Day #233 – Plagued With Plagiarism

Most of my love/hate moments in life come from something I said or did that comes back to haunt me.  When that ‘thing’ causes me to rethink what I currently believe.

I love this – because it allows for growth and redefinition.
I hate this – because it forces me to question my current belief structure.

What’s our new issue?  Obviously plagiarism.

I am a teacher of writing and speaking.  Plagiarism is bad, bad, bad…

I often pontificate about the woes of plagiarizing – about how it’s thievery of intellectual property.

So, one would think my own child should know better.

He does…but I fear he cannot help himself.

Remember Day #43 – My Tape Recorder?

“So, what do some children do? Well, they memorize. I used to refer to Tucker as my tape recorder (albeit not in front of him). He talks like I do. He found a way to memorize the words, phrases, and verbal intonations I use in any given situation.  I also worked with him, tirelessly and patiently.  When he responded with something inappropriate I would simply respond, “Tucker, this would work better in that situation.”  No matter how embarrassing it was [what he said].  I never attacked or shamed or embarrassed him, he simply needed him to learn.”

Yesterday he received a 0/10 on an assignment because he plagiarized.  Yep, pretty much plagiarized the entire assignment.  His teacher asked if he knew what plagiarism was.  Of course he did – not only from his teachers, but from his mother.


Then, his teacher pointed out all of the sentences that were taken directly from articles and which were in his own words.

He was reportedly quite upset – he absolutely knows what plagiarism is, he absolutely knows why it is bad.

The toughie?  He may not know how to avoid it.



How do we teach our ‘tape recorder’ boy that plagiarism is wrong when he’s been taught ‘canned phrases’ his entire life to help facilitate conversation?
Essentially, most of his life has been plagiarized.  He has learned to communicate by repeating ‘like’ phrases and words that he hears other people use.  He wholeheartedly understands the idea(s) that is/are trying to be communicated.  His ability to ‘recreate’ someone else’s ideas is limited.
Focus on the positive.
One of the ‘wins’ of the situation is that he was frustrated and left the classroom.  He went and laid down in the shared resource area.  Once his frustration had subsided he got up and went back to work fixing what was wrong. BIG win.
Now what?  Well, we have to find a way to ‘deal’ with this.  If he is going to have academic success he cannot plagiarise, it’s as simple as that.  How do we teach him that using other people’s words and phrases is wrong – but that, in itself, has been his tool to communicate.
Here is our best bet right now…Tucker is also a rules guy.  He thrives in structured rule-based environments, so we’re going to  approach plagiarism as such.  This week we will sit down and write a list.  The list will include indicators of plagiarism:
  • do not use more than three words in a row from the same sentence
  • use quotation marks if you are using the whole phrase
  • cite your sources
  • NEVER cut and paste-always force yourself to write after reading
  • take notes first-using only phrases-not complete sentence

If this doesn’t work, I will most likely discuss using the ‘Literature Review’ as a method of writing for him with his teachers. In essays it may behoove us to allow him to use this method and then require a simple summary paragraph that is highly structured with a topic sentence, supporting details, and a concluding sentence.

It’s the thing about writing that Tucker has really taught me.  I love to blog and write freestyle – but I also love to write about research findings in very structured, defined ways.  Tucker will be a fantastic research-type writer. This type of writing following a pattern, a system, an outline.  As far as creative/freestyle writing?  He will struggle because of the lack of structure.  BOTH of these types of writing are important and valuable to the world.

This is when reflection and writing becomes quite helpful.  I don’t need him to be ‘perfect’ in both or let’s be honest, in either one.  I simply need him to develop the skills to be competent.  These are moments when I think about Day #169 – My Child is NOT An Honor Student and I remember to focus on the ‘win’ while being a team-player with his teachers in finding a way to help redefine how we teach my child to become a more competent writer.

Let the thinking begin….

3 thoughts on “Day #233 – Plagued With Plagiarism

  1. Dear mom 366 days,
    Why does it seem like you are writing what i am thinking, without my knowing how to express it, when i can’t even understand it what i am reading? Maybe you will not understand me.
    All i know is that in the midst of the confussion that’s still raging in my brain, you are a joy in my heart. You are giving me hope, that one day very soon i’ll be able to help my grandson…
    Please continue writing, as u continue reading…


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