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Thursday, 5 June 2014

Plagiarism...What do you do to stop it?

I have caught several students this year plagiarizing work for English.  From reading responses to essays to poetry - my Grade 9's seem to think that taking the easy way out and downloading their work is acceptable.

The first case came early in the year (around mid-October) with a reading response.  My English blocks are 70 minutes each day, so my Grade 9's start with 15 minutes of silent reading (to break up the time).  Every day, they are required to write a short response paragraph about what they read that day - connections, surprising parts, disappointing parts, explaining setting, characters, etc.  It is literally the easiest assignment I have given out.  All they have to do is tell me what they are thinking about their book.  I don't even mark for grammar and spelling - just ideas!

I take in the responses after every 5 classes to read and mark them.  I was reading one package of responses, and the student had simply copied the blurb off the back of 5 different books and submitted that as his response.  I had a meeting with him, his dad, and the vice principal, and gave him a "0" for the assignment.  Then I reminded the whole class that I was expecting their own thoughts and work for every assignment and we had a big discussion about plagiarism.  

The very next round of reading responses, I received 3 packages that had been plagiarized!  Thankfully not from the same student, but it was just after our class discussion.  I caught one because the wording was so formal, and the student is an English Language Learner who doesn't have that level of vocabulary.  I googled some phrases and it actually came from a website called "How to write a reading reponse."  These three students, as well, were brought in before the vice principal, and we had another class discussion. 

At the end of our Midsummer Night's Dream unit, I had two students hand in plagiarized theme essays, and today, as I was reading through some poetry portfolios, I caught a plagiarized sonnet.

The student's sonnet

Screenshot of the one I found online
I even had a student submit a poem that I shared in class as his own original work!

I don't know what bothers me more - that I seem to be wasting my breath talking to them about plagiarism, or that they think that they can pass it by without getting caught!

Each of the parents in these cases didn't seem too concerned about it during our discipline meetings, even with the students receiving zeros.  These students aren't even phased by receiving a zero!

I'm frustrated, and I'm wondering if you are experiencing this in your schools?  How have you dealt with plagiarism at the Middle School level?  How do you make the students get just how bad it is?  How do you make the parents understand just how damaging it is?

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