Writing in Social Studies

Integrating Listening, Speaking & Writing in the Social Studies Classroom
Los Angeles County of Education
Day Two: Friday, February 23, 2018

Workshop Slides

8:30 – Reading in Social Studies

  • Loop Writing
  • Bob Bain video
  • Increasing Student Reading in class
  • text sets
  • historical fiction & non-fiction

9:00 – Daily Writing Tasks

  • Calendar Conversations
  • SEL Quickwrites & Student Reflections
  • Summarizing & Paraphrasing
  • Corroborating
  • Annotated Bibliographies (mini-research projs)
  • Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD)

9:45 – 10:00 Break

10:00 – Narrative Writing

  • The Power of Narrative
  • First Person Research Papers
  • Vietnam Veteran Interviews

11:00 – Informative/Explanatory Writing

  • Timeline Transitions
  • Twitter as a pre-writing summarization tool
  • RAFT writing

11:30 – 12:30 Lunch

12:30 – Argumentative Writing

  • LOOP Writing
  • Believing & Doubting Game
  • MEAL paragraphs

1:45 – 2:00 Break

2:00 – Giving Feedback on Student Writing

  • Self-Review
  • Peer Review
  • Rubric Calibration
  • Road test the Robo-readers

Other Resources

Workshop materials posted on www.HistoryRewriter.com Collaborative Notes:  

So Cal Social Science Association events http://www.socalsocialscience.org/events.html

CCSS Spring Conference https://ccss.org/page-1861180

Analyzing Annotated Bibliographies

Recently, my high school students were assigned an inquiry project that required independent research. The first step in this project was teaching students to write an annotated bibliography. Fortunately, I was well supported by my English department colleagues. Each of whom supported our shared students with instruction on writing annotated bibliographies.


A common definition was adapted from Purdue OWL’s website. An annotated bibliography includes a summary and/or evaluation of sources for a research project. Annotations may do one or more of the following: Summarize: What is the point of this book or article? What topics does it cover? Assess: Evaluate the source. How will it be useful? Is the information reliable? Is this source biased or objective? Reflect: Ask how this source fits into your research. Was this source helpful to you? How can you use this source in your research project? Has it changed how you think about your topic?

Grading the annotated bibliographies was simple: First, I examined the quality of the annotation. How well did the student summarize, assess and reflect on the content of the source? Then I looked at the overall format of their document. Two minor mistakes knocked them down to a B; 3 mistakes = C; 4 mistakes =  D; and more than 4 mistakes = do not pass go, do not collect $200.


I used this presentation to debrief with my students. I’m happy to report that over 75% of my students were able to complete an annotated bibliography in two class periods. Unfortunately, only 32% of the work that was turned in met my definition of proficiency as having fewer than 2 or more minor mistakes. The fifteen students who got A’s averaged five correct citations containing informative annotations.

Moving forward, I could see this activity becoming an end of unit exam or even a department final that accurately measures student research skills. How do you assign and evaluate annotated bibliographies? How can we break the research process down so that students are able to practice these skills in our daily classroom practices?

Improving School Culture & Climate

California has been experimenting with an accountability model called the School Quality Improvement Index which uses academic, social-emotional learning, and school culture and climate factors to measure how well public schools are performing.

CORE Model

This new system has an enormous number of variables, which makes it difficult for educational leaders to consistently focus on problem areas where teachers have a direct influence on student performance. As a staff, we examined our culture and climate factors because we felt that our teachers directly support risk-taking and independent thinking while providing multiple measures to show student mastery. Our teachers are also able to directly intervene and help students feel safe on campus.


Unfortunately, we scored below the District average on items B & F from our 2016 School Climate Survey. The student and staff survey items were developed by WestEd for the California Department of Education. The results from these items were published on our School Accountability Report Card (Goal 4). Our teachers want guidance on how we can improve these scores.

2016 Climate Results

We wondered what do students need to “see” from teachers to improve positive response rates on the following: B) “My teachers work hard to help me with my school work when I need it”; and F) “Teachers go out of their way to help students” How do you think your students would interpret/answer these items?

In order to gain some perspective, I asked my 10th and 11th-grade students the following: Can you tell me a story of a teacher who worked hard to help you with your school work? (Don’t use real names, refer to Mr. Math or Mrs. English instead.) How do you think I could help you do better in this class? Here are the responses from (N=74) students. Four comments that I found insightful are italicized below.

Students value one-on-one assistance

Mrs. English has helped me prepare for tests by giving us easy ways to memorize the things that were going to be on the test in 9th grade. Whenever I didn’t understand something, I would go up to her and ask her for help and she was more than welcome to help me with anything I needed. I think the way you can help me do better in this class is to talk to me 1 on 1 and help me understand the concept better and help me with whatever I need.

Students want more group/collaborative projects

Mrs. Chemistry helped me with her class when I was really struggling. I would go to her class during lunch to get help on my homework so she would give me examples. And when I asked for more work for what I was failing to understand, she gave me another worksheet for practice before the day of my next test. I struggle with tests in history. I try to manage my time with all my other classes, but it is overwhelming sometimes. I would prefer to do more group projects to help each other. If we did group work maybe I might know something my group members don’t and vice versa.

Students want to be challenged by their teachers

I had a teacher that I thought she didn’t like me but she actually did she helped me pass her class with an A. She pushed herself to help me out because I was going to fail her class because I was gone for 3 weeks and I was really behind. I think you can help us by being on top of us when we don’t turn in our work, check in with us why didn’t we do it.

Students want teachers to be more accessible

Most teachers don’t really take time out of their day besides the class period to help their students. You go looking for them at lunch and they aren’t there or they don’t get to school early or when you look for them after school they have already left. This is the case with most teachers, but Ms. English tends to be available whenever you go looking for her and she spends her own time besides class time helping students individually with their work. I think working with students one on one with whatever they are working on will help them do better in this class.

I wish we had the PD time to have the entire faculty read and reflect on these responses. Thirteen pages of student statements are a lot to go through, but each time I re-read them I make more connections that will help me improve my classroom practices. I now have a better understanding of what factors students are thinking about when they address school climate survey items like “Teachers work hard to help me with my school work?” and “Teachers go out of their way to help students?” I hope that each teacher will ask their students these questions and adjust their instruction so that our students will feel as though their voices have been heard over the course of the school year.

Learning from Student Reflection

This year, I have made a concerted effort to build reflective prompts into the end of every project in my History classes. As I read through these responses (180 at a time), I have a hard time separating the superficial responses from meaningful commentary that indicates in-depth reflection. This post will detail how I am seeking to improve in this area. The problem of practice that I am trying to improve is the playlist (personalized) approach to learning that I have implemented this year. I have learned that giving students too many learning options and activities stresses them out. Instead of helping them focus and improve their time management challenges, the playlist approach may cause a small population of students to misuse their class time, shy away from challenging work, and fail to accept enough responsibility for their learning. The reflections that I ask the students to complete are designed to give me some insight as to their work habits, problem-solving abilities, and creative process.

Costa & Kallick (2008) describe in-depth reflection as making specific reference to the learning event, providing examples and elaboration, making connections to other learning, and discussing modifications based on insights from this experience.


Including guiding questions like these: (What resources did you find useful while working on this project? What did you learn about your work ethic, creativity and performance skills as you worked on your speech? Which was more difficult completing the Flipgrid or delivering the speech in front of class? How did PaperRater help you with this project? Thinking about your PVLEGS (Poise, Voice, Life, Eye Contact, Gestures & Speed) growth area, how will you improve this skill before your next speech performance? What part of this project are you most proud of? What would you change if you had a chance to do this project over again?) guarantees that a significant population of students will not delve into the dangerous area of original thought.

This student didn’t even bother to construct a narrative and instead answered my questions as succinctly as possible. I found the teleprompter extremely useful. It helped me manage my time with my speech and eliminate the unnecessary information which was a very important factor. The articles you provided for us on strong openings/conclusions were useful as well. I learned that I work a lot better under pressure than I do normally. I learned that the most challenging part of writing the speech is not finding the information but delivering it to your audience. Listening to my peers giving their speech made me realize that creating an interesting speech is far more difficult than maintaining interest on a poorly written one. It is difficult for me to discern whether this student really put any effort into this project, or got anything out of it. 

Another student, listed several very specific goals to improve her next speech.  
I need to work on staying still while I present my speech because I was shifting my body side to side. I also should’ve practiced using the teleprompter more because it would have improved my performance while I was presenting. I wouldn’t have been as paranoid about messing up if I would’ve been more familiar with the software. I really enjoyed completing this project because it was the most entertaining project that I’ve done in this class. I’m usually good when it comes to managing my time, but for this assignment, I let it all slip. Next time I have speech assignment
 or any other assignment, I will plan out my schedule more appropriately to complete everything that needs to be completed on time. 

One of my repeat customers (a student who had me for World History in 9th grade and now has me again for US History in 11th grade) provided examples and elaboration.
Working on this speech I truly saw an improvement in my writing style. I realized that with this speech i was able to turn some not to interesting information into a somewhat interesting speech. A source of information that I found super helpful was the book Dr. Petri gave me Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq. This was very helpful because it gave me a very detailed and wide view into the overthrowing of Queen Liliuokalani, as well as the overthrowing of Hawaii in order for it to become part of the United States. My work ethic has improved greatly since my freshman year with Dr. Petri, who even said that I have improved since then. As well as my creativity, I remember when I would normally do essays and/or speeches I would not make them very creative they would just be filled with a lot of boring information that no one cares about. But for this speech, I was much more creative especially with the way I started. For example, “Your brother dies, oh but let’s not forget he is the King of Hawaii. You, a woman, has to step up to the throne and be the next one in line to run Hawaii. This was how Liliuokalani, became Queen Liliuokalani on January 29, 1891.” I wanted to catch the audience’s attention from the very beginning and I wanted to keep it that way.

Showcasing student reflections that make specific references to the learning event, provide examples and elaboration, make connections to other learning activities, and discuss modifications (or lessons learned) based on insights from this experience can help students improve their reflections and learn from their mistakes. This slideshow illustrates how I use student exemplars with the whole class to improve subsequent reflections. Although I am having some problems with a small population of my students using this playlist approach, anecdotally I can say that I am getting higher-quality, original work and more engagement from the vast majority of the students in my classes. Reading their comments and compliments as they recognize their own talents and growth inspires my teaching.

Example A
Each component 
I did better than last time. I realized that I got more work done in the amount of time I set for myself. With that being said my performance in this class is getting way better, I’m not as lazy and I am actually happy to be doing work, at the end, it feels great to be done with assignments either on time or earlier. Helping me improve my performance can be really easy, you can do that by working with all the due dates and giving extra time, which won’t really be necessary now because I’ve changed my ways.

Example B
At the beginning when we started I didn’t really know anything about this subject. I’ve done similar work in this class before and other classes like English too. I think I’ve gotten better because I’m used to having to finish certain work by the due date and making sure 
I finish it all. I think what I should improve on is my note-taking because I’m not really the best at that and I feel like I should write more notes.I think I did pretty good on all my work besides my notes because my notes weren’t really much and I feel like I could’ve written more notes that could be more helpful. I think my project was good because I had good info. to support what I was saying in my podcast. What I would like to improve on is note-taking because I need to work on writing more.

Example C
I did well on my project, but I could really improve by trying to do it ahead of time because I really waited last minute to finish the project. I’ve could have done so much better if I really focused on my project. The way you can help me solve this problem is by making the due dates shorter so that it motivates me to finish faster and the rest of my work would be much neater.

I feel like this has been my best semester ever and am excited to return to work after the Winter Break. I am interested in hearing from other teachers who have been inspired by goal-setting and growth mindset. What have you learned from analyzing your student reflections?


It is always a pleasure to come and present to risk-taking and proactive educators at LACOE that want to increase the amount of speaking and listening in their classrooms. Most of the work I am presenting comes from the books of Erik Palmer and the course I taught with him and Corbin Moore on Canvas Network.


Feel free to save the presentation to your Google Drive and use whatever parts you find useful.

Dark Side of Gifted Ed

Teaching gifted and high-achieving students comes with some baggage. Many teachers feel like gifted students are a dream since most have incredible work ethics and plenty of intrinsic motivation. Since I have begun incorporating SEL strategies into my everyday classroom practices, I have learned that there is a dark side to teaching the gifted. A significant population of my students have poor coping skills and do not handle failure well.

I have been taking a playlist approach to my 10th and 11th-grade instructional program this year. Students are given a menu of options and I measure how much they do. This has caused them more stress than I anticipated and I am currently re-thinking this approach. Last year, too many of our students turned work in late. As a faculty, we decided to change the culture by not accepting late work.  As an incentive, we offer a 20% bonus on each assignment that is turned in before the deadline. For the first major project, 72% of my students turned in their work early. Approximately a quarter of my students, 43 out of 167, did not turn their work in at all.

After reading their reflections on the project, I realized that a large percentage of my students need more support in managing their time. I have been using goal-setting strategies with my students for years. This NPR story shows how reflection and goal-setting eliminated the achievement gap in a college composition class. I asked my students to read the story and then answer the following questions. How often do you write down specific goals and strategies that help you organize your time and workload? Could writing down what prevents you from completing work and connecting your daily efforts to goal-setting help you become a better student? What type of anxiety do you feel when dealing with multiple and competing deadlines?

Their answers were startling and shocking. Two-thirds of my “gifted” students rarely or never write a to-do list to manage their workload. They said things like…

I hardly ever write down my goals or strategies I usually just have to remember or I have everything planned in my head which actually gets me more stressed out. I do think if I write out my plans every day I could be less stressed out but I’m a procrastinator and I just can’t manage my time at all. I get crying anxiety when all my emotions overwhelm me at once and I can’t control them at all.


I do not write down specific or ANY goals and strategies to help me organize my time and workload. I believe that if I had something that reminded me on the daily about work and due dates my work ethic could improve greatly. Setting goals will make me want to achieve them and do better so that I can be a better not only person but a scholar. When I see that I have work due I stress out a lot. I rush everything and nothing comes out right. I stress about it at school and I get a horrible headache just thinking about how my grade would go down the drain. But when I get home I just forget everything and I never do anything.


I usually don’t write down my goals or strategies that help organize my workload because I’m already organized and most of my thoughts on procedures and goals are mental so I do not have to write them down. Yes, I think if I wrote everything down that slows down my work or prevents me from doing better it will help me realize what I need to do so I can work better. I usually feel like I won’t be able to finish anything and I always feel like a failure.

On the bright side, one-third of my students almost always write down what they need to accomplish. They said things like this…

I often write down my specific goals in an agenda and I strategize my workload on what is due the earliest. For example, I would finish my English homework first because it’s my first period. I don’t write down the things that prevent me from working and but I do set goals for myself to become a better student. Sometimes I have a list in my head and I write down what I need to do on a checklist to prioritize my time. When I deal with multiple deadlines, I begin to freak out thinking about what I need to do all at once. I make a list of what I need to do and sometimes do the easiest assignments first to get them out of the way.


I write down goals often. Some of these goals include getting my work done and getting my grades up. I have tried writing what keeps me from doing my work down. I believe that you could change your habits and become a better student, but if you don’t want to, nothing is going to change. You have to want everything. You can’t just want to change for yourself. What keeps me going is wanting to change my habits so that I can look into my mom’s eyes and not feel guilty, to not feel like I am letting her down. I give myself time to complete deadlines its when I decide not to do it that it gets me. 


I have a big ¨vision board” in my room in which I put my goals, the stuff I want to have, the people I want to meet, the amount of money I want to make, the places I want to travel to, the car I want to have, and pretty much anything. The law of attraction says if you set a goal and remind yourself of it, you will get it. and I think that’s 100% true. My goals are very long term, like going to Harvard or becoming a doctor but in order to achieve that I have to maintain a good grade point average and be a good student. So I try to do my homework and manage my time wisely so homework doesn’t take any more time that it has to. I am a very organized person. I have a daily planner in which I put in all my assignments of the day. When I get home I prioritize and rewrite the assignments in order that I have to do them.

How do I teach the former group of students to be more like the latter?

Teaching Study Skills

Teachers at my school have identified several growth areas in student study skills and we are working collectively to address these deficits. At the beginning of this school year, I gave my students a study skills questionnaire from the University of Central Florida’s student resource center.  This thirty-item survey asks students to report whether they rarely, sometimes, or often use specific strategies in their academic practices. The domains assess student practices when reading textbooks, taking notes, studying, memorizing, preparing for tests, and managing their time.


A sample (N=191) of 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12 graders took the survey. The scores ranged from a low of 20 to a high of 270 with a median of 170. The test’s authors suggest that a score of 31-50 in each domain indicates that the study skill area is adequate, whereas a score of 0-30 indicates that this study skills area needs improvement. My students’ average scores are displayed in the table below.

Reading Notes Studying Memorizing Test Prep Time Mgmnt Total
25.64 23.43 30.97 27.40 31.55 25.72 164.70

The items in the survey offer good starting points for student reflections when using exam wrappers or project debriefings.  Each student was given their results and discussed their largest growth area with me in a private conference. After each major academic milestone this year (project, test, paper, speech and etc.) my students will reflect on how the activity helped improve their growth. At the end of the year, they will take the survey again to see how they have improved.

I am interested in learning more about how K-12 educators teach study skills, please join me for a Twitter chat on this topic this Thursday, September 21 at 9pm ET/6pm PT. The questions are below:

Teachers are notorious finger pointers. “You should have memorized your multiplication tables in third grade. You should be taking notes and reviewing for tests by 6th grade. You should know how to read a textbook by 8th grade.” The list goes on. This evening of #sstlap is dedicated to teaching study skills. Regardless of where you students are when you get them, where do you want them to be when they leave you? What study skills should students have improved after a year under your tutelage? Get ready to share the glory and the pain as we try to teach our students study skills that they can take with them on their academic journey.

:07 Q1 What is the most significant skill deficit students have when they arrive in your class? How do you learn about and remediate this skills gap?

:14 Q2 How can we be enthusiastic about teaching study skills to our students when we have so much content to deliver?

:21 Q3 What are the best ways to immerse students into a note-taking lesson?

:28 Q4 How does focusing on reading skills instead of delivering content build rapport with students?

:35 Q5 How can you tie student passions to practicing skills like test prep and time management?

:42 Q6 How can you reframe a memorization lesson to make content aquisition fun?

:48 Q7 What apps/technology tools can help teachers transform skills instruction into fun activities?

:54 Q8 #FLIPGRIDFEVER BONUS QUESTION Click on the link and explain your favorite skill-building tool or lesson in 90 seconds instead of 140 characters.


Archive of 9/21/2017 #sstlap chat

Six degrees of separation history lesson


Quizlet Live gamifies study sessions


Daniel Pink – To Rhyme is Sublime


Timed note-taking drills