of characters over time and may focus solely on surface-level descriptions of characters.
  2. Over-reliance on plot summary: Students may provide a plot summary instead of a detailed analysis of character relationships, leading to a lack of depth in their writing.
  3. Lack of attention to textual evidence: Students may fail to provide sufficient textual evidence to support their claims about character relationships.
  4. Difficulty identifying themes: Students may struggle to identify overarching themes within the novel that inform the development of character relationships.

To address these challenges during instruction, teachers can:

  1. Model effective analysis: Teachers can model effective analysis of character relationships, highlighting how to identify and track changes in character development over the course of the novel.
  2. Provide guided practice: Teachers can provide guided practice, asking students to work in pairs or small groups to analyze specific character relationships and providing feedback and support as needed.
  3. Use mentor texts: Teachers can use mentor texts to demonstrate effective analysis of character relationships, providing students with examples to emulate in their own writing.
  4. Teach close reading skills: Teachers can teach close reading skills, emphasizing the importance of identifying and analyzing textual evidence to support claims about character relationships.
  5. Encourage peer review: Teachers can encourage peer review, asking students to provide feedback on each other’s writing to identify areas for improvement and reinforce effective analysis techniques.

I was rather surprised with the “insights” that came up, especially with the last item in my list above. I am such a “hands-on” reader that I print out the results to study as I prepare my lessons for the coming week.

When I asked ChatGPT for passages from the novels we are reading to teach themes, I did not get as good results: it gave me sentences that illustrate the presence of the themes along with a list of key themes (which is useful!).

The Maze Runner is a science fiction novel by James Dashner, published in 2009. The novel explores several themes, including survival, friendship, sacrifice, power, and control. Here are some passages that deal with these themes:

  1. Survival: “Survival was the bottom line, and anything else was a luxury that couldn’t be afforded. They had to keep moving forward, even if it meant leaving people behind.” (Chapter 8)
  2. Friendship: “They’d been through too much together to turn on each other now. They were a team, and they’d stick together, no matter what.” (Chapter 16)
  3. Sacrifice: “The only way out of the Glade was through the Maze, and the only way through the Maze was by running it. But running the Maze was a dangerous business, and not everyone who went in came out alive.” (Chapter 2)
  4. Power: “Gally always had a way of making things sound right, no matter how wrong they actually were. He had a power over the other boys, a charisma that Thomas couldn’t understand.” (Chapter 9)
  5. Control: “Thomas knew he was different, that he had something special that the others didn’t. But he also knew that the Creators had control over his life, and that there was nothing he could do about it.” (Chapter 3)

These passages highlight the major themes of The Maze Runner and demonstrate how the characters navigate these themes in their struggle to survive and escape the mysterious Glade.

I see ChatGPT as a kind of glorified search engine. Instead of a list of websites, ChatGPT gives the user ideas in sentences and paragraphs.  It consolidates ideas for me.

I will continue to keep my eyes on this innovation.  I do forsee some problems and challenges, but I also see some possibilities.

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