Sparknotes are overused in High School

Many students use Sparknotes instead of reading assigned books

By Isaac Rosso Klakovich

With only a limited amount of time in the day, it is sometimes difficult for students to balance homework, extracurricular activities, and their social lives. To save time, some students use Sparknotes instead of actually reading the books they are assigned. Sparknotes gives students general information such as an overall plot summary and major themes, along with more specific information such as chapter summaries and important quotes. While Sparknotes might allow students to remember character names and major plot points, the only way students learn what their teacher wants them to learn is to read the book.

“If you’re not reading the book you’re not able to have really great conversations with your classmates,” stated English teacher Chad Lemons. “If you’re not looking closely at the language, how are you going to grow as a writer? That’s how we become better writers, by reading great works.”

Not only does not reading the assigned book harm students during in-class discussions and on tests, but it affects them as they continue their academic career. One of the best ways to become a better writer is to read other people’s writing, and that cannot be done through Sparknotes.

“Since pressure is put on the student to perform, most students resort to Sparknotes because it gives the student an accurate summary of the story without taking all the time to read it,” explained Junior Sam Billings.

The pressure put on students at East by their many rigorous classes makes them likely to use Sparknotes. In the spring, especially during sophomore year, a competition begins among students for who can take the most AP courses. Many students overload themselves with courses that they have next to no interest in. During the following year, they are forced to use websites like Sparknotes because they do not have the time to actually do their reading.

Many students use Sparknotes instead of reading assigned books
Many students use Sparknotes instead of reading assigned books

Students are not the only ones who should change their actions: teachers can also make changes that will limit the frequency with which their students use Sparknotes. If teachers give their students ample time to work on assignments and make sure that they are not assigning busywork, fewer students will feel the need to use Sparknotes. When teachers are only assigning reading for homework the students’ time isn’t being wasted and their homework is actually allowing them to progress as students.

“I can only speak to the English Department,” explained Mr. Lemons. “Most of the homework that we assign is reading and that is meaningful and that is good use of outside time”

While Sparknotes should not substitute reading, it is a resource that students can use as a supplement to clarify parts of the book they have read and don’t understand.

“If a student is having trouble understanding themes or backstory within certain passages, they can find great help in Sparknotes or other sources online,” said a Junior who wished to stay anonymous.

“I often use it as a refresher or to make the book a little bit more understandable. Also, if I finished a book a while ago and have a test, I like to use Sparknotes to make sure that I don’t forget any key things for the test,” explained another anonymous eleventh grade student.

When Sparknotes is used in these ways it can serve as a good tool for students and there is no reason for it to be discouraged. The problem is that most of the time Sparknotes is used as an alternative to reading, which not only takes away from the students productivity in that class, but their entire academic career. To allow students to get the most out of their education and not use Sparknotes it is imperative that students not stretch themselves too thin and that teachers assign a manageable workload of homework.

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