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ESL Avoiding Plagiarism Games & Activities

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

Plagiarism awareness takes more than just a code of conduct or a warning to students. Your ESL students can benefit from learning about plagiarism through some cool activities like the ones this lesson provides.

Different Forms of Plagiarism

Your English as a second language (ESL)) students may or may not understand the full meaning of plagiarism, or using other writers' ideas and words as if they were your own. Very often, ESL students think plagiarism just means copying an original text word for word without citing the author. As such, activities about avoiding plagiarism should be based on a broad understanding of the topic. This means teaching your students that plagiarism has many forms, such as self-plagiarism, or when a student submits her or his own previous work, and mosaic plagiarism, or when a student borrows a text and replaces words with synonyms.

One way for ESL students to acquire this broad understanding is through a series of activities that can help them learn about the different types of plagiarism. Materials for the following activities include pre-prepared handouts, pens or pencils, scissors, and glue sticks.

Avoiding Plagiarism: Games & Activities

In these activities and games, your students will have the chance to think about the ethics of actions as they relate to plagiarism. In each activity or game, you'll serve as the moderator.

Class Court

For this activity, divide the class into teams; each team will have the opportunity to decide on the ethical aspect of a plagiarism case. The first team to have an answer will raise their hands and say, 'Correct Conduct' or 'Incorrect Conduct' and give a reason for their answer. Use play money as a reward for each correct answer, giving each team a $100 bill every time they're right. If the team that replied first answers incorrectly, then the other team has the chance to respond; however, they'll only get a $50 bill since the answer becomes obvious once the opposing team fails.

Here are some sample cases you can use:

  • Paula is certain that a specific piece of information is true; however, she cannot remember where she read it. Paula makes up an author's name so no one can say she did not cite her source.
  • Carl needs to submit a paper, which he forgot about. Carl's older brother gives him a paper of his own to submit, which is okay because the author of the paper (his older brother) authorized him to use it.
  • Tamara uses quotation marks for a sentence someone else wrote - although she does not cite the source.

These sample situations illustrate cases of incorrect conduct in relationship to plagiarism. Naturally, you'll want to include some correct conduct situations.

Plagiarism Fixers

For this activity, students work in pairs and help each other find and fix plagiarized content. In providing them with sample content, you could omit quotes that cite the author, include quotes but not the author, replace words with synonyms, etc. Afterwards, reconvene your ESL class to compare and discuss how they went about finding and fixing plagiarized content.

Common Knowledge or Research Knowledge?

Once your students are clear that research-based knowledge should always cite the author, they also need to understand that common knowledge does not require citations. This activity gives your ESL students the chance to differentiate between common knowledge and research knowledge.

At the start of the activity, give students a list of facts and sentences, which they have to cut out, separate, and glue into two columns: 'research knowledge' and 'common knowledge'. Afterwards, your students can use online or print sources to find out the author of information in the 'research knowledge' column. Key to the handout you provide to is to include both types of knowledge related to the same topic; this way, students learn to differentiate. Here is a ready-to-use sample of a handout, which you can give to your students:

Make a chart with two columns. In the left column, include all the information that is common knowledge. In the right column, include the research-based knowledge. Use this information:

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