high school practicum: plagiarism


One of many cool things about my high school practicum was discovering the diversity in opportunities to collaborate.  Rather than working primarily with English and history students, I helped provide information literacy skills to classes in music, biology, and earth science.  I was particularly astonished when one teacher approached me about giving her students a rundown on plagiarism, because this instructor teaches health.

She explained that, no matter how stern she is about it, her students refuse to adequately cite their work.  As I thought about the idea, it made a whole lot of sense: her classes often complete projects that involve a lot of information, such as brochures and short books.  Teaching them how to properly attribute the content they include is imperative, because we know that very little of the information in the product is the intellectual property of the student.  That is, they didn’t come up with any of that material on their own.

So, with the indispensable assistance of my peers and colleagues on Facebook, I created a brief lesson for her two classes, health and parenting.

I call this lesson, “Do I have to cite it?”

Clever, I know.

I started by making approximately thirty index cards with various sources of information:

I handed them out to the students, and asked them to tape the cards to appropriate half of the white board.  One side was labeled yes, while the other was labeled no.

A few of the cards were tricksters, because I wanted to make sure we discussed things that are not okay to use at all (whether you cite or not), but that some students actually do:

Once everyone had hung their cards, we discussed each source.  I asked students if it was properly categorized, then had them justify it.  It was a little shaky at first, but they got the hang of the citation game after a few cards.  I got the repetition in, but tried to make the cards slightly amusing to keep the students interested.  One of the cards read, “that sweet Lady Gaga tune you used to jazz up your PowerPoint slideshow.”

I devised the index cards to reflect plagiarism issues that I wanted to discuss.  As the students justified each source, we talked about common knowledge, public domain, informal communication (conversations, emails, etc.), paraphrasing, self-plagiarism, and much more.

In addition to the activity, I provided students with a handout that they could use for reference.  In case you couldn’t tell, a lot of my aesthetic design juices went into the handout, which hopefully explains the, uh, homeliness of the activity.

If you dig the handout, feel free to check out the plagiarism handout PDF.  If you can’t make color copies, it worked best for me by printing one color copy and photocopying the rest.  It was much easier to read than printing a master in grayscale.

For this lesson, I got most of the information from the Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University.  I was turned on to this resource by the director of the Writing Center at my undergrad, where I was a tutor.  If I may be so bold, this is one of the greatest resources in the entire history of mankind.  It’s loaded with information, including up-to-date guidelines for MLA and APA citation formats… and it’s free.  Thank you, OWL, for being so darn awesome.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
If, for some strange reason, you decide that you like my idea, please take it, use it, modify it, share it, and/or enjoy it.  Feel free to pass the handout along, but, please, keep my attribution on it.  I mean, that thing took me a long time to come up with.  Besides, I’m pretty sure that taking credit for a handout on plagiarism yields twice as much bad karma.


2 Responses to “high school practicum: plagiarism”

  1. 1 Pete

    Would have been funnier if you didn’t cite your source. Oh well.

  2. 2 Erin

    Great lesson! I am glad teachers are trying to stress citations more in high school. I see a lot of freshmen in instruction sessions who have no idea what to cite or how to do it. And your handout is fabulous! Great job, Karen :)

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