Corbin Moore and I taught an online class called Improving Historical Reading and Writing over the summer. We learned that one of the major barriers to non-ELA teachers assigning writing in their classes is simply that they don’t feel comfortable providing feedback on that writing. They are also concerned about increasing their workload. Our experiences as classroom teachers have led us to include more writing in our daily practices. We hope this chat encourages other teachers to do the same.
Common Core Historical Writing Seminar
Scott M. Petri, LACOE
November 17, 2015
8:30 – Introductions
9:00 – Using Writing to Increase Reading Comprehension
Six Word Stories https://historyrewriter.com/2015/04/13/six-word-definitions/
Link to shared work: http://tinyurl.com/oykufhe
10:15 – Historical Narrative
Olson, Scarcella & Matuchniak (2015) Story Mountain
11:00 – Informative/Explanatory Writing
Fitzhugh – Meaningful Work
Link to shared work: http://tinyurl.com/oykufhe
12:00 – Lunch Break 45 min
12:45 – Argumentative Writing
Monte-Sano – What Makes a Good History Essay?
Link to shared work: http://tinyurl.com/oykufhe
2:00 – Providing Feedback
Whole Class Feedback
Closing the Gap
Favorite Feedback: Fact & Fiction (Turnitin)
Kaizena – demo
Link to shared work: http://tinyurl.com/oykufhe
3:00 – Robo-readers
Run student work through
Link to shared work: http://tinyurl.com/oykufhe
Here is a presentation I did on Saturday, October 17, 2015 for the Southern California Social Science Association in beautiful Burbank, California. I also provided an archive of argumentative writing resources via Pearl Trees.
Argumentative Writing Notes
This presentation focused on the work of Hillocks, Fletcher, and Heinrichs. Hillocks offers teachers a common vocabulary to use consistently with students. Fletcher uses Loop Writing and the Believing/Doubting game to get students examine both sides of an argument. I have adapted her methods for a social studies lesson. MEAL paragraphs allow teachers to give students daily practice in argument writing. Teachers who want additional ideas about teaching argumentation should consult Heinrichs’ Thank You For Arguing.
The process of working through an argument is the process of inquiry. At its very beginning is the examination of data, not the invention of a thesis statement in a vacuum.
Claims are almost never substantiated. 4 out of 5 dentists recommend… A literary critic must cite the works discussed and quote from the texts to prove a claim. A historian must carefully note the artifactual or documentary evidence basic to the argument being made.
Without analysis of any data (verbal and nonverbal texts, materials, surveys and samples), any thesis is likely to be no more than a preconception or assumption or clichéd popular belief that is unwarranted at best and, at worst, totally indefensible.
Warrants may be common sense rules that people accept as generally true, laws, scientific principles or studies, and thoughtfully argued definitions. Two claims can be made viewing the Furigay illustration: It was suicide. It was murder.
Approach the teaching of argument from the examination of data, as a first step. Once we have examined data to produce a question and have re-examined the data to try to produce an answer to the question, we may have a claim or thesis worthy of arguing. If the data support our answer to the question, it becomes evidence in support of the claim we make.
- Examine data
- Ask questions based on data
- Reexamine data
- Try to answer the questions
- Data that supports our answer = Evidence
DBQs do this in a limited way. Most students struggle when characterizing primary sources and don’t understand how to apply the evidence within them. Students need shorter, more frequent, and lower-stakes writing tasks to learn how to write arguments.
Asking students to write the thesis first is putting the cart before the horse. It’s hard to ask a question about an on-going conversation when you don’t listen to the conversation first. – Carol Jago (Fletcher forward).
Loop Writing uses five-minute timed unveilings. Each prompt ups the ante a little. Should burning the flag be protected under the First Amendment? Does the death penalty violate the Eighth Amendment? The “loop method” encourages deeper thinking about a topic as well as intellectual engagement. Purpose of Loop Writing is to examine one issue in depth to move past superficial understandings and develop a sophisticated or new perspective on the issue.
Playing The Believing & Doubting Game
- We suspend all judgment and give the writer the benefit of the doubt.
- Most students have this non-critical approach to reading their History book.
- Listening to a text (close reading – RLH) and postponing judgment requires more effort than analyzing texts. We need to temporarily try the writer’s ideas on for size.
Playing the Believing Game/Doubting Game with the Declaration of Independence might enable students to carefully look through Jefferson’s arguments about separating with England. It would also be interesting to do it with the arguments in Thomas Paine’s pamphlet Common Sense.
Points to Remember
- Academic writing begins with academic reading. Most of our students do not have enough background knowledge to write a strong argument. They need help gathering and organizing information.
- Argumentation involves asking and answering questions.
- A well-developed questioning habit is a key trait of college-ready writers.
Prompts to Deepen Student Thinking
- How do you know if something is true or only an opinion?
- How do you decide if something is better or worse than something else?
- Describe a time when you decided something was more important than something else. How did you reach that decision?
- Describe a time when you were able to see something from a different point of view. What helped you to understand a new perspective?
Playing The Doubting Game
The object of this game is disbelief. These questions prompt a mistrust of the text:
- Does the writer say anything that bothers me?
- Are any of the writer’s claims unsupported?
- Does the writer draw any dubious conclusions?
- Does the writer contradict him/herself?
- Do I disagree with any of the writer’s claims or assumptions?
- Are there any reasons not to trust this writer?
- Does the writer leave anything out?
I operate a flipped classroom where my content lectures are delivered online, this allows my World History students to spend class time reading Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser. Four days per week, we have 30 minutes of sustained silent reading (SSR) where students maintain an unfamiliar word log, then one day per week, we have small group discussions where they practice using the words in their logs. To master Common Core speaking and listening standards, my students will need to give a three minute speech on (1) Marie Antoinette’s childhood, (2) her marriage to Louis XVI, (3) her role as a mother, (4) her performance as Queen of France, or (5) her overall historical legacy. Students will be divided into groups at random and assigned one of these general topics. Speeches will be given over the next month as we complete the book and study the French Revolution.
This post covers how students will brainstorm in small groups to choose a topic, a purpose, and create a roadmap for their speeches. The advice comes from a combination of our school’s Academic Decathlon coach, the awesome Ms. Kerry Sego and the inspiring work of Erik Palmer and his excellent book Well Spoken: Teaching Speaking To All Students.
Topic: This is the subject of your speech. In this case, it is about Marie Antoinette. Will it focus on her relationship with her father, mother, siblings, husband, children, her subjects, or other royals? Will the speech be about growing up a Habsburg, Marie Antoinette’s schooling, or the role of music in her life?
Purpose: This is the point your speech will be making. Was Marie Antoinette was a victim of her mother’s ambitions? Do you want to call attention to her philanthropic gifts? Should she be remembered as the greatest Queen of France? Or for never maturing beyond her selfish, teenage indulgences?
Provide a Road Map: Give your listeners an overview of your topic and purpose. Make sure your main points are clearly stated. Use transitions such as first, another example, next, and finally. Refer back to your main point so the examples seem connected to it. This is where you demonstrate that you can move beyond merely possessing knowledge to creating something meaningful that can inspire an authentic audience.
Introduction: Does it state your topic? Does it clearly state your purpose? Do you begin with an attention-grabber?
Body Paragraphs: Do you have interesting examples? Quotes? Statistics? People? Does your speech progress from point to point clearly? How can you move evenly from one idea to another?
Conclusion: Does the ending of the speech summarize what you have said rather than merely restate or repeat it? Does the speech end with a strong or interesting point? What should the audience do with the information you have given them?
Tone: Your speech is not a formal expository essay. Spice it up with stories, imagery, humor, and background knowledge that your audience will appreciate. There are sensitive and fascinating insights in this book that offer a thoroughly nuanced picture of the queen. How do you want them presented?
After you have written your speech:
- Read it aloud, slowly, pausing for emphasis (remember your audience is listening, without being able to read what you have written), so you must present your information slowly.
- Time your speech. It must be between 2:30 – 3:00 minutes.
- Type it (if you can) double-spaced.
- Save it on your computer. This way you can make changes easily.
- Memorize your entire speech. This is a must.
- Present your speech, do not read it, or act it out. Use a senator’s voice.
- Look your audience in the eyes, glancing now and then to your written copy.
- Stand still. Do not play with your papers, sway back and forth, or twirl your hair.
- Revise your speech. Make necessary changes for an easier delivery.
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.
Text Recommendations: These books are not necessary for completing the course. We referenced them heavily while curating the course content and developing activities.
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.
Improving Historical Reading & Writing is a free Massive Online Open Course offered through the Canvas Network (www.canvas.net). The course is designed to help history teachers improve their skills in teaching historical reading and writing. The MOOC will be organized into 15 online modules that will be open from June 22 – Sept. 7. Each module will contain multiple resources, 3-5 short lecture videos, 2-3 readings, 2-4 online discussions and an online quiz. Course participants will be able to choose which modules to participate in 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 and/or certificates of completion. There is also an option to purchase graduate credit from Ashland University for work completed. Themes for the modules are listed below. Click HERE to enroll.
Content Literacy and Building Academic Vocabulary
Instructional Shifts: Common Core State Standards and College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework
Historical Thinking and The Reading Like a Historian Approach
Developing Compelling Central Historical Questions
Sourcing, Contextualization, and Close Reading
Differentiation, Scaffolding, and Adapting Sources
Corroboration Evidence and Importance of Discussion
Assessing Student Learning through Writing
Document-based Questions / Research Simulations
Providing Feedback: Automated Essay Scoring Tools
Validating Rubrics & Choosing Mentor Texts
History Day and Independent Student History Research Projects
The Common Core State Standards call for teachers to emphasize argumentative, informative, and narrative writing in their classroom practices. This course will help history teachers become writing teachers who teach skills and content simultaneously. Click here to enroll. For questions, contact Corbin Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org or Scott Petri at email@example.com.
Educators are familiar with the phrase “college and career ready” but few are able to articulate what determines this readiness. This is because there has been little empirical analysis on the literary skills required in community colleges. Being college and career ready means students are able to communicate clearly—to speak grammatically, write well and read the required materials with understanding. A May 2013 study from the National Center on Education and the Economy asked what kind and level of literacy is required of a high school graduate for success in the first year of a community college program? They collected data from seven community colleges in seven states, serving rural, urban and suburban populations with enrollments from 3,000 to 30,000.
The reading and writing required of students in community colleges is not very complex or cognitively demanding. The reading complexity of college texts is between 11th and 12th grade. Successful readers of information-rich texts should have the ability to read complex texts in unsupported environments. The capacity to process, retain and synthesize large amounts of new information must be increased. Significant reading experiences must occur in a wider range of content areas. The skills in comprehending statistical tables, charts, maps, lists and other documents in college texts need to be improved.
Reading for in-depth subject matter comprehension is not formally taught in our high schools. This disconnect between high school and college reading demands suggests a need to reexamine what is taught in high school. What are we asking our students to do with what they read? College students are rarely asked to do complex analyses of texts, except in English Comp classes. One third (33%) of the courses examined used multiple choice or true/false exams and assignments exclusively.
Most introductory college classes demand very little writing; when it is required, instructors have very low expectations. Community College writing typically takes the form of informational writing or collecting evidence for a course of action. Complex writing plays a minor role in community college student exams. Even so, a large number of high school graduates cannot meet the low expectations that community colleges have of them.
Community College instructors do not expect their students to read at the level of their texts or to write much. The majority of essays were argument or informational, only one college contributed narrative essays. Agreement between scores was significant at the lower end of the grading scale with notable disagreement at the mid-range of the scale One-fifth (20%) of essays that the panel considered college ready were scored not college ready by the instructors. Almost half (48%) of essays considered college ready by the instructors were given scores of 2 or below by the panel.
Over 75% of the essays given a B by the instructors were marked 2 or below by the panel. Argument essays often received Bs without including well-supported claims. No pattern emerged to suggest why the panelists graded the writing aspect of the subject matter essays more harshly than instructors.
Community College students are required to learn college writing in English Comp and then rarely asked to write again. When they are asked to write outside of English class, the acceptable standard is considerably lower. Many of the deficits of HS school ELA instruction are being replicated rather than remedied in community colleges. Students clearly need better instruction in constructing arguments and in laying out their thinking logically and persuasively.
We need high schools and community colleges to concurrently raise their standards for reading and writing. This doesn’t just happen in high school, but needs to be a collaborative effort when implementing Common Core State Standards throughout the PK-12 curriculum.
Students must have the ability to read information-rich texts in unsupported environments. Teachers must increase the capacity of students to process, retain and synthesize large amounts of new information. Students must have significant reading experience in a wider range of content areas. Teachers must increase the ability of students in reading and understanding tables, charts, maps, and lists that supplement the prose in many college texts.
We are not teaching our high school and community college students to be proficient writers. The limited writing skills that we do teach, we do so ineffectively. Many high school graduates cannot meet the literacy demands of community college programs. Complex writing tasks need to play a larger role in both high school and community college student exams. History teachers may increase their writing instruction skills by signing up for this free online class.
Tucker, M. (2013). What does it really mean to be college and work ready? The English literacy required of first year community college students. The National Center on Education and the Economy. May 2013. Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://www.ncee.org/college-and-work-ready/
The Common Core State Standards call for teachers to emphasize argumentative, explanatory/informative, and narrative writing into all subjects. Many teachers across the content areas are unsure how to respond to these new standards. Should teachers stop delivery of subject content to explicitly teach spelling, vocabulary, and sentence construction? Should professional learning communities (PLCs) devote a specific amount of time to writing instruction in each subject? How many writing projects should be delivered in each subject? Educators will struggle with these questions as they implement the Common Core writing and literacy standards, however, this website will present methods for how can teachers begin improving writing instruction in History-Social Science classes immediately.
There is concern that a majority of adolescents do not develop the competence in writing they need to be successful in school, the workplace, or their personal lives (Graham & Perin, 2007). Other researchers (Bissex & Bullock, 1987; Calkins, 1994; Graves, 1983;) have noted a connection between increased reading and writing and higher levels of academic achievement. Hence, Common Core and an increasing number of assessments, including the ACT, NY Regents Exam, and CRWA, employ writing-from-sources tasks that integrate reading and writing.
Under Common Core, all teachers need to be writing teachers. Unfortunately many History/Social Studies teachers have not had significant instruction and/or practice in historical writing. Worse, very few teacher professional development seminars focus on this topic. As a first step toward becoming writing teachers, Social Studies teachers can increase student literacy skills by incorporating writing from sources, or document-based questions (DBQs) as formative assessments. Goal-setting strategies may be well-suited for guiding and motivating students as the introduction of historical writing increases the rigor in your instructional program.