In October, we shared an overview of the 10 Investigation writing activities that are woven into the BHP curriculum. This month, we revisit BHP’s writing focus with new materials from our professional development course, Teaching Big History.
In the Big History course, writing is a tool for understanding history, and a means to help students understand the practice of history itself. In both high- and low-stakes activities, students are encouraged to use writing to reflect on and articulate narratives of history. Using major themes of the course such as claim testing, scale, and origin stories, students are pushed to make connections and express them through their writing.
Of course, Big History did not invent a magic solution to improve student writing. We’ve just incorporated what good writing teachers have been telling us for years. It turns out that to get better at writing, students need to write more, and they need to clearly understand what good writing is. Below is a round-up of tools, routines, and resources to help teachers meet this goal, address your biggest pain points when it comes to teaching writing: lots of students, lots of learning differences, and too little time.
BHP Writing Rubric
Have you laminated yours yet? It’s a tool you’ll refer to again and again. The BHP Writing Rubric is a guide to every activity in the writing progression. Each criterion is thoughtfully introduced one at a time to avoid overwhelming students. Keep it handy as you help students master claim and focus, analysis and evidence, organization, language and style, and applying BHP concepts in their writing.
Activity Deep-Dive: Analyzing Investigation Writing – Organization (Unit 4)
Not all writers are historians, but ALL historians are writers. In this deep-dive video, Big History teacher Kim Lochner shares how she structures an Investigation writing activity that is explicitly designed to help students progress through the rubric.
Activities in the Writing Progression
How do the 10 Investigation writing activities build on each other? In Session 8.4 of Teaching Big History (scroll down a bit) you’ll find each of the writing activities in one place, for easy download and preview. You’ll see how each activity builds on the next and helps students get progressively more nuanced in their thinking about claim and focus, use of evidence, organization, and applying BHP concepts. Spend time thinking about these activities with an eye toward how you’d modify them for your classroom. Because the activities are designed to build on each other, stepping back and getting perspective on all 10 could help you plan for your own classroom.
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5 Pro Tips for Improving Student Writing with BHP Score’s Revision Assistant
Who doesn’t love lists of five? BHP teacher Jason Manning offers this quintuple of insights on how to make the most of the formative feedback provided with BHP Score. Between free essay-scoring and the writing activities practice progression, your students are well on their way to mastering the written word!
5 Ways to Help Students Become Better Writers
Like a lot of teachers, Rachel Hansen must endure some grumbling from students when she asks them to write. Rachel’s asset-based mindset is her most effective grumble-repellent and will inspire you to focus on growth with your students. She gives five concrete suggestions for how to get there.
The Power of Vocabulary
A touching story about a specific student for whom new vocabulary was a true door-opener. On one level, understanding key terms helps students comprehend specific articles and videos. On another, it’s the key to love, belonging, and heightened self-esteem.
Focus and Reflection Through the DQ Notebook
Getting better at writing is like playing basketball—it takes practice! And the learning doesn’t just happen during the championship game. Kathy Hays prepares her students for high-stakes Investigations by making writing—however informal—a daily practice. Enter: the DQ Notebook activity (and other strategies!). Borrow her ideas, and you’ll have students confidently flexing their writing muscles in no time.