WWII MEAL Paragraphs

MOOC Logos

This is a follow-up from an earlier post and video lecture explaining how to use MEAL paragraphs as routine writing tasks that help students build stronger body paragraphs. Many classes start with a  “Warm Up” that is used to hook students into the lesson, or in this case textbook. In order to use MEAL paragraphs in this fashion, the instructor merely needs to pose an arguable question that requires students to take a position, then find three pieces of textual evidence and explain how the evidence supports their main idea. Finally, they link their evidence and analysis back to the main idea of the paragraph. For these examples, my questions were: (1) Was Operation Overlord a triumph of planning or a lucky break? and (2) Should island hopping be considered a success or failure?

Op Overlord_MEAL

This student does an adequate job with the MEAL format, below you can see their main idea highlighted in yellow. It is indeed a thesis that takes a position on the question and provides three reasons. I am eager to read on. Unfortunately, when highlighting the evidence in turquoise, I realize this writer only provides two pieces of evidence for their thesis. I hunt for textual evidence that the allies have succeeded in completing the first part of their plan, but I can’t find any. Therefore, I stop reading. This is not the perfect MEAL paragraph.

So unfortunate. This student had a strong thesis, solid analysis, and even restated their thesis at the end of their paragraph. They just needed to include one more piece of evidence to get the points on this quickwrite.

Ovrlrd Evidence

Island Hopping_MEAL

The next student sample on island-hopping is similarly well-organized. The main idea is highlighted in yellow. The evidence is highlighted in turquoise. The analysis is in green and the thesis is restated at the end of the paragraph in purple. Aside from a slight redundancy in swimming to shore and fighting the Japanese in trenches (not factual), this author has created a solid MEAL paragraph.

This sample can be used as a mentor text when showing students how to write MEAL paragraphs. I have found some students will copy your model word for word, so it helps to have a supply of examples that aren’t on the topic you are asking your students to write about.

Island Hopping

MEAL paragraphs should be an arrow in every effective educator’s quiver. Students who repeatedly write MEAL paragraphs gain extensive practice in identifying and explaining textual evidence. You will see an immediate improvement in their writing. Please feel free to leave any comments about integrating MEAL paragraphs into your everyday classroom practices.

NCSS MOOC Launches with 1400 Teachers

MOOC LogosOn Monday, June 22 the National Council for the Social Studies began its first MOOC with a free 15 module online course on Improving Historical Reading and Writing. After emerging as an educational phenomenon in 2008, a growing body of research has examined Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs). Recent data from 68 open online courses showed overall participation in MOOCs has remained substantial and growth rates are steady. Further, teachers made up thirty-nine percent (39%) of these MOOC students, which bolsters an argument put forth by Seaton that residential college courses are less likely than MOOCs to attract teachers of the topic, as the cost, time commitments, and geographical constraints are likely to be burdens. In contrast, MOOCs offer nonbinding exploration and content that may be repurposed for a teacher’s classroom.

ImpHRW Badge

In a TED Talk that has been viewed more than 800,000 times, Agarwal (2013) argued that massively open online courses have the potential to reimagine education with: (a) active learning; (b) self-pacing; (c) instant feedback; (d) gamification; and (e) peer learning. The NCSS MOOC helps to leverage its members’ expertise and direct these elements in improving teacher professional development in History-Social Studies. In creating MOOCs for professional development assets, the NCSS can fulfill a need that is not being met by schools or districts and help teachers stay current with their content knowledge and pedagogical trends.

15 Mods

So far in the first 24 hours of the course, there have been over 8,600 page views, 400 participations and 144 discussions started. Teachers are connecting with each other and proceeding through the course at their own pace. It will be interesting to see how those numbers increase by the end of the summer.


Agarwal, A. (2013, June). Why massive open online courses still matter. Technology Education & Design. Monterrey, CA. Accessed at http://www.ted.com/talks/anant_agarwal_why_massively_open_online_courses_still_matter/transcript?language=en

Ho, A. D., Chuang, I., Reich, J., Coleman, C., Whitehill, J., Northcutt, C., Williams, J. J., Hansen, J., Lopez, G., & Petersen, R. (2015). HarvardX and MITx: Two years of open online courses (HarvardX Working Paper No. 10). Accessed on April 2, 2015. doi:10.2139/ssrn.2586847

Ashland Credit Option for Improving Historical Reading and Writing MOOC

2014-2015 Online Registration Instructions

Please follow these instructions to use the Ashland University ONLINE registration for your school system.

Go to the Ashland website to register for graduate credit: www.ashland.edu (Links to an external site.)

  1. Click on “University Quick Links.”  (At the top of the website)
  2. In the center column click “Professional Development (Links to an external site.).”
  3. Click on “district login (Links to an external site.).”
  4. Enter the user name (UN) NCSS, and Password:  NCSS
  5. Click the title of the class you want to attend.
  6. Click “register for this course” button.
  7. Check the box for the class (es) you wish to take for graduate credit; press submit, the AU registration form on the next couple of screens will need to be completed.
  8. Complete the pay for classes section of the registration.

2014-2015 Paper Registration Instructions

If you are paying by check please complete the registration form at: http://www1.ashland.edu/founders/professional-development-services/pds-registration-form (Links to an external site.)  Mail the completed registration with payment to the address listed on the form.  If you are using an Ashland University tuition voucher worth $166.00 please include this with your registration.  Please direct questions about this process to wbigelow@ashland.edu  Make sure to also keep a copy for your records.

Your registration will not be finalized until payment is received and processed.  Please contact Ashland University Columbus Center if you have any questions: Toll free 877-557-9497 extension 1108; 614-794-4850 or email our office at:  wbigelow@ashland.edu.

Student Perceptions of Writing Feedback

What Students Say About Instructor Feedback was a 2013 study that examined student perceptions of instructor feedback using the Turnitin.com platform. Students wanted timely feedback, but rarely received it: 28 percent of respondents reported that their instructors took 13+ days to provide feedback on their papers. Students preferred feedback about grammar, mechanics, composition, and structure. Students found feedback on thesis development valuable. Despite high rates of electronic submission, students did not report receiving electronic feedback at nearly the same rate.

QuickMark Categories

From The Margins analyzed nearly 30 million marks left on student papers submitted to the Turnitin.com’s service between January 2010 and May 2012. QuickMark comments are a preloaded set of 76 comments covering 4 categories that instructors can drag- and-drop onto students’ papers within the Turnitin online grading platform.

This study looked specifically at frequencies and trends teachers employed when providing margin comments. The top 15 are listed below.

Top 10 QuickMarks

This 2014 follow-up study discovered that students found face-to-face feedback “very” or “extremely effective.” 77 percent of students viewed face-to-face comments as “very” or “extremely effective,” but only 30 percent received face-to-face “very” or “extremely often.”

Students perceived general comments on their writing to be “very” or “extremely effective.” However, a smaller percentage of educators felt the same. Even though 68 percent of students reported receiving general comments “very” or “extremely often,” and 67 percent of students said this feedback type was “very” or “extremely effective,” only one-third of educators viewed general comments as “very” or “extremely effective.”

Students preferred “suggestions for improvement” over “praise or discouragement.” The greatest percentage of students found suggestions for improvement “very” or “extremely effective,” while the fewest percentage of students said the same for “praise or discouragement.”

Students and educators differed on what constituted effective feedback.  The gap between educators and students was greater than 15 percent on the majority of areas examined. The biggest difference between educator and student responses occurred with “general, overall comments about the paper” and “specific notes written in the margins.”


Comments recorded by voice or audio may be a time-saving substitute for face-to-face feedback. Only five percent of student respondents reported receiving voice or video comments at the same frequency as that reported by students who report receiving face-to-face feedback “very” or “extremely often” (30 percent). As a way to negotiate time pressures and still be able to provide more personalized feedback, educators might consider leveraging the use of recorded voice or audio comments to provide feedback on student work. Many grading platforms and learning management systems (LMS) offer this feature as part of their services.

This study identified a clear relationship between exposure to feedback and perceived effectiveness of feedback. Thus, it is imperative to provide students with different types of feedback, and evaluate what is helpful for them. Obviously, the more feedback students get, the more valuable it becomes. Teachers should discuss the types of feedback they typically provide to their classes. Then ask students to share what types of feedback they have found most helpful.

The definition of “effective feedback” is going to be modified within your course. Poll your class to find out what types of feedback students think would improve their writing.





MOOC Launches in 3 Weeks


On June 22, Improving Historical Reading & Writing launches. So far, 750 teachers have enrolled. The course is organized into 15 online modules that will be open from June 22 – Sept. 7. Course participants will be able to choose which modules to dip into and will have flexible deadlines when completing course work. Course completers will receive a grade based on reading and video quizzes and can earn badges, certificates and even purchase graduate credit from Ashland University. You can wait until September before electing to take up to three credit hours for the work you complete.

Many teachers enjoyed the previous MOOC: Helping History Teachers Become Writing Teachers. In fact, you will see how their advice and input helped shape this iteration of the course. If you click HERE to enroll, be sure to add a photo and brief bio to your Canvas profile (it makes it more likely for people to comment on your posts in the discussion boards). Don’t let the summer slide prevent you from sharing what you accomplished in historical reading and writing this year. Get inspired to try some new tools and techniques next Fall.

Kudos 1

Kudos 2

Kudos 3

Kudos 4

Kudos 5

Kudos 6

Kudos 7

Kudos 8

Text Recommendations: These books are not necessary for completing the course. We referenced them heavily while curating the course content and developing activities.

Elementary/Middle Level:
Ogle, D., Klemp, R., & McBride, B. (2007). Building Literacy in Social Studies. ASCD. Alexandria, VA.

High School/College Level:
Nokes, J.D. (2013). Building Students’ Historical Literacies. Routledge. New York, NY.