Sparknotes: Good or Evil?Wednesday, March 07, 2012 By Ashley Zamichieli
Sparknotes is famous for assisting students in decoding some of literature's hardest novels and short stories. However, Sparknotes is also known to give only a general synopsis of literature's finest works. This website strikes controversy among students and teachers alike. The question is, what are the pros and cons of Sparknotes? Let’s face it, much of the material read in English classes doesn’t always make sense, or it is difficult to understand. From a positive perspective, Sparknotes helps students understand that big picture and answer comprehension questions. “When I don’t fully understand a paragraph or chapter in a story, I use Sparknotes. It helps me get a better idea of what took place, and makes what I am reading much more clear,” stated Gabby Koehnlein. Sparknotes is also deemed helpful by teachers. “These sites include more information than just chapter summaries--the discussions of theme, characterization, significant quotes, and other resources can help students prepare for essay exams or generate ideas for creative projects,” states English instructor, Mrs. Mack. For example, when students have an upcoming test, they can just skim through the chapter summaries on Sparknotes and remember the big picture. Oops, did I say the big picture? Well, that is exactly why teachers despise Sparknotes, because it only gives you a brief outline. Teachers want students to read and analyze all of the details so that they can appreciate what the author is saying, and why his/her book was published. No, teachers are not just forcing people to read pointless books; they actually want their kids to understand each novel and its significance. While Sparknotes provides a summary for students, teachers fear the worst: that individuals will use the website as if it were a book. “Sparknotes can be a tool to help with comprehension and understanding, but in no way, shape, or form should it replace reading a book. Sparknotes should be seen as an additional resource, not a replacement for reading a novel,” reflected Mrs. Bausher. Another negative aspect is that, “Sparknotes is mostly responsible for those tedious, nit picky, specific quizzes that teachers give, that students complain about,” states Mrs. Howsare. Brief summaries have warranted detailed assessments as a measure of which students actually read the material. “If all students used Sparknotes as a supplementary source, as I assume it was intended, I would be a happy, non-bitter teacher!” remarked Mrs. Howsare. “Sparknotes can be a good resource, if students do not understand the material that they have read . Instead, it has become the primary source of reading for [many] students. Sparknotes makes it too easy for students NOT to read the book.” Although it may be easier to see the cons of Sparknotes, students should remember that Sparknotes can actually be a good way to help recap and comprehend the material. This device should be utilized in a constructive manner that doesn’t eliminate actual reading, but assists comprehension so that in-class discussions can be more productive.