Using Music To Define Plagiarism

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SWBAT define plagiarism through listening to music and class discussion.

Big Idea

If it's on the airwaves, can we be sure it's not plagiarized?

Reading Time

10 minutes

Each day, I begin my ELA class with Reading Time.  This is a time for students to access a range of texts. I use this time to conference with students, collect data on class patterns and trends with independent reading and to provide individualized support.

Hook: Copyright Issues In Modern Songs

10 minutes

One of the greatest challenges for my students when writing these research papers is avoiding plagiarism. I try and directly teach them how to avoid it so they write papers focusing on their own ideas. Today's lesson has them think about plagiarism in a way that appeals to them: music.

My students love music, and so do I. Music is a great way to get students into a lesson, at the very least to get their attention. I begin our work on plagiarism by listening to clips of a few songs that may or not have copyright issues. Using music in the beginning of class is awesome. It's a great way to get students to think and gets them interested in the topic. It brings it to their level and they instantly become more engaged in the lesson. Since students may not have much of a background on plagiarism, using what they know can help hook them into the lesson.

I pull up the video below from Youtube and have the students listen to it. This video uses sounds clips and discusses the similarities between songs focusing on Viva La Vida by Coldplay. The captions during the clips raises points as to whether or not the clips sound too similar.

I don't have my students write down notes during this by just listen to the music and follow along with the captions. This helps focus their attention right on the song clips. They are not worried about writing anything down so they are more engaged. Since it's not a lengthy clip, they can keep focused during it. They also know the song by Coldplay so they are more willing to pay attention.

I then pull up the Plagiarism, Paraphrasing, Etc. PowerPoint so students can begin to focus their thinking for our lesson today in which begin to define plagiarism.


Class Discussion: Ethical Or Not?

10 minutes

To move from hook to instruction, I switch gears into a class discussion. There are many thoughts about this topic and I want to see what they overall feeling and understanding from the class of plagiarism as an ethical issue. It's always scary territory when we open up to class discussion. A discussion in a middle-school can easily turn into a riot. To fix that, I have students begin by discussing this with a partner. This helps them to get any unnecessary comments out of their system and focus on what main topic of the lesson.

I pull up the Plagiarism, Paraphrasing, Etc. PowerPoint on the Smartboard and leave open the second slide, which has the following questions:

  • Was anything unethical done? Why or why not?
  • Is this fair?
  • What implications can this have for our research papers?

Students discuss their thoughts on the video from the previous section with their partners using the questions to focus their thinking. Here are two examples of student partners discussing Plagiarism Students Discussion 1 and Plagiarism Students Discussion 2. As you can see in these videos, students are begin to formulate ideas about plagiarism and ethics, but also build off each others thinking. This helps for the next step.

We then have a class discussion. Many students have a lot to say about whether or not this is fair. I open it up to the class but I also closely monitor the discussion. I don't want it to get too off-track so I usually comment on each student that contributes. This helps to keep the discussion moving in a productive manner. It's important that a teacher keeps control during a discussion like this. One wrong move and the students can take over. It's really about seeing how well students can voice their opinions with support and evidence.

Defining Plagiarism

13 minutes

For the last section of the lesson, we move from understanding the big picture of plagiarism to moving into defining it as a way to help write our research paper. Having a clear definition and a common understanding is incredibly important, especially with a concept like plagiarism. We want our students to understand what it is, why it's wrong, and how to avoid it.

I pull up the Plagiarism, Paraphrasing, Etc. PowerPoint on the Smartboard. The students will take notes based on the third and fourth slide. The third slide defines plagiarism and the fourth slide gives students a list of examples of plagiarism. This last slide in incredibly helpful as it puts into words what exactly plagiarism is (beyond just copying and pasting) so they begin to think of ways to avoid it, which will be taken further in the next lesson.

By this point in the lesson, students are really ready to think about how plagiarism can apply to their understanding of writing a research paper. They are almost eager to learn how to avoid it so they can write a really strong paper, and it's because of that the my students impress me in ways I would never expect.

During this time, be careful of too much discussion. I want my students to focus on note-taking and not to continue the discussion from the previous section. One class went into a discussion of copyright issues of using pictures. That's a discussion for a whole new day.

Now that we understand what plagiarism is, we can begin looking at how to avoid it in our own writing.