Note from the BHP Team: This month’s Big Skill is claim testing, and with it, BHP students add to their vocabulary intuition, logic, authority, and evidence as they examine history and the world. If you haven’t already, read the sister blog post “Claim Testing: Pushing Past ‘I Dunno,’” by Director of BHP, Bob Regan. Bob makes the case for how making a claim and supporting it well turns students into scholars, kids into citizens, shouted out answers into conversations.” Lifelong learning and skills at their finest.

Read on for ideas from veteran BHP teachers about what claim testing looks like in their classroom. Then, join the continuing conversation on Yammer and learn even more about claim testing in a brand-new Teaching Big History session, 8.2: Claim Testing. The learning never stops!


“Bob [Regan] nailed  it with the blog post, “Claim Testing: Pushing Past ‘I Dunno’”! I really like how he incorporated intuition into the picture. It’s such a natural way to introduce claim testing and then use it to develop the skill. With all the information coming at people on a daily basis, claim testing is the most important skill we can help our students develop. Starting early sets the tone for the rest of the year. Students are resistant, especially those with limited English skills. They’ve been allowed (and often encouraged) to provide one-word answers and rarely justify their responses, and it takes time to change that pattern of behavior. Students don’t want to take time to check, so one way to get them to start claim testing is to make it relevant. I begin by making a fairly outrageous claim about BTS, Drake, or Ed Sheeran (or whoever is popular that week), and then encourage questions. This opens the door for all students to share, so they can begin to use claim testing right away. This leads to a discussion about the importance of claim testing. We continue to build upon this as we begin to read articles. [With] each article, I ask students to look up the author to determine if the source is reliable. It’s baby steps but pays off with a giant leap as they progress over the course of the year.”

Kathy Hays, BHP Teacher, Grade 9
Arizona, USA

“Kathy, agreed about your comments on Bob’s blog. I like your strategy of making outrageous claims about BTS, Drake, or Ed Sheeran–that certainly gets kids’ attention. Early on I like to have kids test claims like: “If you swallow a piece of gum, it will stay in your stomach for 10 years”; or “If you watch too much TV, it will damage your eyesight”; or “Drinking too much coffee at an early age will stunt your growth.” At the end of units, I also like to have kids claim test the paradigms we have discussed: the Big Bang, plate tectonics, evolution….”

David Burzillo, BHP Teacher, Grades 6-12
Massachusetts, USA

“Definitely agree with both Kathy Hays and David Burzillo. Beginning the year by introducing claim testing with things that students are familiar with is key. This year, as part of our beginning of the year “getting to know you” activities, I had the students play archaeologist and make claims about my family by analyzing our kitchen midden, or trash. Working with the familiar helps build student confidence, and then allows us to move into a state where we can specifically introduce the four claim testers through Bob Bain’s video, How Do We Decide What to Believe?; the activity, What Are the Claim Testers?; as well as completing a tried and true hands on project: making claim-tester trading cards based on the Claim Testers Comic. All of this practice during Unit 1 prepares students to use claim testing in the subsequent units, and particularly during the Investigations. We make a big push in our graphic organizers and in teaching writing to get students to specifically identify which claim testers are represented in the documents they use to answer the Investigation questions. Why is Galileo considered an authority for Investigation 2? What evidence does he provide us with? Should we trust his intuition when it comes to the moons of Jupiter? Does his argument about the moons orbiting Jupiter leading to the possibility of the planets orbiting the Sun logically make sense? As we continue to practice the skill of claim testing, we are able to move students away from the familiar and into the unfamiliar by applying these skills as we begin to introduce new content. This in turn becomes one of the lifelong skills that we want students to take away from this course and continue using throughout their lives as they encounter new or unfamiliar claims.”

Zach Cain, BHP Teacher, Grade 6
Illinois, USA

“I really like Bob’s ideas in the blog post, “Claim Testing: Pushing Past ‘I Dunno.’ ” We also play a confirmation bias game before learning about claim testing. The game helps open students’ eyes to why it is important to test not just others’ claims, but their own.

I also love the old claim tester worksheets in the various units. When I use those worksheets, I have the kids practice how to cite authority or how illustrate an idea with logic. We do this with a claim testing language stems worksheet. It really seems to help them use claim testers in their writing more effectively.”

Hajra Saeed, BHP Teacher, Grades 10-12
California, USA

“This year I decided to open the school year with an activity something like this:

  1. Write down something you know is true.
  2. Write down something you think is true.
  3. Write down something you think is true but the kid over there probably doesn’t.

Then we’ll do some sharing and hopefully will organically lead to the Princess LEIA (Logic, Evidence, Intuition, Authority) vocabulary.

I am also going to do a FAKE NEWS/FACT CHECK Friday, where every Friday we claim test an article on Newsela.

I have found that my students absorb the vocabulary and theory behind claim testing because they will ask each either other why they think what they said is true or, more specifically: Where’s your evidence? Who is the authority?

They tend to groan and moan when we do the rote skill of something like “read this article and claim test it.” They can (and do) do it, but it isn’t super fun. One of my goals this year is to make claim testing an event to be celebrated not an activity to be dreaded.”

Chris Scaturo, BHP Teacher, Middle School
New Jersey, USA


You’re finished! Now head over to the BHP Teacher Community on Yammer  to add even more to this conversation on claim testing in the Big History Project (and keep checking in, all year long).

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