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Students could break out into smaller groups of up to 5. Present the introductory question: What is plagiarism? Allow them a few minutes to come up with an idea/answer to what plagiarism is to them. Some younger students may not be familiar with the term plagiarism; then a hint related to copying or a drawing of two simple copy cat heads side-by-side on the board (or as a handout with other questions) may be helpful to get the discussion started.

If students are not serious about the questions above, then ask: What does school mean to you? What do you want to learn at school? What do we learn from writing essays, reports and research papers? How is plagiarism or cheating tied to your tests or writing for class? Post some of the suggested responses from the students on the board. If you have some type of plagiarism policy for the classroom or the school, read some points from that policy or honor code.

Other follow up questions for individual group discussions could include: Why is plagiarism wrong? Talk about the school/class rules related to plagiarism or cheating. Emphasize to the students that plagiarism or cheating at any time is dishonest, against the school rules, and a very serious matter. Have the groups discuss why this is a serious matter.


Who Does Plagiarism Or Cheating Harm?

Before viewing subject-related films below, state the following infamous quote of Sir Walter Scott: Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive! Ask the class what they think this means?

Then ask small groups to discuss and answer the following ethics and trust questions:

  • What are ethics? What ethical issues are associated with plagiarism and school copying/cheating?
  • Who does plagiarism or cheating harm? What are the drawbacks of cheating?
  • How can someone who plagiarizes or cheats hurt themselves? If one is not caught plagiarizing or cheating, how may it still harm them?
  • How would you feel if another student copied your class speech and that student presented it before you first as their work to the class? Would you trust that student in the future?
  • Do you trust your teachers, parents, and friends? Are you trustworthy?
  • Can you think of an example where proving to be trustworthy to a teacher, parent, etc. helped you? If you were ever untrustworthy, how did it hurt you?

Film Discussions

Story Film One: The Simpsons “Bart the Genius” (full-length supplementary resource, season one DVD, episode two, production code 7G02, premiere airdate 1990).

Bart cheats on an intelligence exam (as shown in 2-minute preview above) and learns the real liability of dishonesty experiencing multiple encounters of others’ retaliation to his actions.

Once again, the pre-viewing questions suggested above could be assigned to smaller groups to discuss after viewing any of these films. For high school and freshman college classes, the following observation assignment is tied to the full-length Simpsons DVD film viewing (these questions are also available as a ready-made handout in Handouts section):

  • How many times did Bart outsmart, cheat, or lie? Can you provide examples?
  • Who else outsmarted, cheated, or lied to Bart? And how did they do this?
  • Isn't Bart’s entire existence at the new school one big lie, pretending to be someone he is not? Can you provide examples?

Story Film Two: "Intellectual Vengeance." This is located in Films section.

This plagiarism film unfolds with a college student who deliberately plagiarizes a paper for another college student thus tarnishing his reputation. The setting was written and presented in the style of an ABC-TV After-School Special from the 1970/80s.

Before starting the film either utilize the ethics and trust questions or write the following words on the board which are subjects covered as pop-up graphics in the film: academic dishonesty, plagiarism, cutting-n-pasting off the web, academic/career consequences of plagiarism, etc.

A list of pop-ups is included as a handout in Handouts section.

During post-film discussions, have student groups talk more about the consequences and ethics of plagiarism. Students could tie the consequence examples to school/class rules. Then groups could review ethics such as deceit or honesty towards other students and the teacher when providing or not providing credit of others work cited, etc.

If both films are presented, students could compare and contrast the films related to plagiarism, cheating, dishonesty, untrustworthiness, repercussions, vindictiveness, etc.

See teaching guides on Honesty & Trustworthiness for additional background on questions to pose to the students on this topic.

As this session ends, inform the students that the next lesson will continue with these ethical plagiarism prevention tips on how to use the ideas of another author by properly giving credit where credit is due (footnote) in their school work and practicing how to summarize (paraphrase) other authors’ information correctly in their school work.