“We’ve never done a Works Cited Page before.”
I get this all the time from my students. Of course, it’s not true. I can check with the freshman English teacher next door, who can confirm that, yes, a Works Cited page is something they did indeed manage to fit in last year. And if not completely sure when students start to do Works Cited pages, but it’s a safe bet that they’ve been doing them for a few years at least.
Call me an optimist, but I think the reason they say they haven’t done one is that they actually may not remember doing one. We don’t ask them to do it all that often, and while it’s an important part of academic writing, it may not seem like part of the paper to them. Furthermore, it’s not something they do outside of class in their daily lives. There isn’t a Works Cited game for the XBox. No one is a successful YouTuber because all they talk about is Works Cited pages. It’s just not part of their everyday discourse.
However, it is important to do one, and more importantly to understand why one is important. Our students live in a sharing culture where it is difficult to know where ideas originated from, and who says it best is valued more than who says it first.
So here are some tips for teaching the Works Cited page.
Do the Works Cited page first
Most of us do the Works Cited page after the paper is completed. However, a good tip is to do it right after the students have found their sources and before they start writing their paper. This is advantageous for a couple of reasons:
- It emphasizes the need for one and decreases the likelihood that students will hand in a paper without one.
- It allows you to check their sources to make sure they actually exist and that the hyperlinks lead to sources that have credible information.
- Works Cited pages are a pain to grade, and it’s a lot easier to grade them as a separate piece instead of part of the whole paper when you have to manage a whole lot more when grading.
This doesn’t mean that students can’t add more sources as they write their paper. It just means they have a head start on it. And if they do add sources, they are likely to add them correctly.
Be Forgiving of Mistakes
I did a year’s worth of graduate-level English classes a few years ago and did a fair number of Works Cited pages as a result. I never got one completely right and lost points as a result. This was eye-opening for me. The Works Cited page is all about following directions, and yet I could never nail it. Be forgiving of students who make minor errors. Some people aren’t very detail-oriented.
They Don’t Know It All
It’s important that students understand that kids aren’t considered experts in much, and that’s why they need to do research and find information from people that do know something. Make sure students understand what a Works Cited page is for. Not only does it indicate where you got your information, it also reinforces that you backed up your information with expert research.
No Works Cited?
I don’t accept papers without Works Cited pages. I don’t give them a zero, but I refuse to grade a paper that doesn’t have one. (Eventually, this would turn into a zero.) If you ask them to hand in their Works Cited page first, that will decrease the number of papers missing it.
A Handy Visual Guide
I created this handy visual guide to help students create a Works Cited page. We live in a visual culture, and this has helped students understand how a proper Works Cited Page is constructed without just handing them examples. I’ve covered all of the formatting mistakes that my students make. I’ve also included teaching tips and the visual guide as a poster you can print and hang in your room for a daily visual reference. And if you’d like one for the APA Reference Page, I have one for that too. You also might be interested in my other visual guides – head to my store to check them out.
I know you’re the kind of teacher that makes their classroom a fun, engaging learning environment. I have a series of lessons done as comics that address various ELA topics like grammar, poetry, editing, and Shakespeare, all of which will make your students glad they came to class that day. All the fun is there for you, and your kids will love studying any of these topics because they’ll get a new comic every day! Please check out my resources and let the learning begin!