Sophomore Presentation judge Jane Bauman hands sophomore Theo Kaufman his honorable mention certificate.

Sophomore Project less restrictive; paper no longer requirement

Ethan Hockridge
Sophomore Presentation judge Jane Bauman hands sophomore Theo Kaufman his honorable mention certificate, as the other judges, Sue Nellis and Glenn Mangold, look on.

The Sophomore Project was dramatically changed this year, as students no longer had to do both a paper and a presentation, and had a freer choice of topics.

Last year the sophomores were required to write an 8-12 page paper, in addition to preparing a 5-7 minute PowerPoint presentation.

English teacher Patricia Fels, organizer of the project, said the change was because a college-level paper was too hard for the sophomores to write.

“They are better served by writing lengthy paragraphs,” she said.

Fels said the reason a paper of that length was assigned in sophomore year was to teach research-paper skills.

Those skills, including in-text citations, will now be taught in both AP and regular junior English in a position paper assignment.

The sophomores had their choice of topic for the project.
(Graphic by Ulises Barajas)
The sophomores had their choice of topic for the project.

Many sophomores thought the change was a bonus.  

“It was super nice not having to write an 8-12 page paper,” sophomore Harkirat Lally said.

In addition to no paper, students also had a free choice of topics for their project.

Last year’s sophomores were required to read a biography on a non-American over the summer.

They then picked a supporting character to do their project on.

But Fels said the students began to complain that they wanted to do their project on something that they were interested in.

“The way the assignment was framed made it impossible for the students to choose their own topics,” Fels said.

Because of the complaints, Fels and sophomore World Cultures teacher Bruce Baird decided to allow free choice of topics.

Baird is also a part of the project because he teaches sophomore history.

“The students worked on choosing a topic, finding a focus, then figuring out a topic that they could research, including an interview,” Fels said.

The project was much less restrictive, but that posed another problem for many of the sophomores.

“There were a lot of things that I wanted to do, so it was hard for a while to pick a topic,” sophomore Nina Dym said. 

Other students believed that the project was disorganized.

Students said dates and assignments were confusing.

But Fels said she received fewer complaints from sophomores than last year.

Even though many aspects of the project were changed, the presentation aspect stayed the same. Like last year, sophomores had 5-7 minutes to explain the concept that they researched.

Even though she liked the results, Fels said she’s changing the project yet again next year. 

She and Brooke Wells, head of high school, will be in charge in 2016-17, since Wells is teaching one section of sophomore English next year.

The reformed project will consist of two general topics, each of which will have many specific sub-topics for the students to pick from. 

The topics will be announced early in September, Fels said.

Once again the sophomores will be responsible for only the oral presentation, Fels said. However, they will be writing about their topics throughout the year.

—By Jack Christian

Find out which sophomores finished in the top 3. 

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