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Plagiarism and Paraphrasing Lesson

Research skills can be tricky to teach, especially to younger students.

No research skill is more tricky than avoiding plagiarism by paraphrasing and citing your sources. Our final unit is under the transdiciplinary theme of Sharing the Planet. Our students choose a plant or animal to research and they write a report about their species. We look at many research skills, from finding reliable sources and creative commons images to taking and organising notes.

With my grade 2 students, I managed to put together a successful series of lessons to introduce the idea of plagiarism and how to avoid it.

I wanted to share it here, so that other teachers can get an idea of how they might tackle this topic with their students, and also because it relates to my Unit Plan for COETAIL.


Plagiarism, Paraphrasing and Citation – Grade 2 Sharing the Planet

Lesson #1 ­ Plagiarism

  • The Teacher­ would prepare for the lesson by taking a student’s recently completed published piece that the class would recognise. The Teacher would then put his/her name on the piece or copy it to try and pull it off as their own. (This would work best with a published book or story.)
  • The Teacher would begin the class by telling the students that while they were writing their story, he/she was also writing his/her own story too. And ask if they would like to hear it.
  • The Teacher would begin reading the ‘plagiarised’ story and hopefully the students would begin reacting to the fact that the story didn’t belong to the Teacher.
  • When the Teacher is satisfied with the protests he/she will strop reading and lead the students in a conversation about what happened and what they were thinking or feeling, (especially the student whose work was used).
  • Through the discussion, the students would hopefully come up with the words not yours, stealing, lying, property, angry, upset, sad, hurt.
  • The Teacher would then introduce the word Plagiarism and show the  BrainPop video about  Plagiarism.
  • After watching the video and discussing the definition of plagiarism, the Teacher might then choose to read their school’s policy on plagiarism, and read out a couple hypothetical scenarios involving plagiarism to discuss as a class.
  • The Teacher would divide the students into small groups and hand each group scenario, (See Appendix A ­ from  Common Sense Media‘s  Whose is it,  anyway? lesson.)
  • In groups the students would practice applying what they learned by deciding if their scenario qualifies as plagiarism or not and, if it is, come up with an alternate solution or ending for each situation or problem. (The Teacher could also infuse some drama into this lesson by having each group act out their scenario as written and then, ‘rewind’ the situation and act out their alternate ending in which the situation would no longer qualify as plagiarism.)
  • The Teacher brings the students together to share their scenarios.
  • The lesson would end with students reflecting, either orally or written, their understanding of plagiarism. They may choose to use the following sentence starter: Plagiarism is when..

Lesson #2 ­ Paraphrasing and Citing Sources

  • The Teacher would ask the students to reiterate what they learned about plagiarism.
  • He/She would ask what the students remember as the two ways that plagiarism can be avoided when doing research. And hopefully the students will remember paraphrasing, (or using your own words), and citing your sources, (or saying where you found that information).
  • Watch the BrainPop video on  Paraphrasing and talk about it with students afterwards. Make a class list of paraphrasing tips.
  • As a class examine a couple of resources about Orangutans (or other animal / plant), both print and digital and talk about how we should go about citing those resources, using what they have learned from the two BrainPop videos they have watched.
  • Agree as a class on some logical way to help their readers know where they got their information, and record it on a class list of citing sources agreements.
  • Using the example of the Orangutans, let the students know that they are going to make a class ‘report’, (or whatever summative assessment the grade teachers have agreed upon beforehand, ex. report, wiki, poster, student choice, etc.), to help them practice the process of gathering information.
  • Using one of the guided inquiry questions that was predetermined by the class, (ex. what do they eat?), the Teacher would begin modelling using a variety of non-fiction resources to find information relevant to the question and using the class tips for paraphrasing and citing sources.
  • The Teacher would then divide the students into pairs and assign each group one of the class inquiry questions, along with a variety of resources. The students would practice using the resources and class generated tips to paraphrase appropriate information and cite their sources.
  • After a predetermined amount of time, the class would come together and share their research.
  • The Teacher would then help the class logically assemble their research into the desired format for whichever form of presentation was decided upon.
  • The class would then reflect upon what they learned either orally or written. They may choose to use the following sentence starter: You can avoid plagiarism by…

Assessments for Learning

  • Students will use their class generated tip lists for paraphrasing and citing sources.
  • Students will refer to their unit rubric which they helped create at the beginning of the unit.

Accommodations/Special Needs:

  • Provide research material from a variety of media, (books, magazines, videos, interactive online resources, etc.) and reading levels.
  • Offer students a variety of opportunities to express themselves, whole class discussions, small group, partner work, writing, speaking, acting.
  • Take note of children who have misconceptions, (example: thinks putting something in their own words means changing the meaning of the information), and address these misconceptions immediately.
  • Any other accommodations necessary based on the needs of the students in the class.

Resources / Materials

  • Piece of published student work
  • Projector and internet access for BrainPop videos
  • Plagiarism Scenarios, like the one pictured below
  • Plant / Animal resources of various types and reading levels


Tech Goals for 2013-2014

After two COETAIL courses, I felt it was time to come up with some tech goals for myself and my students for the upcoming school year.

This is what I’ve come up with:

Tech Goals for Me Tech Goals for my students
  • Intro laptops early
  • Have a central location for online resources accessible to parents and students
  • Survey parents about easiest way to contact them and share information
  • Have a consistent blogging schedule (once a week or 10 minutes at the end of the school day.)
  • Make blog posts useful to myself / parents
  • Educate parents about blog posts and the kind of information they can find there
  • Give students plenty of opportunities to click around and explore
  • Set up a class Google Drive where students can store their work in a central location to make it easier for them and myself
  • Know how to treat hardware (laptops)
  • Know basic vocabulary (click / double click / online / desktop / etc.)
  • Know basic search skills to find answers to questions
  • Know the difference between storing something online (accessible from anywhere) vs. storing something in one place (desktop / USB stick, etc.)
  • Feel comfortable knowing when and how to use the laptop
  • Feel comfortable exploring new applications / websites
  • Feel comfortable asking each other for help when stuck / unsure

What I realized after last school year is that I kind of expect students to just know how to use the laptops and navigate applications, web browsers and sites. Some students had prior knowledge in managing macbooks, but others had no clue.

My plan is to take my time introducing the macbooks to the students, and combine direct instruction with time to play and experiment. The students will hopefully gain confidence in taking risks and solving problems when faced with technology.

Looking forward to authentic use of technology in my classroom this year.

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DIY and Inquiry

One thing I’m really interested in is the idea of Makerspaces.

In an age of consumerism, I like people realizing the value of making or creating something for themselves.

A couple summers ago I got frustrated with the fact that I didn’t know how to make anything. I remembered how I liked to draw when I was a kid, so I bought a Bamboo Tablet and started playing around with drawing. I got really into it and drew my own ‘Infographic’ in lieu of sending home a lengthy letter to introduce my PE program to students and parent.

Lower School PE Infographic

Lower School PE Infographic

Shortly after that I decided I wanted to learn how to knit. Winters in Finland are very cold and I wanted to challenge myself to knit my own accessories. I taught myself using videos from YouTube and KnittingHelp. I also followed several knitting blogs and joined Ravelry, a social network especially for knitters.

This year I feel like I see inquiry in a new light. Inspired by my colleagues, I’ve been allowing my students to investigate topics that interest them, but always within our unit themes. My second graders become enthusiastic and motivated when given this opportunity for ‘personal inquiry’. They beg for more time dedicated to ‘PI’ in our busy schedule and amaze me with their independence and self-direction.

After a conversation with another colleague, I thought, ‘Is it truly personal inquiry if I restrict my students to inquiring within the confines of our unit?’

How much of what my students make or create is their choice? How often do they get to decide what they learn?

How much of what they learn or make is dictated by me?

This may not be the answer, but I was nonetheless thrilled when one of my colleagues introduced me to DIY, an online community for kids that encourages them to make things.

From the DIY website:

DIY is a community where young people become Makers. They discover new Skills, make projects in the real world, and share their work online to inspire and learn from each other. The big idea is that anyone can become anything just by trying – we all learn by doing. Our company and our community strive to make it easier for Makers to build confidence in their own creativity.

Not sure how I plan to use this in my class yet. I like the amount of choice and the freedom to inquire. And I like the idea of kids learning something because it interests them. I’m not 100% convinced about the extrinsic motivation factor, (badges), despite the research out there about the power of gaming elements in real life, (like earning badges and leveling up).

What do your students make?

What do you make?

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Messing Around

At the Google Apps for Education Summit (GAFE) I was lucky enough to attend several of Jim Sill‘s workshops.  Sill introduced me to the Google Art Project, showed me the simplicity of the YouTube Video Editor, and demonstrated the endless possibilities for authentic collaboration on Google Maps.

Now the GAFE conference is all about tools.  The presenters were just sharing google web tools and their potential uses for the classroom.

Jim Sill is a dynamic presenter and you only have to look back at the twitter history from the conference to see that I was not the only one raving about his many presentations. (All of which he has up on the resources page of his blog.)

Throughout the conference one thing was nagging at me.  I slowly realized that during the presentations I attended I found myself missing a lot of what the the presenter was demonstrating because I was absorbed in messing around with the tool.

After a while I even found myself wishing that the presenters would change formats.  Instead of diving into the presentation, what if the presenter said, “Let’s explore (insert name of tool here).  Open it up and mess around for about 10 minutes.  What do you notice? Talk with the people around you if you want. What can you discover?” I felt like, if I just had 10 minutes to mess around with the tool and get it out of my system, I’d be more focused on the rest of the presentation and more open to deepening my understanding of the tool and it’s possibilites.

Once I had this realisation, a second thought hit me: Wait a minute, don’t I present new tools and skills to my students the same way as these conference presenters?

No wonder half my students get frustrated with bordom or feel lost when I introduce something new on our laptops.  I’ve never handed out the computers to my second graders and said, “Just click around a bit. See what you can discover. Share with each other, walk around to see what others are doing.”  I’ve never given them time to mess around and get a feel for a program, website, or just the machines themselves.

Instead I’ve been doing exactly what many of these presenters did. Because of time constraints, the conference format, and the pressure to fit in as much as possible in a short tim: coupled with this sensation we have that if we are not Teaching something, we’re not doing our jobs.  But just look at the learning that happens when we stop Teaching. (‘Teaching’ with a capital ‘T’ refers to being the center of attention, the one talking, the one giving direction, etc.) When we stop Teaching, our students are more apt to discover things for themselves, or work with others to make discoveries. They will help and teach each other, most likely leading to more enduring understandings of what they are learning.

Next time I have the chance I will throw out the step by step instructions, the everyone working at the same pace to learn a new skill or learn about a new tool.  I will let them inquire. Write their own steps and work at their own pace, like I do in other areas of instruction. Why, in my mind, did inquiry not apply to the technology I put in the hands of my second graders? It does now.

What about you – do you Teach or present when demonstrating a new skill or tool? Or do you leave room for inquiry, exploration, and messing around to facilitate new learning?