A conversation was started with the 8th graders a few months ago about plagiarism – what it is, how to combat it, and the consequences. I told them this would be an ongoing discussion throughout the rest of the year and encouraged them to ask me questions whenever they needed help. As a means to help students steer clear of plagiarism, and to help them take succinct and strong notes that are not copied from a book or online source, I engaged them in a lesson today about whittling down information, and how to do so without copying.
The 8th graders in Ms. Liles English class were given an article today from the website, Newsela. I was able to find an 8th grade-leveled article on a topic they probably have little background knowledge in. The article was titled, “In Chernobyl’s post-apocalyptic exclusion zone, animals are thriving”. Students were given a bit of background information on taking notes, and how to take notes from a news article, and were asked to read the article as a group. When finished they were to take the main idea(s) and/or main facts and write them down on a 3×5 flashcard.
After discussing what students thought were the most relevant pieces of the article, they were then given a post-it note to scale back the information, and from there they were given an even smaller post-it note (which I called the baby post-it note) where they were asked to write down the one main idea of the article. Through this process, nearly every group was able to break down the information and speak about the one main idea of the article.
It is my hope, as the 8th graders continue through the year and working through research projects, they can come back to this lesson and think about how to break down information. While I am sure they will not be using post-it notes every time they are assigned a project, as long as they can think back to the process and follow that as they navigate encyclopedia articles and online sources, hopefully they will feel more comfortable writing in their own words and taking a step back from the dreaded copy/paste function.