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Respecting the Creative Thinking of Others: Copyright

Intended Audience/Grade Level

Junior High School through College Freshman Classes

NOTE: Since many educators requested that we introduce related lessons for upper elementary classes, Book Discussions for the popular books Masterpiece and Scumble are now available to proactively address plagiarism and copyright challenges with research writing exercises for younger students too.

Estimated Lesson Time

Two 50-minute sessions (Instructor may condense or expand based on needs)


This is the first lesson of a two lesson awareness program to assist students' understanding of plagiarism, copyright & fair use, and other areas of intellectual property related to both the classroom and their personal lives. Ethical and legal aspects of the subject are presented including engaging films, classroom activities, and student assignments. Students will present a hypothetical sales pitch to their classmates for their original work by the end of this program.

A short quiz (provided) should be given near the last session in lesson 2 to assess the students’ basic awareness of plagiarism and copyright related to both in-school learning and out-of-school lives. The quiz includes a student agreement to be signed by students which acknowledges their understanding of scholastic honesty and respect when using other authors' works. This also gives the teacher a way to hold students accountable of their classroom actions to avoid plagiarism.


Plagiarism awareness, citation, paraphrasing and summarizing practice, and ethical research habits.


Students will be able to understand:

  • Intentional or unintentional plagiarism and the ethical liability and possible consequences including school reprehension or copyright infringement
  • Difference between their own original writing and ideas versus the use of those of others
  • When and how to write direct quotations or summarizing or paraphrasing of the referenced works of others with proper source attribution
  • When to ask teachers or librarians for help when it is unclear whether it is plagiarism or not

Instructional Resources

Related web articles, lesson plans, exercises, and assignments include:

  • Creative Thinking films included on this site: Intellectual Vengeance plagiarism story (12 minutes); Credit Where Credit is Due – John Alberti (7 minutes); 
  • Supplemental book: Text Messaging, by John Alberti;
  • Supplemental film episode: “Bart the Genius” from The Simpsons, television series (22 minutes);
  • Supplemental PBS New Hour: news report film, text transcript, and class lesson about plagiarism. 
  • Also, see Guide for Teachers link which include Class Activities, Book Discussions, Standards, and Information Literacy guides including synthesizing information in student research.

Learning Plans

Honesty and Trustworthiness in the classroom are tied to our plagiarism and cheating topic with engaging class questions, activities, and films with discussion points to further connect with the students.

Background Source Highlights

Alberti, John. Text Messaging: Reading and Writing about Popular Culture. Boston, Mass.; New York : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009.

Bentley, Nancy. Don’t Be a Copycat! Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Elementary, 2008.

Brizee, Allen. The OWL at Purdue - Paraphrase: Write it in Your Own Words assessed April 17, 2009.

Cullen, Jim. Essaying the Past: How to Read, Write, and Think about History. Chichester, U.K.; Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.

Kardick, Maria. Read Write Think: Exploring Plagiarism, Copyright, and Paraphrasing assessed December 12, 2008.

Other sources cited in lesson text.