Exploring Plagiarism, Copyright, and Paraphrasing

This lesson helps students understand copyright, fair use, and plagiarism by focusing on why students should avoid plagiarism and exploring strategies that respect copyright and fair use. The lesson includes three parts, each framed by a KWL chart. In the first part, focusing on plagiarism, students discuss plagiarism and look at examples to determine whether the passages are plagiarized. Part two introduces copyright and fair use. Students use a Think-Pair-Share strategy to explore questions about fair use, then read several scenarios and determine if the uses described are fair use. In the third part, students develop paraphrasing skills through direct practice with paraphrasing text book passages using an online notetaking tool. This lesson provides varied texts for students to determine fair use of materials. After determining the value of text, the student writes paraphrases.

Standards & Objectives

Learning objectives: 

Student Objectives:

Students will:

  • define plagiarism, fair use, and paraphrasing. 
  • recognize and provide examples of plagiarism, fair use, and paraphrasing. 
  • use appropriate paraphrasing strategies to replace advanced-level words with age/grade/level appropriate vocabulary.

Note: In addition to the stated NCTE/IRA standards, this lesson is also aligned to the following American Association of School Librarians Standards for the 21st-Century Learner.

  • Inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge 
  • Respect copyright/intellectual property rights of creators and producers. 
  • Follow ethical and legal guidelines in gathering and using information 
  • Share knowledge and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society 
  • Use information and technology ethically and responsibly. 
  • Respect the principles of intellectual freedom.

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 

Helpful Hints


  • This lesson is designed to be co-planned and co-taught by the classroom teacher and the school library media specialist. Meet to decide responsibilities for teaching the lessons and assessing student work, as well as to arrange logistics for using the library media center.  In advance, agree upon lead and support educator roles for each session. Educators are strongly encouraged to alternate roles depending upon individual strengths and expertise.
  • Ideally, the library media specialist and English language arts teacher will also collaborate with a willing colleague from the science or social science department for the activities in this lesson. 
  • Choose a section or chapter in the student textbook to use during each part of the lesson and as part of the student assessment. Textbook sections that have not/may not be covered in class work best. 
  • Make copies of the Research Skills KWL handout and Checklist for Fair Use for each student. 
  • Make arrangements to project the Paraphrasing Practice PowerPoint Presentation and the Identifying Plagiarism PowerPoint Presentation, or create separate transparencies for each sentence on the Paraphrasing Practice and Identifying Plagiarism sheets. 
  • If students need additional practice, choose passages from available texts (e.g., an elementary level encyclopedia; student writing; unfamiliar school or college textbooks). Work together to create your own paraphrased and plagiarized versions of the passages to extend student options for identifying plagiarism. 
  • The classroom teacher and library media specialist should test the ReadWriteThink Notetaker on the computers to familiarize themselves with the tool and to ensure the Flash plug-in is installed. Schools can download the plug-in from the Technical Support page.


Materials and Technology:

  • Student textbook from a content area such as social studies or science 
  • Internet connection and projection capabilities 
  • Identifying Plagiarism PowerPoint Presentation
  • Paraphrasing Practice PowerPoint Presentation



  • Research Skills KWL
  • Checklist for Fair Use
  • Paraphrasing Practice handout
  • Identifying Plagiarism examples



  • Ball State University: Copyright for Students
  • Advertising: What is a Copyright, Patent and Trademark?
  • Copyright Basics
  • The Library Media Center and Citing Sources
  • U.S. Copyright Office: Fair Use
  • U.S. Copyright Office: Frequently Asked Questions