Big History Project

Check out a copy of the BHP writing guide below – this excerpt is taken from pages 23-24 of the BHP Course Teaching Guide. Visit the Big History Project website to register for a free teacher account and access the entire curriculum! See the full BHP course teaching guide by clicking here.

Big History Writing Guide
Writing is a key component of the Big History course. Students need to write well to communicate their understanding and ideas in investigations, closing assignments, and projects. The process of writing and teaching writing can be difficult for students and teachers. This guide is meant as a starting place and we suggest you explore the additional resources to dig deeper into instructional models for teaching writing. Writing in Big History should build on the literacy skills your students are gaining through close reading of texts and learning key vocabulary. We suggest the following three-part approach for guiding students’ writing and encourage you to build upon your own instructional strategies:

Part I: Prewriting
Prewriting is the act of preparing to write. In many ways, it is comparable to the “Capturing Gist” section of the Reading Guide. In this section, students will address the following:

  • Thesis – What is the main idea or point you want to get across and why?
  • Brainstorming – List all the ideas you want to include in the paper.
  • Sources – Find the sources you might use to support your ideas, using claim testing to evaluate the quality of each source.
  • Scope – Is the topic too big or too small?
  • Audience – Is the topic appropriate for the audience?


Part II: Outlining and Drafting
This is where the paper starts to take shape for students. Outlining helps students organize their ideas, present their material in a logical form and flow, show the relationships among ideas, and show where ideas need to be supported with evidence. There are many possibilities for constructing outlines. What most have in common are the following:

  • Thesis statement is at the top.
  • Ideas are organized into related groups.
  • Headings are created from these groupings. Subheadings are then created as needed.
  • Supporting evidence is mapped to the different idea groups or headings.
  • Conclusions are sketched out.

Once the outline is completed, students should start writing. They turn their basic ideas into sentences and get their ideas out as much as possible. This is not the point where students need to worry about polish – rather, they should be getting their thoughts onto paper.


Part III: Revising and Finalizing
This is the final stage of the writing process. Students should do at least two edits of their paper. The first edit should attend to the ideas in the paper, while the second attends to the mechanics of the paper. When editing for ideas, students should be able to answer yes to the following questions:

  • Does the paper follow a logical flow?
  • Are the ideas in the paper supported by evidence?
  • Is the thesis supported throughout?
  • Do ideas transition well from one to the next?

Does the conclusion drive the point home and sufficiently wrap up the paper? When editing for mechanics, students should attend to the following:

  • Spelling
  • Grammar
  • Punctuation
  • Formatting

Before submitting the paper, we recommend that students review their own papers using the Big History Writing Rubric. Peer review is another great way to accomplish a review before students submit the final product. A Peer Review Worksheet to help you with this is available for download on the website.


Additional Resources

  • The National Writing Project, a network devoted to improving the teaching of writing:
  • Literacy Design Collaborative, an instructional model for Common Core literacy:
  • Teaching Channel, a video showcase of teaching practices:

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