On a teacher email list, someone recently proposed this hypothetical question, in connection with free or timed writing,
..Since we use proper nouns a lot in class, why cant we count them?…
The example given was a kid who wrote a list of twelve or fourteen names in English as part of the free write, thus inflating the word count.
But you know? We have to ask “who’s the boss”. Why is it that we are afraid to impose any rules on kids for this kind of thing? The common stuff that kids (a few of them) try to get away with year after year does not vary much at all. I’d be surprised if somebody came up with a really good “new one” to trick me on word count or something else, at this point.
It is easy to avoid “proper noun inflation”. Just tell them they can only use one proper noun in a row. Same thing with word repetition like “it is very, very, very, very big.” Honestly, I just look at my kids with “that look” and tell them “This is not my first year teaching, okay? You and I both know already what is kinda cheating. This isn’t for a grade, so don’t cheat yourself.”
This approach should also appeal to the “we’re not just teaching language here, we’re molding lives” crowd as well. If we spend so much time worrying about developing kids’ skills in guessing unknown language, making eye contact, or doing a whole bunch of other non-language, non-acquisition stuff that’s been talked about lately, then why in the world wouldn’t it be okay to have them think about “what is cheating?” and act on that on their own, to control their own “evil” impulses? (I can see the Guiding Question of the Day on the wall now…)