Tuesday, May 30, 2006


On Friday I handed back some homework. It was fairly easy homework, for one of the higher level classes. ('Higher' being relative, of course.)

While I was marking this homework, I realized I had not given this class the photocopied instructions regarding homework, at the beginning of semester. This includes information like:

Please do not copy. Use your own words. Copied homework receives an automatic 0.
Do not write your homework on the back of a ripped off piece of advertising flyer, or on toilet paper.

And so on. (The toilet paper bit isn't actually there, but should be.) It's all pretty basic stuff, but you'd be amazed at what gets handed in when I do not give this information.

Even without the handout, though, this class had done pretty well, aside from a few who had written in their notebook and then ripped out the page (badly) and given it to me with their class notes on the back. But there were two that were almost identical. They had identical mistakes, and one had extra, added mistakes, which made me fairly sure that was the copied one.

I wasn't sure how to handle this. I hadn't given them the information handout about homework, but I did not want to give any points to the plagiariser. I still hadn't decided what to do when class started.

I handed back the homework, holding back the two offending papers. When I got to those, I paused. Then I announced,

"I have a problem with the last two."

I said the names of the two offenders, and they sat up straight.

"They are the same," I said, waving the papers. "I don't know who did the work. Who should I give the points to, do you think?"

Everybody (except the offenders) laughed and laughed and laughed. There is apparently nothing funnier than when one of their mates gets caught cheating.

"Should I divide the points fifty-fifty?" I continued. "Half each? Did you work together?" (Sixty is a passing grade. Fifty-fifty means they both fail.)

"NO!" they both shouted. Then they both added, loudly, "MINE IS ORIGINAL!"

The class rocked with laughter. The two offenders looked really upset. But one was more upset than the other, and shot up indignantly, glaring at his friend.


The other one retorted, half-heartedly,

"No, MINE is original - "

"IT IS NOT!" shouted the standing student. He was almost dancing with hysteria. "BELIEVE ME, SENSEI! BELIEVE ME"

The class roared.

"TRULY!" shouted the standing student. "It is MY homework. HE COPIED IT." He pointed accusingly at his friend, who waved his hand in defeat.

"All right... it's his homework," he finally admitted.

Some of the other students were almost weeping with laughter by this point. (Was it really so funny?) I waited for them all to calm down.

"Do you want to do it properly?" I asked the offender. "You won't get so many points, but it will be better than nothing."

"Really?" he asked, hopefully. You'd think I'd just told him he wasn't going to be executed after all.

"Yes, really," I said. "And also, read this. VERY CAREFULLY."

I waved the homework handout, which I'd finally got around to copying. Then I distributed it to the whole class.

The plagiarizer wasn't the only one to read it VERY CAREFULLY.


Robert said...

I doubt you'll have a problem with them the rest of the term. I've had two such incidents this year, but my students are so used to cheating on EVERYTHING, they just wait for their next opportunity. They are literally shameless.

Radioactive Jam said...

You start with something inherently unpleasant, and you manage to create amusement for the semi-innocent, consequence for the cheater and positive lessons for everyone. All in a day's work, right?

Cheryl said...

So funny, that I had to read it out loud to my husband.

Wonderful :-)

Fuzzball said...

While I was reading this I was yelling SENSEI at the top of my lungs and making myself laugh even harder.

You are SUCH a gifted storyteller!!!