Whose Is It, Anyway? (3-5)

How can I show respect for people’s work?

Students learn that although the Internet makes it very easy, copying the work of others and presenting it as one’s own is called plagiarism. They also learn about circumstances in which it is permissible to use the work of others.

Download Lesson Materials

Students are first introduced to the feeling of having someone pretend to have written work they created. Then they judge whether or not different situations involving students and schoolwork are acceptable. Students are introduced to proper ways to cite people’s words and ideas from the Internet, including how to write a citation.

Students will be able to ...

  • define plagiarism and describe its consequences.
  • explain how giving credit is a sign of respect for people’s work.
  • articulate when it is acceptable to use people’s work, and how to write a citation.

Materials and Preparation

  • ‡Review the Time for Kids article, “One Small Step, One Great Man." Prepare to point out information on the webpage that students would need in order to create a citation for the article (Teach 2). 
  • ‡Copy the Okay or No Way! Student Handout, one for each student.

Teaching Plans


Warm-up (10 minutes)

EMPHASIZE to students that they are all creators. Ask them to think about times they recorded an idea they had – whether they wrote something down, uploaded it onto the Internet, took a picture or video, or made something for class. 

ASK: How did you show, or could show, that your idea belonged to you and not to someone else?
People often give themselves credit for their work by putting their names on what they create, showing when they created it, with whom, etc.

ASK: How would you feel if someone pretended that your work was theirs?
Students may describe feeling upset, sad, or cheated. Discuss why it's natural for people to want to be recognized and celebrated for their original ideas or efforts. 

teach 1

Is It Okay, or No Way? Part I (10 minutes)

ASK: Has anyone heard of the term “plagiarism” before?
Get a feel for students’ familiarity with plagiarism. They may have heard the word and know  that it’s bad, wrong, or that it has a negative connotation.

DEFINE the Key Vocabulary term plagiarism.

SHARE with students your school’s official policy on plagiarism and its consequences. If there is no official policy, explain how you handle plagiarism in your classroom. The following are talking points to help explain plagiarism.

  • Plagiarism is copying and pasting text, images, video, or anything that someone else created without giving credit. Plagiarism is cheating, and it’s against school rules.
  • If a teacher asks you to write a report or complete a project, the teacher expects you not to copy others’ work, whether it’s from a webpage or from your best friend. Even if you copy something into your own handwriting or retype it yourself, it’s still plagiarism.

Note: Copyright laws protect the ownership of authors’ written works, photos, drawings, videos, and other graphics by requiring that people who make copies do so only with the  permission of the owner. However, certain uses of such works for schoolwork is considered “fair use” and does not require copyright permission, only that credit or a citation be given.

Why is it important not to plagiarize?
Sample responses:

  • So you don’t get in trouble.
  • So you can give credit for others’ work and ideas

TELL students another reason it is important not to plagiarize is so that they show respect for work and ideas that others create.

DEFINE the Key Vocabulary term respect.

EXPLAIN to students that one way they can show respect is to give credit when they use other people’s work. And one way to give credit is by providing a citation.

DEFINE the Key Vocabulary term citation.

SHOW the following MLA style citation to students:

Keady, Cameron. “One Small Step, One Great Man.” Time for Kids. Time Inc., 27 Aug. 2012. Web. 07 Sep. 2012. <http://www.timeforkids.com/news/one-small-step-one-great-man/44396>.

PROJECT the online article to which the citation belongs (www.timeforkids.com/news/one-small-step-onegreat-man/44396).

INTRODUCE students to each component of the citation, and invite students to identify where each piece of information is found on the webpage. (Look at PDF for diagram identifying each component).

EMPHASIZE to students that they should include citations in a report, project, or presentation as a formal way to give credit to other people’s work they use. Citations also help others find the information that students have drawn from in their work. Citations are usually found in the footnotes or bibliography section of a report or book.

teach 2

Plagiarism vs. When It’s Fair to Copy (10 minutes)

DISTRIBUTE the Okay or No Way? Student Handout and instruct students to complete it with a partner.

INVITE students to share their answers. Use the following information to guide class discussion:

  • David’s homework: Email makes it easy for students to share their work. However, unless the teacher tells students to work together and turn in the same paper, she expects David’s work to be his own. Even though Justin gave David permission to copy his work, it is still plagiarism when you copy from someone else.
  • Manny’s paragraph: Copying someone else’s work from the Web in his own handwriting does not make it Manny’s work. This is plagiarism.
  • Samantha’s work: Using the exact words of someone else is plagiarism, even if you add your own topic sentence. Samantha should restate the passage in her own words, or she can use a quote from the author if she provides a citation.
  • Ming’s report: It is alright for Ming to use a drawing from a website for a school report because she gave credit to the illustrator. Ming should provide a citation for the photo at the end of her report.


Wrap-up (5 minutes)

You can use these questions to assess your students’ understanding of the lesson objectives. You may want to ask students to reflect in writing on one of the questions, using a journal or an online blog/wiki.

ASK: What is plagiarism?
Sample responses:

  • Copying someone else’s work and calling it your own.
  • Copying stuff from a website and saying you wrote it.

ASK: Why is it important to provide citations for the work you use?
Sample responses:

  • So you can avoid plagiarism.
  • To give credit to the person who made it.
  • So other people can find the sources you used.
  • Citing work shows respect for other people’s work.

ASK: When is it okay to use someone else’s words or ideas?
Sample responses:

  • When you use quotation marks around the words you use and give a citation.
  • When you use someone’s ideas or words to help you say something in your own words and provide a citation.

Extension Activity

Teach students the importance of paraphrasing – expressing something in your own words – as a way to avoid plagiarism. Have students print a non-fiction passage from a webpage, read it, put it aside, then write the information in their own words, and provide a citation. Next have students exchange their webpage and the paraphrased passage with a partner. Students can use the following criteria to critique their partner’s paragraph. (They can score their partner by the number of items they completed correctly.)

  • Did the student use his or her own words?
  • Did the student use quotation marks when using a direct quote?
  • Did the student provide a citation?

At-Home Activity

Can musicians plagiarize? Students can watch the clip, “Coldplay-Satriani-Verdes-Stevens Viva La Vida Plagiarism?” on YouTube with a family member, comparing the band Coldplay’s song “Viva la Vida” to three other musicians’ songs. After watching the video, students and their family members should discuss the question: Did Coldplay plagiarize from the other songs?

Alignment with Standards

Common Core & NETS•S
Source: Common Core State Standards Initiative ©2012 & National Educational Technology Standards for Students ©2007, International Society for Technology in Education

Common Core:

  • grade 3: RI.1, RI.3. RI.4, RI.10, RF.4a, W.4, W.6, W.8, W.10, SL.1a, SL.1b, SL.1c, SL.1d, SL.3, SL.4, SL.6, L.3a, L.6
  • grade 4: RL.10, RI.1, RI.3, RI.4, RI.7, RI.10, RF.4a, W.2d, W.4, W.6, W.7, W.9b, W.10, SL.1a, SL.1b, SL.1c, SL.1d, SL.2, SL.4, SL.5, L.3a, L.6
  • grade 5: RL.10, RI.1, RI.3, RI.4, RI.7, RI.10, RF.4a, W.2d, W.4, W.6, W.7, W.9b, W.10, SL.1a, SL.1b, SL.1c, SL.1d, SL.4, SL.6, L.6

NETS•S: 5a, 5b