In writing my first graders have been writing books. Initially they wrote some to put in the library but they have continued at a record pace. We checked out books on all kinds of topics to help them come up with ideas and get started. As a result, we had to have a few lessons on putting things in our own words and not copying the book.
I conferenced today with a little girl who is writing about guinea pigs. A couple of her pages didn't make sense to me and I was asking her about them. One page she couldn't explain and she decided to cut. Another page she struggled to explain to me. It said, "Guinea pigs are in a circle." (not with that spelling, of course). So she finally ran off to grab a book.
In my head I'm composing the conversation about not copying from the book. She returns with the book and the first thing she says is, "I didn't copy from the book."
Now I'm giggling inside and exceptionally curious. She flips through the pages until she finds one with a guinea pig in an exercise wheel.
She didn't copy. She put it in her own words. I hope the illustration in her book helps readers understand what she means.