Jami McLing, BHP Teacher
Idaho, USA

BHP Score is a thing of beauty: it provides a level of detailed feedback on student writing that would previously have taken me two to three weeks to compile. In addition to time saved, here are three other amazing benefits of BHP Score:

  1. Tool for Teachers: One-on-One Conversations


    Co-teacher Joy Gleave reviews BHP Score reports with students. Photo by Jami McLing.

    BHP Score gives us a tool for having great one-on-one conversations with our students about where they are in the learning-to-write process. My co-teacher and I aren’t writing teachers by training (however, we acknowledge that history teachers are, by default, writing teachers). Although we could read student essays and look for evidence and adherence to the topic question, for example, we’ve always struggled with coaching students on how to be more fluid writers. The comments provided in the Score reports, along with the numeric scores for each of the four criteria in the BHP Writing Rubric, have proven an invaluable starting point for conversations.

  2. Tool for Students: Goal-Setting


    BHP Score report with numeric scores

    BHP Score gives students a concrete tool for making their writing better. When we talk with our students one on one about their Investigations, they use the information from the Score reports (both the written comments and the numeric scores for each of the grading criteria) to identify their strengths and weaknesses. They then create writing goals for future Investigations.

  3. Peer Editing Support


    Students review their BHP Score reports and peer-edit their essays. Photo by Jami McLing.

    BHP Score gives students a tool for learning how to peer-edit. Our students have always struggled with giving honest feedback on classmates’ essays: they don’t ever want to hurt feelings (despite our attempts to teach them that giving a friend the highest score possible does them no service when it’s not truly deserved). But, how are students supposed to improve their writing if they don’t get honest, constructive feedback? BHP Score moves students in this direction. Plus, peer-editing helps them see where they can improve their own writing.

    BHP Score has already changed the way my co-teacher and I approach helping students improve their writing. We LOVE it and are already looking forward (as are our students) to the feedback we’ll get from Investigations 6 and 9.

Learn more about BHP Score.

About the author: Jami McLing has been teaching history at her middle school in Idaho Falls, Idaho, for 10 years. This is her fourth year teaching BHP. She teaches the year-long BHP course to eighth graders in two 50-minute classes per day.


Rachel Hansen, BHP Teacher
Iowa, USA


Christian and Muslim playing lutes in a miniature from Cantigas de Santa Maria of Alfonso X (13th century). Public domain.

Being able to periodize (that is, divide) the past into blocks of time is an essential historical thinking skill. Historians shape entire narratives based on the decisions they make about periodizing events of the past. In the Lesson 3.2 activity Timelines and Periodization, students get to practice periodization by creating timelines related to a topic many are passionate about: music. My students typically focus on the development of musical genres and musical instruments.

Here’s what it looks like in my classroom:

To begin, we have students work in pairs (although you could also have them work individually or in small groups) and supply each pair with two envelopes. In one envelope, students find small pieces of paper with music genres/instruments (one slip of paper per genre/instrument). In the other envelope, students find dates (one slip of paper per date). Feel free to steal our template of genres/instruments and their corresponding dates (bonus: the template doubles as your answer key!). Note that you’ll need scissors to cut the paper into smaller slips, placing individual genres/instruments in one envelope and individual dates in the other. Students then research and pair the genre/instrument with the date in which it began or was invented. Ultimately, they place them on a timeline in correct chronological order (a fun extension could be to have students create this timeline on butcher paper and space out the dates to scale).

Once students have their timelines created and drawn, they periodize the genres and instruments. We give students these three tips for periodizing history:

  1. Think about what the items on your timeline have in common.
  2. The name of the period should reflect an important theme, person, idea, or event from that era.
  3. Breaking history into time periods should help us better analyze it.

Music is an interesting discipline for students to periodize. Many classify and name their periods based on their opinion of the style of music or the type of instrument. As one student once said, “Most of those genres were made before we were even born. So, we don’t think those ones are cool since they’re old. We like the music of our generation.” He and his partner periodized musical history with terms like “Slow – Slower – Old – Fast – Electronic.”


Sample music timeline: History of the rock band Motörhead showing lineups and albums. Public domain.

The final step is to analyze and discuss how students periodized their music timelines. Students quickly realize some flaws in their methodology of periodization. As one student pointed out in his reflection, “You can’t always believe the way they categorize it because it’s just their opinion. Everybody categorizes their stuff different.”

It is possible to reframe entire stories of the past when we change the names and arrangements of periods to emphasize what we deem important. Historians are powerful influencers of our stories of the past! This activity helps students experience this for themselves, and drives home the necessity of thinking critically about the information we consume.

About the author: Rachel Hansen is a high school history and geography teacher in Muscatine, IA. Rachel teaches the BHP world history course over two 180-day semesters to about 50 ninth- through twelfth-grade students each school year.


Rachel Hansen, BHP Teacher
Iowa, USA

The BHP Score reports are awesome. Thanks a million to the graders at Arizona State University for giving such timely feedback. Students loved the written feedback coupled with the visual charts (it is so helpful for them to see their data). It was also handy to have their essays printed on the backs of the Score report so that students could reference them as they examined the feedback.


BHP Score report. Click to enlarge.

So, how exactly did I use Score feedback with my students?

We went over the reports for Investigation 2 (“How and why do individuals change their minds?”) together in class, alongside the BHP Writing Rubric. Students circled where they were on the rubric and then reflected on their strengths and weaknesses. Each student set specific goals around areas where they want to focus and improve upon for Investigation 6, which is the next Investigation for which a Score report will be available. They had to identify the specific skills they would need to demonstrate to move up one step on each of the four criteria. I encouraged them to be specific by using the language from the rubric in their reflections. A lot of students mentioned that the feedback indicated they needed to state an opinion or position clearly and give some paragraph structure to their essays. No one had included a counterclaim (and very few knew what that meant), so we also spent some time discussing the language in the rubric. We also talked a lot about “cherry-picking” information from the text without citing, analyzing, or connecting it to anything.

After some critical reflection, students went back into their Google Doc version of the Investigation and attempted some fixes. We focused on establishing a clear beginning (intro) and claim (using a thesis rubric students had seen in the past). We’ll build more on this later. We filed away their reflections, rubrics, and score reports into a folder that we’ll pull out every time we do an Investigation.

As a teacher, hearing students think through their reflections out loud and on paper was enlightening. I know now that we’ll need to do some mini-lessons on writing claims with a clear position, structuring essays that support the claim, and addressing counterclaims. We’ll also build in some mini-lessons on citing sources and analyzing texts (rather than cherry-picking ideas and quotes from them). These are skills I can easily build into daily activities and routines. For Investigation 3, we’ll just work on hitting the proficient column in Criteria A and B—focusing especially on making a claim that is supported by the structure of the essay.

Overall, our school’s Big History team is pretty pumped. Another BHP teacher literally came running into my room raving about the Score reports. She passed along an exciting review to our district admin office—and they’re loving this, too. Score has freed up time for me to work on differentiating my instruction instead of focusing all my time and energy on grading and feedback. I’m able to take a few concentrated hours to comb through results and plan mini-lessons for future Investigations. BHP Score also allows me to check my own grading practice against a group of experienced graders.

Want to learn more? Check out our past blog posts to get an overview of BHP Score and to learn how we grade student writing.

About the author: Rachel Hansen is a high school history and geography teacher in Muscatine, IA. Rachel teaches the BHP world history course over two 180-day semesters to about 50 ninth- through twelfth-grade students each school year.