Category Archives: Historical Writing

Indy Book Projects

As I start to reflect on the end of another school year, I want to focus on a couple of pieces of student work that have made me feel like an accomplished teacher. I always try to integrate an independent reading project into my history class. I am purposefully vague with students and only tell them that they need to complete a project that convinces me they have read the book. This year, I had two Gaby’s that exceeded my expectations.

The first student read Dead Wake by Erik Larson, which is a fantastic book to help students understand an important turning point in WWI history. This student was part of our school’s Teaching Academy and she decided early on that she wanted to transform this book into a children’s book. I was very impressed by the details she recorded and how she made the author’s text accessible to lower level readers.

Lusitania Children’s Book by scottmpetri on Scribd

The next student wrote a review of the book Forty Autumns by Nina Willner but responded to my feedback with at least five new versions of her review. I especially enjoyed how she included some questions for the author. I was able to contact the author on Twitter @ninawillner and she agreed to respond to the student’s questions. I love how technology has helped bridge a previously insurmountable gap between authors and readers.

Garden of BeastsInfographic Template

The-Great-InfluenzaGreat Influenza Foldable

I love doing projects like this where students have voice and choice as to the type of book they are reading and the project they are creating. The only instruction I give them is that their project should convince me that they read the entire book. The fun part of teaching is seeing how different and creative students can be.

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.