Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Plagiarist and pants

Last week I stunned yet another student with my fantastic and magical ability to spot plagiarized homework. The homework assignment was to write about a tourist destination in a similar way to a bit in the textbook, which was an imitation of a tourist brochure. Here is a typical result from a student who did not plagiarize:

Koara and kangaroo is very cute. Anyone can touch koara and kangaroo in Australia. Koara sometimes crosses the street. Be careful a koara when you will drive a car. Australia is very hot. Australia's sea is very beaustifull. Australia is also beautiful. Australia is the grate place.

I always learn something from these assignments. I did not know, for example, that koalas like to cross the street. (Why did the koala cross the street? ought to have a punchline, however.)

The plagiarized assignment started something like this:

"An area rich in culture and history is blended with traditional attractions and plenty of outdoor fun. The vast open land and lush forests await your discovery."

As students were handing in their assignments I glanced at the papers to make sure they wasn't obviously copied. It saves a lot of trouble if I pick it up straight away, especially at this time of year. I can get the offending student to do the homework again in time for the next class. We only have a couple of classes left.

Most of the time you don't have to be a very fast reader to spot the plagiarized homework. I spotted this one in about three or four words, and laughed. I couldn't help it.

"You copied this," I said, handing it back, along with another copy of my DO NOT PLAGIARIZE handout. (I always keep extra copies in my folder for such occasions, even though the students already have it.) "Do it again," I said. "Use your own English."

The student stared at me.

"I didn't copy!" he spluttered indignantly (in Japanese), then added, "You didn't even read it!"

He tried to give it to me again.

"Are you SURE?" I asked, looking at him closely. "Do you REALLY want to give me this? I'll check it properly if you really, REALLY want me to. And I'll give it a grade if you really, REALLY want me to. . . "

I held out my hand for the paper, but something in my smile had caused him to back away from me, and suddenly he wasn't so keen. He stared down at the handout thoughtfully. Perhaps he'd noticed the bit that said, Plagiarized homework will receive an automatic grade of zero.

"Next week OK?" he mumbled.

"Next week is fine," I said.

He went back to his seat, downcast. I overheard him saying to his friend,

"How did she know? She hardly even looked at it!"

But what I want to know is this: How could he possibly think I wouldn't know?

I spent most of today marking tests. One test answer that made me hesitate was from the bit where the students were supposed to correct some mistakes. These test questions come from the mistakes students made during the semester. We do the error corrections in class, just four or five a week, and then I test them on it the following week. All of these questions end up in the final test.

One of the mistakes was:

I am wearing a pants.

The student had guessed correctly that this was a singular/plural problem, which is why I hesitated. After all, the correction he had made WAS grammatically correct.

He had corrected it to:

I am wearing a pant.

In the end I decided not to give him the point. If he had bothered to review he would have known the answer. It was written in his notebook. Also, while I suppose it is possible that a one-legged person would wear a pant, I do not think my student was thinking of one-legged people when he wrote that.


Contamination said...

BadAunt, I'd love to experience that something in your smile that can make a cocky university student back down. Very good indeed!

Badaunt said...

I think it was the PLAGIARISM handout that did it, really. But also, I was genuinely looking forward to giving him a zero, and I think it might have showed.

Lia said...

English is a tricky language. It probably should be a pant.

Cheryl said...

I always love your posts. Sometimes ones like this make me laugh enough to whimper.
I am sorry I lurk so silently for most of the time.
Anyway, knowing you are always on the lookout for new and exciting teaching methods, I saw this and thought of you:

Do enjoy.

Contamination said...

BadAunt, I can agree how giving him a second piece of paper outlining the penalties for Plagiarism would make him thing twice.

Have you tried a web search to find the origin of his text?

Either way, please continue being evil with your students. I know I am. :-)

lina said...

I simply love your posts! as contamination said, please continue being evil :-)