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In Redux

By Elizabeth Wroten

Research with Fifth Grade: Citations & Plagiarism

On 03, Feb 2015 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten

I have been volunteering in the lower school library at the school where I was working pre-baby for about two years now. This year the librarian and I decided I would take on working with the fifth grade when they started their research project on intertidal life. So I spent most of December out of the library planning what I was going to do with them, deciding what skills I really wanted them to come away with, and what topics I wanted them to have some exposure to. I also collaborated with the fifth grade teacher and the other librarian on redeveloping the project so it could fit with the library framework.

None of the content requirements have changed, but the format, presentation, and research pieces have been changed pretty dramatically. The kids have done a fair amount of research over the years, but I think there’s a lot that can be done to introduce them to more and put some scaffolding in place so they are ready for middle and high school and the requirements (like citations, using databases, and using a variety of resources in their research) that they will encounter. What we’re doing this year in fifth grade will probably be pushed down into fourth grade at some point while running simultaneously with the fifth grade. That way the fifth grade gets to work on these skills and the fourth grade will be ready for more when they are in fifth. Part of what we’re doing is just an experiment so see what the kids know already, what they can do, and where they are. Which is to say the project will evolve, especially since in two years the fifth grade should be ready to do more.

This is a long lead up to say that I’m going to share the program I’m doing with the kids. We have four days set for the library. Because of crazy scheduling (conferences, pep rallies, etc.) they are not consecutive days, but I think we’ve got it worked out well enough. We had our first day in the middle of January and I decided to cover citations and plagiarism. Most of the kids were not very familiar with either of those topics (or were, but did not recognize the vocabulary I was using), so I’m glad we did this first thing. We are also requiring that they use two different types of sources (print and online), that they create a bibliography, and that they keep note cards with their sources on them. By starting with the citation presentation I wanted to start them off right instead of inserting once they had already started researching.

Here is the basic overview of the program. See below for a downloadable pdf with more information and links:

  • Video- from EasyBib about citations and plagiarism
  • Discussion
    • Defining plagiarism and respect
    • why do we create citations?
  • Whose Is It? Activity- from Common Sense media, gives the kids scenarios and has them decide if it’s plagiarism and why or why not
  • Assignment requirements- at least two source, one print, one online, bibliography
  • Discussion
    • What does a citation need to be useful?
  • Practice creating citation with EasyBib- they won’t be required to use this, but I wanted them to see that they could, how it worked, and simply see what a citation looks like
  • Fill out plagiarism worksheet- this was just a couple questions that helped the kids recap what we had discussed in their own words

Here is a link to download the more detailed notes of what we did: Citations & Plagiarism Lesson Plan.

I had a few reflections on what I would do differently next year. The kids were so quiet! I think they were shy around me and the format for library time was really different. Next time I want them to be more interactive and I would like to try changing up the seating arrangement.

I also really hate worksheets. I think they’re just busy work, so I want to move away from that in the earlier part of the lesson. I really like inquiry driven study so my ultimate goal is to move toward that. That being said, I think there is value in having them do the reflection at the end and putting what they’ve learned into their own words and physically writing it out. It does help them retain the information.

I was also surprised how few of them really knew anything about plagiarism and giving credit to other people for their work. They knew a little bit and they knew a little more about copyright, but they need more. Especially since they are doing research all through lower school. Which is why I ultimately want to see this in fourth grade.

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