Reflection: Writing Across the Disciplines Citing Sources and Plagiarism - Section 2: Analyzing Writing for Plagiarism


National History Day is a pretty cool idea.  Every year there's a different theme. Last year's theme was 'turning points'.  This year's theme is rights and responsibilities.  Each student picks a topic related to the theme, researches the topic, and creates a project.  The project includes an essay as well as a physical and visual piece like a website, poster board, video, or something else.


This is the third year that the history department has participated in this event.  It's the first year that the English department has collaborated with the history department.  Now that we're starting the revision week, we see some major kinks that need to be worked out if we do this again next year. 


One thing that I'm pleasantly surprised at is how many students have a rough draft.  Any English teacher who's done any writing project groans at the idea of a kid showing up without a draft day after day after day after day.  I still have nightmares of one of the students from my first year of teaching.  Every day we would work on a paragraph.  Every day he would lose it.  Every day he would have NO IDEA what he'd been writing about.  It turned out that that kid had some serious memory issues.  It would have been nice to know that beforehand. I would have made a lot of changes.  Oh, the changes I would have made.


Anyway.  There's been quite a bit of talk about how during this first quarter, we've been focusing on paragraphs.  And really, you can't write an essay unless you can write a paragraph.  Multiple paragraphs.  That's why I wait until later in the year to teach the whole five paragraph essay.  I'm probably going to need to revise this theory, but especially with our low scores this year, we need to have a solid base before adding on the introduction and conclusion.  Maybe I"m wrong, though. Maybe in ten years, I'll look back and think, "What in the world was I doing?  Why in the world didn't I have more rigor in writing?" 


Anyway.  There's been quite a bit of talk about how we haven't taught students to write a rough draft.  And we haven't. Why?  Because seventh graders know how to write a rough draft.  They don't know how to revise.  Why should I spend instructional time teaching them how to write a rough draft when they know how?  I don't. 


And my students haven't let me down. I only have a couple of students who don't have a rough draft.  One of those students has a rather sever reading and writing disability and accommodations should have been made in history.  Another student is a student who transferred from another teacher's class and wasn't sure that my co-teacher, student teacher, and I were actually going to hold her accountable.  The first day, no rough draft.  Second day?  Rough draft.  Oh, yeah.


So what's the point of this rambling reflection?  It's important that teachers trust that students know how to do some basic things--like how to write a rough draft.  As seventh grade teachers, we shouldn't be building the wheel from scratch. Kids know how to make a basic wheel  We should be teaching kids how to make their wheel better by revising.  In this metaphor, the wheel is their writing. Their rough drafts.


I think I need more coffee.

  What's National History Day?
  Writing Across the Disciplines: What's National History Day?
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Citing Sources and Plagiarism

Unit 6: Argumentative Writing and Research with National History Day
Lesson 1 of 8

Objective: Students will be able to avoid plagiarism by quoting or paraphrasing sources' words and attributing credit using the MLA format.

Big Idea: Did I really plagiarize? I thought I was researching.

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