I admit, it has been a while since I have had an inspiring occasion to blog about. However, this changed last week upon my observation of a 4th grade class researching and writing about hurricanes.
For the most part, the students were actively engaged in their assignment-- to use a website to find information about a hurricane of their choice, and write a newspaper article about their findings. After circulating around the classroom for a while, I noticed that one particular student was having trouble extracting pertinent information from the website and writing up her own article. I gave her a few pointers and moved on to helping other students in the class.
After a while, I was circulating back around to her side of the room. I overheard the boy next to her say, "I know a trick! Let me show it to you!" Immediately, my interest was sparked. He proceeded to show her how to copy sentences from the website and paste it to her word document. The first thing that popped into my head at this moment was "RED FLAG! RED FLAG! HONOR CODE VIOLATION!" The little girl then did just what the boy had shown her. I decided that this would be the moment to intervene, but just how do you explain plagurism to a 4th grader?
At this point, I began talking to the two kids. I said to the boy that copy and pasting can be very helpful at certain times, but that we need to be very careful with how we use it. I then explained that when we find information from any source, we must always put it into our own words, or else it is like stealing. The two seemed to understand what I was trying to say, so I was satisfied. As soon as I finished my explanation of plagurism, I noticed the boy re-opening his word document and deleting the entire paragraph. It was clear that he had simply copy and pasted his information into a word document and then began playing computer games.
In a way, the children's clueless-ness was adorable. However, I was surprised that no one had ever explained the concept of plagurism to them before. This incident brought to my attention that students who are required to do any type of research, especially using technology, should be given a lesson on plagurism first.