Category Archives: Citations

Performance-Based Assessments

The NCSS Social Studies Performance-Based Assessment Clearinghouse has been created to provide:

  1. examples of social studies performance-based assessment measures conducted at local and state levels
  2. research findings that support the use of performance-based assessment to inform instruction, and
  3. existing educational policies that can inform advocacy efforts for the inclusion of social studies performance-based assessment at the local, state and national level.


Many teachers have created their own performance assessments that could be included in this archive. For instance, my students were recently asked to take notes on a biography of Napoleon Bonaparte. Then, they were asked to use their textbook to corroborate or match the historical details from the video biography and provide a page number as a citation.


The chart above illustrates that advanced students were able to corroborate 12-20 facts in one 53-minute class period, while lower-achieving students could only match 1 to 5 historical details from the textbook to the film in the same timeframe. This population of 9th and 10th grade World History students (N=30) had an average performance of 7.87 historical matches. This activity gives students a purpose for taking notes and immediate feedback on the usefulness of their note-taking techniques. The image below shows how students matched video content to the historical details in their textbook.


Containment Essay

containmentContainment Essay Prompt:

Define the US policy of containment. Discuss three instances of containment from the documents and argue which serves as the best example of containment and which serves the worst example of containment. Evaluate whether containment was an effective or ineffective policy. Be sure that you use in-text or parenthetical citations when you use evidence from the documents.

Thesis Statement Planning

Three examples of Containment are: ____________, _____________, and _______________.

The Cold War lessons in containment have been demonstrated by _________, _________, and _________; when evaluating these lessons, it is clear that…

_________, ___________, and _____________ provide historians with instances of the US Policy of containment, this paper will argue that ____________ is a strong example of containment, while ____________ is a weaker illustration of containment.


  1. Intro
    1. Background on the Cold War
    2. Definition of Containment
    3. Thesis statement
  2. Strongest example of containment
    1. Evidence from document
    2. Claim
    3. Counter-claim
    4. Explanation of how this supports thesis
  3. Weakest example of containment
    1. Evidence from document
    2. Claim
    3. Counter-claim
    4. Explanation of how this supports thesis
  4. Evaluation was containment a good or bad US policy
    1. Historical factors
    2. Link to thesis
  5. Conclusion
    1. Summarize argument
    2. Recap evidence
    3. Restate thesis

Evidence-based Sentence Starters

Based on this document, it appears that _____________________.

This document suggests that ______________________.

When viewing the map, it is evident that _____________.

This source reveals how US policy makers thought about ________________.

This timeline illustrates how ____________________________.

This quote provides some insight into the nature of __________________________.

Lastly, here are some videos that help you understand the documents better.

Background Essay

Document A – Long Telegram

Long Telegram Quiz Answers

Document B – Berlin Airlift

Document C – The Korean War

Document D – The Cuban Missile Crisis

WWII Speech Project

PalmerThanks to a challenge from @erikpalmer, author of Teaching the Core Skills of Listening and Speaking, I was motivated to give my students a speech assignment instead of a research paper when I finished my unit on WWII.  The assignment was fairly straightforward.  Students were allowed to select a topic from a list of 75 WWII topics. Their research was limited to five online sites from within the LAUSD Digital Library. They also needed at least five books in their research. They used to create a bibliography. I explained that Google & Wikipedia ARE NOT ACADEMIC SOURCES and could not be cited. After they gathered all 10 sources, they could draft an outline or create note cards of their speech. The first draft of their speech was run through and the report was printed out or emailed to me prior to delivering the speech. The final speech was to be graded by the class based on the following rubric:

Point Structure

  1. Bibliography                  50 pts
  2. Notecards/Outline    50 pts
  3. First Draft                       50 pts
  4. Paper Rater report   100 pts (grades given ranged from 68-92)
  5. Delivering Speech     100 pts (50 pts from me & 50 points from their peers

Students who did not want to deliver their speech in class were given the option to video themselves giving the speech and post it on YouTube so we could grade the speech in class for a reduced number of points (max 80 pts). Students were given three weeks to complete their speeches and then we spent one week listening to all of them.

Interspersed throughout instruction were mini-lectures and examples on giving speeches. I had students stand up and read the first 30 seconds of their speech to see if they had a “hook” and gave them feedback on how they could improve. Additionally, they viewed the following videos:

How to write a speech outline

Speech Opening

Speech Attention Getter

Components of a Speech

Speech Closing

Intro to Easybib

Finding Sources

The Final Numbers

Out of 197 students, only 126 (64%) completed their speeches and delivered them in front of the class. Of the 71 students who elected not to deliver their speeches in front of the class, not one chose to video themselves making the speech privately. The speeches ranged from a low of 42 seconds and a high of 5:45 (before I stopped the student, who clearly could have talked for another ten minutes). The average time of all the speeches (N=126) given was 2:59. What I found particularly astonishing was that in one of my classes 24 out of 38, or 63% of the students chose not to give their speech. Whereas in another class, only one student out of 40, or 2% elected not to perform the speech. What a difference classroom culture makes.

I was not sure whether to be happy or sad with these results. My next post will discuss how I provided feedback and how the students reflected on the process. I used this great handout from Edutopia, which contained 40 reflection questions for students.

Detecting Plagiarism

This post summarizes the white paper on Plagiarism and the Web, which will culminate in a lecture for course participants in the MOOC Helping History Teachers Become Writing Teachers that will take place between January 12, 2015 – February 24, 2015. Regardless of if you are participating in the course or not, feel free to make comments, or click on the links for the original sources.

Turnitin Sources

Blum (2011) reported that more than 75 percent of college students have admitted to cheating and 68 percent have admitted cutting and pasting material from the internet without citing it. Over the last 15 years, almost 40 million student papers have been submitted to Turnitin. This study examined and classified 140 million content matches to discover which web sources students rely on for unoriginal content in their written work. The vast majority of students who have matched content in their work do not rely on cheat sites or paper mills. Many use legitimate homework, academic and educational sites as research sources. Students rely on social networks and user-generated content sites such as content sharing and question-and-answer (Q&A) sites to find content for their papers. Turnitin detects patterns of matching text to help instructors determine if plagiarism has occurred. The text in the student’s paper that is found to match a source may be properly cited, making it legitimate academic work. Social and content sharing web sites comprised the highest percentage of all matched content over the course of the study. Legitimate homework and academic help sites were second, followed by cheat sites/paper mills and news and portals a close third and fourth. The fifth most popular category was encyclopedia. The top eight matched sites for matched content were: 1) 2) 3) 4) 5) 6) 7) 8) Only one of the top eight sites is dedicated to helping students cheat by providing unoriginal content. Out of the twenty-five most popular sites, fourteen are legitimate student resources. While close to fifteen percent of unoriginal content comes from cheat sites and paper mills, the majority of students are frequenting legitimate academic or educational web sites. Educators can guide students in proper citation procedures. With digital tools, educators can show students how much of their paper lacks attribution. Showing students a detailed report on the originality of their written work creates a teachable moment. Turnitin offers a collection of white papers on student writing and plagiarism that teachers may find beneficial. Although most students understand that quoting word for word requires a citation, they are often confused about the need to cite someone else’s paraphrased ideas. Professional authors like Stephen Ambrose,  Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Stephen Glass have had problems in this area too. Turnitin claims that academic institutions adopting their service see a reduction in unoriginal content of 30-35% in the first year. By the fourth year, many institutions see levels of unoriginality in student writing falling by 70 percent. This claim, when applied to the assertion that the rate of serious cheating on written work remained stable between 1963 and 1993 (Blum, 2011, p. 2) indicates that electronic plagiarism detection tools could be beneficial to teachers and help increase the amount of writing assigned in high school and college. I am interested in hearing about your experiences using plagiarism detection tools. Do you think students are genuinely confused about the rules of paraphrasing and citing? Or are the vast majority of students deliberately copying other writer’s works? What motivates this? Does cutting and pasting happen from poor research skills or laziness? How can you create assignments that reduce the amount of plagiarism from your students? Please make a comment, or send me your questions via Twitter to @scottmpetri #HistRW. For those interested in experimenting with plagiarism detection tools, there are several free options.


Blum, S., D. (2011). My word: Plagiarism and college culture. Cornell University Press. Ithaca, NY.

Plagiarism and the Web: Myths and Realities. An Analytical Study on Where Students Find Unoriginal Content on the Internet. Retrieved from on November 25, 2014.

Learn to Teach, Teach to Learn

by Dr. Strojny

Recently, Salon online magazine ran an article that touched on whether successful teaching is just a learned talent or a natural skill that some people have, and some don’t. The article touches on that author Elizabeth Green titles, The Myth of the Natural Born Teacher.”

This type of myth-making—that some folks are just “born to teach,” and others will hopelessly bore (at best) or (at worst), mis-educate and harm the learning of our students, is surprisingly prevalent, Green asserts, on not only both sides of the political spectrum, but even in the Schools of Education of colleges and universities across the country. Yet considerable evidence exists, that, in fact, using particular skills and strategies result in increased levels of learning for students. This is fantastic news. Just as no one would want a “a natural born surgeon,” (as opposed to one who had spent years in medical school) and pro sports players don’t get paid the big bucks for potential, so too, teaching well is a learned skill, one that takes hard work, and willingness to adapt to new strategies.

For many teachers, the problem can be in sorting through the tremendous amounts of “noise” out there to find the best practices that will truly result in increased learning. In 2008, Dr. Monte-Sano compared two different types of teaching strategies for secondary Social Studies/History teachers. Specifically, Monte-Sano was looking for results the writing skills of history students based on type of instruction. In Monte-Sano’s work, both teachers engaged in a mix of lecture, regular reading and writing assignments and some use of textbook reading. (Monte-Sano, 2008). However, in other important ways, teacher practices differed. One teacher modeled active reading strategies, and encouraged students view history writing as an interpretive exercise, with the interpretation of historical documents as critical to creating meaningful and intelligent interpretations. The other teacher leaned towards teaching history more as serious of static factual events.

Monte-Sano found that those students whose teacher who relied more heavily on memorization of facts and assigned frequent essays, but provided limited feedback, had writing skills that stayed the same or even declined slightly over the course of the school year. However, students whose teacher gave consistent targeted feedback had students whose scores improved over the year. The teacher also engaged in traditional “English teacher” type reading comprehension and writing strategies, such as modeling, creating scaffolded opportunities for students to write, one-on-one conferencing and targeted feedback.

See: Monte-Sano, C. (2008). Qualities of effective writing instruction in history classrooms: A cross-case comparison of two teachers’ practices. American Educational Research Journal, 45 (4), 1045-1079. 

Nevertheless, many history teachers continue to maintain the first type of more “traditional” type of classroom, expending a lot of work on reading and frequent essay practices that may result in more limited in feedback for students. Why is this? In general, teachers work hard and most want to see the best possible results for their students.

Well, the teacher struggling to see gains in low-SES schools may be more amenable to trying something new, since they are can see clearly their student’s English language deficiencies. Many (certainly not all!) students in low-income schools may already be scoring at a low level on high stakes tests, and so teachers are willing to adopt a new strategy in an attempt to help their students.

In addition, students themselves are pre-disposed, as late as college, to view history as a single story, and less likely to view history through the complex lens of interpretative art (Monte-Sano, 2012). Students come in to class “expecting” to hear a story with names, dates, and events they have to memorize, and may be more challenged to adapt to class that offers a truly college preparatory vision of historical writing. If we ask students to write true historical interpretative essays, we are asking type of careful sifting of evidence and crafting of interpretation is some of the most sophisticated and complex writing students in all of their high school careers—and we are asking them to do it in History/Social Studies classes – not English classes! No wonder History and Social Studies teachers are feeling the heat.

So what types of strategies should History teachers focus on in teaching Historical writing to students? The research suggests they should focus on the same high-impact strategies English teachers use, but focused or adjusted appropriately for History/Social studies.

High Impact strategies for ALL students writing in History and Social Studies class include:

(1) Modeling reading strategies to help students navigate texts;

(2) Are taught to study history as evidence-based interpretation, as opposed to a single narrative;

(3) Are taught to read primary source documents, and to point to evidence from such sources to support their own ideas;

(4) Engage in frequent writing work, that includes not just formal essays, but informal writing opportunities;

(5) Receive targeted feedback that encourages them to look at History and Social Studies as a way of asking lots of questions, rather then memorizing a set series of answers.

These types of critical thinking skills are what will help our students to be successful readers and writers not only in high school, but in the collegiate and university setting and beyond. Just as true for us as teachers, as it is for our students: It’s not just WHO you are, but WHAT you do that will make a difference in student learning. Do we really want to teach our students any other lesson?


Monte-Sano, C. (2008). Qualities of effective writing instruction in history classrooms: A cross-case comparison of two teachers’ practices. American Educational Research Journal, 45 (4), 1045-1079. 

Monte-Sano, C. (2012). Toward disciplinary writing in history: Preparing the next generation. Perspectives on History, 50 (5). Available at: (Found August 11, 2014)


For next time, I will look at some of the highest-impact writing strategies for English teachers, and see how they can be adapted for use by Social Studies teachers. If you can’t wait to get started, have a sneak peak at this important study for English teachers: A meta-analysis of writing instruction for adolescent students.

Graham, Steve; Perin, Dolores Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol 99(3), Aug 2007, 445-476