Standard Lesson

Exploring Plagiarism, Copyright, and Paraphrasing

6 - 8
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Three 50-minute sessions
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This lesson helps students understand copyright, fair use, and plagiarism by focusing on why students should avoid plagiarism and exploring strategies that respect copyright and fair use. The lesson includes three parts, each framed by a KWL chart. In the first part, focusing on plagiarism, students discuss plagiarism and look at examples to determine whether the passages are plagiarized. Part two introduces copyright and fair use. Students use a Think-Pair-Share strategy to explore questions about fair use, then read several scenarios and determine if the uses described are fair use. In the third part, students develop paraphrasing skills through direct practice with paraphrasing text book passages using an online notetaking tool.

This lesson plan was developed as part of a collaborative professional project with the American Library Association Office for Information Technology Policy and the American Association of School Librarians (AASL).

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

Students need multiple opportunities to practice citing sources and paraphrasing, to see examples of writing that properly uses paraphrasing and citations, and to reinforce these concepts. When students are taught information about these concepts early in their academic careers they are more likely to find success when the demands for research increase with the sophistication of their work. As their work becomes more sophisticated, students must have an understanding of fair use practices concerning copyright. Giving credit for a source is essential, but there are times when just a citation is not enough. Depending upon what part and how much of the text a writer uses, he or she may need to seek permission to use the material. By discussing and practicing paraphrasing and working through some fair use examples in this lesson, students should gain a better understanding of these concepts.

Further Reading

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology




    1. This lesson is designed to be co-planned and co-taught by the classroom teacher and the school library media specialist. Meet to decide responsibilities for teaching the lessons and assessing student work, as well as to arrange logistics for using the library media center.  In advance, agree upon lead and support educator roles for each session. Educators are strongly encouraged to alternate roles depending upon individual strengths and expertise.

    2. Ideally, the library media specialist and English language arts teacher will also collaborate with a willing colleague from the science or social science department for the activities in this lesson.

    3. Choose a section or chapter in the student textbook to use during each part of the lesson and as part of the student assessment. Textbook sections that have not/may not be covered in class work best.

    4. Make copies of the Research Skills KWL handout and Checklist for Fair Use for each student.

    5. Make arrangements to project the Paraphrasing Practice PowerPoint Presentation and the Identifying Plagiarism PowerPoint Presentation, or create separate transparencies for each sentence on the Paraphrasing Practice and Identifying Plagiarism sheets.

    6. If students need additional practice, choose passages from available texts (e.g., an elementary level encyclopedia; student writing; unfamiliar school or college textbooks). Work together to create your own paraphrased and plagiarized versions of the passages to extend student options for identifying plagiarism.

    7. The classroom teacher and library media specialist should test the ReadWriteThink Notetaker on the computers to familiarize themselves with the tool and to ensure the Flash plug-in is installed. Schools can download the plug-in from the Technical Support page.

    Student Objectives

    Students will:

    • define plagiarism, fair use, and paraphrasing.

    • recognize and provide examples of plagiarism, fair use, and paraphrasing.

    • use appropriate paraphrasing strategies to replace advanced-level words with age/grade/level appropriate vocabulary.

    Note: In addition to the stated NCTE/IRA standards, this lesson is also aligned to the following American Association of School Librarians Standards for the 21st-Century Learner.

    • 1. Inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge

      • Respect copyright/intellectual property rights of creators and producers.

      • Follow ethical and legal guidelines in gathering and using information

    • 3. Share knowledge and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society

      • Use information and technology ethically and responsibly.

      • Respect the principles of intellectual freedom.

    Session One

    1. Distribute the Research Skills KWL handout, and ask the students to complete the "know" and "want to know" columns for each of the three items.

    2. The classroom teacher and library media specialist should co-lead a discussion of the students' responses for the "know" and "want to know" columns of the plagiarism section of the worksheet.

    3. Create a class definition of plagiarism, using the information on students KWL chart. Be sure that the class definition includes the idea of using another person's words or ideas without crediting the original writer.

    4. Expand the discussion to include consequences and solutions. Be sure to include any consequences that are specific to your school or community. Discussion can include the following:

      • Failure of the assignment or course

      • Requirement to do the work over

      • Suspension/expulsion

      • Lawsuit, fines, and/or firing for workplace plagiarism
      Solutions can include these options:

      • Paraphrase with appropriate citations

      • Give credit through footnotes/endnotes, a works cited page, or a bibliography
    5. Share examples from the Identifying Plagiarism PowerPoint Presentation or Identifying Plagiarism Sheet, and ask students to determine whether the passages are plagiarized. Add examples from class texts to expand this practice at identifying plagiarism.
    6. During the class discussion of the passages, consider the following advice from Laura Hennessey DeSena's book Preventing Plagiarism: Tips and Techniques:

      "In teaching students how to paraphrase, I tell them to put the text aside for a few moments and try to remember what the writer said--the ideas, the insights.  Then I ask students to try to write down these ideas.  I have them compare the two versions, their translation with the original text.  Integrity of ideas much remain intact.  If student writers change the meaning, then they will have to try again.  If they, unintentionally, appropriated exact language, then they will have to try again.  If students are unable to remember what they have read, then they should view the passage as a whole and synthesize the main points in their own words.  Encourage them to change sentence structure, in addition to altering diction.  In changing language choices, they should try to use their own words, before consulting a dictionary or thesaurus." (49).

      DeSena, Laura Hennessey.  2007. Preventing Plagiarism: Tips and Techniques. (Chapter 3). Urbana, IL:  NCTE.
    7. Have students complete the "learned" column for plagiarism on the Research Skills KWL handout.

    8. If time permits, share this school media center Website on plagiarism to review the concepts that have been covered and point out available resources.

    Session Two

    1. Begin with a brief review of the previous session.

    2. Discuss the students' responses for the "know" and "want to know" columns of the fair use section of the Research Skills KWL handout.

    3. Be sure the students have the correct definition of fair use.

      • The Copyright Office at the Library of Congress defines fair use as "purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered ‘fair,' such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research."

      • The 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law cites examples of activities that courts have regarded as fair use: "quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author's observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied; summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report; reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy; reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson; reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports; incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported." (Factsheet on fair use of copyrighted works. U.S. Copyright Office, July 2006.)
    4. Using the information from Copyright Kids! Copyright Basics & FAQs, share each question with students and have them use the Think-Pair-Share strategy (think about it on your own, pair with a neighbor, share with a larger group) to answer the question.

    5. When students have had a chance to consider all the questions, reveal the answers from the Website.

    6. Ask students to think about times when fair use might apply to them. Have them brainstorm times both in school and in their personal life when fair use might affect them. Some possible responses include the following:

      • in school: for assignments such as term papers, class plays, presentations

      • personal life: Internet downloads, podcasts, personal writings
    7. To expand the discussion to include music downloads, show the class the first two and a half minutes of the Ball State University Libraries video "What Do You Think about Intellectual Property?" from their Copyright for Students page.

    8. Have students discuss their thoughts and reactions.

    9. Distribute and review the Checklist for Fair Use handout.

    10. Pose the following scenarios one at a time to the class. Students should use the Checklist for Fair Use handout in order to determine if the use is fair or not.

      • John is writing a science term paper on the life of a ferret. He has used two books, a general encyclopedia, and several Websites to gather his information. He has put much of the information into his own words but has used a few direct quotes, citing information that is not his own. Is his work okay according to the Checklist for Fair Use? Why or why not? (Answer: yes—educational purposes; only a portion of information used; factual information; paraphrased; and credit given.)

      • Mary and her friends like the poems of Shel Silverstein, so she copied a bunch of the poems using the school photocopier, stapled them together, and made plans to sell the booklet to anyone who wants it. Is this fair use? Why or why not? (Answer: no—the poems being reproduced are not the student's own work; entire poems used; heart of the work used; creative work; copies sold, therefore depriving author of income.)

      • Uncle Marty always videotapes family events. He has put together a video CD with some of the highlights and is giving out the CDs to family members. He has asked each recipient to pay him for the cost of the blank CD so he can continue to make more copies. Is this fair use? Why or why not? (Answer: yes—originator doing the reproduction.)

      • Taylor has purchased music from iTunes and placed it on her MP3 player. She also gave the music to three of her friends. Are these uses fair? Why or why not? (Answer: yes and no—The download to Taylor's MP3 player is fine because she paid for the download; however, giving the music to her friends is not because it deprives the copyright owner of income.)
    11. Allow time for follow-up discussion. Include in the discussion when and how to seek permission to use a copyrighted work (see the U.S. Copyright Office answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Copyright).

    12. Have the students complete the "learned" column of the fair use section of the Research Skills KWL handout.

    Session Three

    1. Begin with a review of the previous sessions.

    2. Discuss students' responses for the "know" and "want to know" columns of the paraphrasing section of the Research Skills KWL handout.

    3. Create a class definition of paraphrasing, using the information on students KWL chart. Be sure that the class definition includes the idea of restating another person's ideas in your own words or format.

    4. Ask students to give examples of some of the ways they paraphrase information. Make sure the discussion includes summarizing, rewording, and using direct quotes.

    5. Make sure that students understand that summarizing is putting the main ideas of a piece of writing in a shortened form that uses their own words. This process can be completed by reading an entire text (paragraph, page, section, etc.) and then writing down what they remember accurately.

    6. In collaboration with another content area teacher, assign an unfamiliar passage from the students' textbook for students to read and summarize.

    7. For additional practice, introduce students to the ReadWriteThink Notetaker. Allow time for them to become familiar with the tool, perhaps having them practice together using the passage assigned in the previous step.

    8. Assign a new passage from the unfamiliar section, and ask the students to use the ReadWriteThink Notetaker to summarize the information.

    9. Make sure students understand that rewording is restating the material in their own words. Explain to students that their teachers expect them to write as students would write, not as textbooks or encyclopedias sound. Then show them how to take a statement and rewrite it using words they know and would use.

    10. Do one or two of the examples in the Paraphrasing Practice Powerpoint Presentation together, deciding which words should be changed and which can stay.

    11. Complete the remainder one at a time using Think-Pair-Share or some other small group strategy.

    12. Go over the students' suggestions aloud after each example, and offer comments on the results.

    13. Discuss the final strategy, the direct quote, beginning with the impact of using a direct quote, including ideas such as the following:

      • An important person's words lend credibility to the writing.

      • The reader will think you are very strategic to seek out an authority's idea to include in the report.

      • The words and phrases in the quote simply express the idea too powerfully not to use the original.
    14. Ask students to consider why it is important that a paper is not one long quote or a series of quotes from a book even if credit is given.

    15. Provide instruction on footnotes, endnotes, or bibliography compilation if appropriate at this time, using the class textbook.

    16. Have students complete the "learned" portion of the Research Skills KWL handout for paraphrasing.

    17. Have volunteers share what they learned over the entire lesson.


    Student Assessment / Reflections

    • The classroom teacher and school media specialist should assess students’ learning through observation and anecdotal notetaking on participation and class discussions.

    • Test students’ understanding by choosing a three-paragraph passage from the class textbook, and asking each student to demonstrate the following skills: summarize paragraph one; paraphrase paragraph two; and choose a significant quotation from paragraph three, citing it correctly.