Students write at their desks.
Assessment

Introducing the Writing Prompt

In step 1 of the unit assessment, students develop an initial position for an argumentative essay in response to a question about the importance and impact of choices in history.

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At a Glance

Assessment

Language

English — US

Subject

  • History
  • Social Studies

Grade

6–8

Duration

One 50-min class period
  • The Holocaust

Overview

Overview

In the first four lessons of the unit, students explore questions about identity, stereotyping, and group membership. This assessment step introduces students to a writing prompt that builds on these important themes and connects them to the history students explore later in this unit. The prompt is designed to serve as both a thematic frame for the unit and a final writing assignment at the unit’s end.

Unit Writing Prompt:

What does learning about the choices people made during the Weimar Republic, the rise of the Nazi Party, and the Holocaust teach us about the power and impact of our choices today?

Because the students have not yet been introduced to the Weimar era, the rise of the Nazi Party, and the Holocaust, this lesson begins with a modified version of the prompt:

Modified Writing Prompt for this Lesson:

How does learning about the choices people made throughout history help us understand the power and impact of our choices in the world today?

This modified prompt enables students to think through larger themes about history and decision making before delving into the specific history in later lessons. This lesson’s activities provide suggestions to help students start to understand the meaning of the prompt and to stake out a preliminary position in response to it. At key points later in this unit (after Lessons 8, 13, 18, 21, and 23), you will be prompted to give students the opportunity to revisit the prompt and consider stories, documents, and other evidence from history that may influence their thinking about it. At these times, students will also have the opportunity to reflect back on, and potentially modify, the initial position they articulate in this lesson.

There are two additional writing prompts that can be used as summative assessments for this unit included in Facing History’s Common Core Writing Prompts and Strategies: Holocaust and Human Behavior. This resource includes lesson plans and writing strategies to help guide students through all phases of the writing process.

What does learning about the choices people made during the Weimar Republic, the rise of the Nazi Party, and the Holocaust teach us about the power and impact of our choices today?

Why study history?

Students will develop an initial position for an argumentative essay in response to a question about the importance and impact of choices in history.

This assessment is designed to fit into one 50-min class period and includes:

  • 3 activities
  • 5 teaching strategies
  • 1 handout
  • 1 assessment
  • 1 extension activity

Preparing to Teach

Notes to the Teacher

This lesson introduces the Anticipation Guides teaching strategy. You might return to the handout Why Study History? later in the unit to see if students’ ideas about the study of history have changed.

Duration: 1 class period

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Lesson Plans

Activities

  • Before the activity begins, hang four signs in the corners of the classroom that read “Strongly Agree,” “Agree,” “Disagree,” and “Strongly Disagree.”

  • Pass out the handout Why Study History? and ask students to read the statements and decide if they strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree with each one. They should circle their responses and then write a brief explanation for each choice.

  • Use the Four Corners strategy to debrief the anticipation guide. Read each statement aloud and ask students to stand near one of the signs in the classroom to indicate their response. After students find their positions, ask them to explain their thinking to others in their corner.

  • Next, ask students in each corner to share their ideas with the rest of the class. As one corner disagrees with another, encourage students to respond directly to each other’s statements and have a mini-debate about the prompt. If students’ ideas change due to the debate, tell them that they are free to switch corners.

  • Next, ask students to return to their seats and take out their journals so they can reflect on the Four Corners activity and start to think about a new and related question.

  • Write the modified essay topic on the board and ask students to respond to it in their journals. Students might also reference their ideas about one or more of the quotations on the handout Why Study History? when formulating their responses.

    How does learning about the choices people made throughout history help us understand the power and impact of our choices in the world today?

  • Next, ask students to debrief the journal prompt in a Think, Pair, Share discussion. Ask students to try to support their thinking with an example from the history they have studied or their own lives. Finally, ask students to share a few opinions or ideas with the larger group.

  • Tell students that they will build on these ideas in the upcoming weeks as they learn about the history of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. They can keep all their notes about these ideas in their journals and use them later to help them think about their essays.

  • Give each student an exit card with the following question:

    Did today’s class affect your thinking about why we should study history? Did it affect how you think about the connection between the choices people made in history and the choices you make in your own life? If so, explain how. If not, explain why not.

  • Collect the exit cards as students leave the classroom. You might share some interesting ideas or patterns at the start of the next lesson. Unless you have permission from the student, we recommend that you keep these anonymous.

Assessment

  • Observe carefully the discussion that occurs during the Four Corners activity in order to check students’ understanding of the themes embedded in the writing prompt. It is important that every student has the opportunity to talk, either in the small groups in their corners or when sharing with the whole group.

  • Evaluate students’ responses on the exit cards. While their thinking about the writing prompt will evolve over time, check now for evidence that they have a basic understanding of the question itself.

Extension

If your class is ready, you might introduce the full unit writing prompt, rather than the one modified for this lesson. Using the Dissecting the Prompt strategy, students can take apart and analyze the prompt, identifying the historical topics they need to learn more about in the rest of the unit to be able to fully answer the question. This will establish several inquiry questions for the class that are related to students’ broader thinking about the purpose of studying history in this lesson.

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Materials and Downloads

Quick Downloads

These are the handouts that students use throughout the Introducing the Writing Prompt assessment.

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