The Best Way to End Copying in Art Class

An issue that always comes up in class is copying. “Ms Ale.. so and so copied my flower, my tree, my house, my idea!”

Is this something you hear in your classroom? Now that it’s the beginning of the school year, it’s the perfect time to sit all my kids down and have a little discussion about copying in class!

I do this lesson with all my grades, every year especially for the new students just to make sure everyone is clear on this issue.

The first question I ask is: Is it Ok to copy  in art class? By copying I mean copy someone’s tree, flower, idea? It’s amazing the discussion this question will generate. Some kids are very adamant with their NO!  while others aren’t so sure and kind of wait to see what the consensus is before deciding.  My simple answer to this question is ABSOLUTELY! Why reinvent the wheel when you can make it better!

The trick is to change the copied idea and make it different by adding to it and making it better. Make it your own! This is creativity.

Of course the kids who are new and don’t know me look at me in disbelief… WOW, Ms. Ale says it’s OK to copy! Before they get too excited I do the following lesson on the board to illustrate my point. If you agree with me, please try this and let me know how it goes for you.

I draw a simple flower on the board and say this is student A’s flower.

Student B loves student A’s flower so much that she/he decides to ‘copy’ it or borrow it ( borrow sounds so much nicer, don’t you think?🙂

Now I ask the students to take a good look at both flowers and ask them if they think this looks ok. Has student B shown any creativity?

I remind them that I said it was OK to copy an idea but you need to make it your own by changing it, adding to it, making it better. Has student B done this? How can student B make the flower look different, unique and their own?

Start adding details

This of course get the students thinking and very excited. Call up some students to add details to the flower, or tell you what to add etc.. You’ll be amazed at all the new ideas that develop. Slowly start changing the flower and transforming it into something different with the help of your students. The little light bulbs in the heads come on and the students begin to understand the concept and value of copying- YEAH!

Totally different huh?

When you are done, take a good look at both flowers and agree as a group that in fact it is OK to copy or borrow an idea now and again as long as the final product is different.  Stress that this is where true creativity lies. Anyone can copy anything but only a creative person can change it and make it something entirely different!

As for student A who had the original idea? I encourage my students to give credit to anyone who provides any source of inspiration in their art work and praise any student who come up with an idea that is so good that others want to copy it. It’s a win win situation!

To end this lesson, give everyone a copy of a flower or whatever you choose and challenge them all to change it and make it their own so it looks different from the original idea.

I hope this helps you and if you think this post might help someone else, please pass it on. It only take a simple click on the share buttons below.

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10 thoughts on “The Best Way to End Copying in Art Class

  1. This is the first time I have been to this site and was so excited to read this! Copying has been a big source of frustration among students in my class recently, and this sounds like a great way to deal with it. Thanks!

  2. Well said! I think, too, since some of art is technique, it’s only copying in the same way that all the As, Bs, and Cs are formed the same way. Love Cheryl’s comment🙂

  3. I had fun copying (and changing!) this idea with my 2nd graders…first I read them the book, “Only One You” by Linda Kranz. Then I passed out photo copies of the charming “rock fish” illustrations, safely tucked into sheet protectors. I told the kids to find a fish they liked and copy it using a Sharpie and colored markers… then they were to change it and make it better! Their results were wonderful! They had no problem coming up with ways to change and improve their fish, thanks to all the fun illustrations in the story. Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. I always have a response explaining how when someone is copying an element from them, they are complimenting them. If it wasn’t good they wouldn’t want to take it. Love your post and taking time to illustrate just what copying involves. Thank you!

  5. Loved this idea and I can’t wait to do this as a lesson. I always tell my students it is a compliment when someone copies their art because that means they loved it enough to copy it. I tell them some of the greatest artist spent time “coping” great artist that came before them, before they found their own unique style. Thanks for sharing!

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