One of the most frustrating problems writing teachers face in the digital age is the ease with which students are able to cheat by copying online text and passing it off as their own. We all know the story. A student needs some help with an essay about, say, blood imagery in Shakespeare’s Macbeth? No problem. He just types the appropriate terms into his favorite search engine, and, voilà, up pops more than 150,000 entries to choose from. Why bother trying to figure out what text needs to be documented and how to go about it? And besides, who’ll know if he borrows just a paragraph or two?
The solution to this problem requires much more than a plagiarism checker. We first need to teach students what the word plagiarism means and identify the actions that lead to this form of intellectual cheating. Then we need to give them tools and resources that help them understand when and how to use the work of others and that make documenting sources clear and painless. Learning about creative ownership and giving credit are all elements of digital citizenship (for instance, this lesson for 3-5th grade via Common Sense Media). It's a topic many adults struggle with as well, as copyrights and ownership of resources on the Internet have all become issues after they graduated. (Check out this post and this post for some help on copyrights.)
SAS Curriculum Pathways offers resources that do just that. For example, one lesson helps students answer the question “What are strategies for avoiding plagiarism?” Students learn to recognize plagiarism, understand why it’s wrong, explore specific strategies (e.g., paraphrasing, quoting, citing) for avoiding it, and practice those strategies using a short biographical text about Maya Angelou.
In addition, our Writing Navigator series features tools that guide students through the writing process and help them manage their research, including the proper documentation of sources. Students can access information about collecting and using information from primary and secondary sources; documenting those sources using the Modern Language Association (MLA) style guidelines; and, again, avoiding plagiarism. And to help make the documentation process easy and efficient, we provide a research tool that students can use to collect information from sources and generate an MLA-style Works Cited page along with internal parenthetical citations.
These are just two of the SAS Curriculum Pathways English language arts resources that can promote and support students’ efforts to become good digital citizens.