Unit Assessment

Preparing to Write an Argumentative Essay

From the Unit:

History
Social Studies

Assessment Overview

This optional assessment asks students to respond to the unit’s essential question in an argumentative essay. Six steps are interspersed throughout the unit (after lessons 4, 8, 13, 18, 21, and 23) to introduce students to the assessment and guide them as they gather evidence, develop their theses, and begin to write their essays. Follow the link at the end of each assessment step to proceed to the next lesson in the unit.

Step 1:

Introducing the Writing Prompt

Essential Question

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?

Guiding Question

Why study history?

Learning Objective

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

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.

Notes to the Teacher

Anticipation Guide Activity
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

Activities

  1. Warm Up with an Anticipation Guide
    • 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.

  2. Generate Initial Responses to a Modified Essay Prompt
    • 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.

  3. Exit Cards
    • 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

  • Dissect the Essay Writing Prompt
    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.

Materials

Step 2:

Introducing Evidence Logs

After students have completed Lesson 8: The Weimar Republic, it is an appropriate time to revisit and revise the working thesis statements they drafted in the initial assessment step Introducing the Writing Prompt. At that time, students were introduced to the first part of the writing prompt, which did not include the specific historical events they are studying in this unit, and they developed an initial position for an argumentative essay in response to a question about the importance and impact of choices in history. Now that students have learned about the Weimar Republic, they will reflect on the writing prompt a second time by adding this historical lens. It is important that students keep the materials for the essay (journal reflections, evidence logs, writing handouts) in a safe place, because they will refer back to them over the course of the unit in preparation to write the essay assessment.

Suggested Activities

  1. Journal Reflection
    • Ask students to reread their journal responses from Introducing the Writing Prompt and then respond to the following question:

      What does learning about the choices people made during the Weimar Republic teach us about the power and impact of our choices in the world today?

    • Have students share their ideas with a partner or small group, or you might use the Two-Minute Interview strategy and encourage students to add new ideas to their journal responses that expand or challenge their thinking about the prompt.

     

  2. Annotate and Paraphrase Sources
    If you have not yet taught students how to annotate or paraphrase sources, you might want to devote a class period to modeling and practicing this skill. You could select a reading from Lesson 8: The Weimar Republic to reread with the class, modeling annotating and paraphrasing sources, or you might select a new reading about the Weimar Republic from Chapter 4 of Holocaust and Human Behavior that they didn’t already read.

  3. Gather Evidence in an Evidence Log
    • We recommend that students start to gather evidence that supports or challenges their initial thinking about the writing prompt at this point in the unit. Evidence logs provide a place where students can centralize and organize evidence they collect over the course of a unit. There are two templates for evidence logs on our website and an additional index card format in the Common Core Writing Prompts and Strategies Holocaust and Human Behavior supplement.

    • Before students start to collect their own evidence, it is helpful if you model the process by doing a “think-aloud” where you complete the first row of an evidence log on the board. In your think-aloud, you might first select a piece of evidence that is irrelevant to the topic and then explain to the class why you are not going to use it. Then select a relevant piece of evidence and enter it into the chart.

    • Students should work individually, in pairs, or in small groups to gather evidence from their readings and class notes about the Weimar Republic that helps them answer the essay topic question.

    • After students have gathered their evidence, have them share their findings and add more evidence to their logs using the Give One, Get One strategy.

    • Final Reflection
      In a final journal response or on exit cards, ask students to respond to the following questions:

      • Has any evidence that you recorded confirmed your initial thinking about the topic question?

      • Has any evidence that you recorded conflicted with or challenged your initial thinking about the topic question?

      • Which choices by individuals, groups, and nations in the history that you have learned about so far in this unit seemed most significant? What made those choices powerful or impactful?

Step 3:

Adding to Evidence Logs, 1 of 3

After completing Lesson 13: Laws and the National Community, students are ready to think about the next step of the writing prompt, the Nazi Party’s rise to power and what they can learn about the impact and power of their own choices from the events they studied in Lessons 8 through 13. In addition to addressing the writing prompt in a journal reflection, students will start to evaluate the quality and relevance of the evidence they are gathering.

 

Suggested Activities

  1. Journal Reflection
    • Ask students to reread their last essay journal response that they completed after Lesson 8: The Weimar Republic and then respond to the following question:
      • What does learning about the choices people made during the Weimar Republic and the rise of the Nazi Party teach us about the power and impact of our choices today?
    • To allow students to interact with a number of their peers after they have finished writing, have them first share their journal responses with a partner. Then ask each pair to join another pair so the class is now divided into groups of four. After they share, have the groups combine into groups of eight or come together as a class. Remind students that they can add ideas from the discussions to their journal entries that extend or challenge their thinking.
  2. Evaluate Evidence
    • Facilitate a class discussion in which students suggest documents or videos from Lessons 8 to 13 that are relevant to the essay topic. Write the list on the board.
    • Have students break into pairs or groups to review the documents on the list, adding to their annotations and writing relevant evidence in their evidence logs. If you feel like your students would benefit from a lesson about evaluating evidence, you might consult strategy 9 in Evaluating Evidence and Strategy 10: Relevant or Not? in the Common Core Writing Prompts and Strategies supplement.
    • After they gather their evidence, use the Give One, Get One strategy to have students share the evidence they have collected and identify questions they have about what they are learning.
  3. Final Reflection
    • In a final journal response or on exit cards, ask students to respond to the following questions:
    • How has what you have learned about the Nazi Party’s rise to power changed your thinking about the prompt?
    • Which choices made by individuals, groups, and nations in the history that you have learned about so far in this unit seemed most significant? What made those choices powerful or impactful?
    • What questions do you have about the essay topic, thesis statement, evidence logs, or evidence that you didn’t ask in class today?
Step 4:

Adding to Evidence Logs, 2 of 3

Before introducing the final historical topic for the essay, the Holocaust and its legacy, now is an appropriate time in the unit for students to review the documents and videos from Lessons 14 to 18 and consider which information supports, expands, or challenges their thinking about the writing prompt.

Which choices made by individuals, groups, and nations in the history that you have learned about so far in this unit seemed most significant? What made those choices powerful or impactful?

Suggested Activities

  1. Share Ideas
    • By using the Learn to Listen, Listen to Learn discussion strategy, students can share and build on each other’s ideas about the significant choices they are learning about in this unit. Start by having students reflect in their journals on the following question:
      Which choices made by individuals, groups, and nations in the history that you have learned about so far in this unit seemed most significant? What made those choices powerful or impactful?
    • Since students have been asked to reflect on this question in earlier evidence log activities, they can review their writing and either add to their previous thinking or write about a choice they learned about in Lessons 14 to 18.
    • Next, divide students into groups of four or five. Each student will have the opportunity to share part of his or her journal reflection with the rest of the group. It is helpful to provide a time limit for each student’s sharing. The other group members will practice listening without interrupting the speaker. When it is their turn to share, tell students to refrain from responding to other students’ ideas; they should focus only on sharing their own thoughts and reflections from their journals. Encourage students to take notes from each other and record ideas or evidence that supports or challenges their ideas.
    • After all group members have shared, each group will have an open conversation in which they ask each other questions and respond to each other’s ideas. They should decide on three or four main ideas from their discussion that they will share with the whole group.
    • Then ask each group to report to the entire class on the main ideas from their conversation.
    • Finish the activity by giving students a few minutes to return to their journals and write down any ideas they heard from their classmates that contributed to or changed their thinking about the impact and power of people’s choices in history and today.
  2. Journal Response
    Ask students to take out their journals and choose an idea or question they heard from a classmate during the Learn to Listen, Listen to Learn activity that they found interesting, provocative, or confusing. They should record the idea and then write a journal entry in response. If they finish before the time is up, they can choose a different idea from the previous activity to respond to in their journals. Students might share their new journal responses with a partner or in a class discussion that also allows them to share their observations about the Learn to Listen, Listen to Learn discussion as a whole.
  3. Revisit Skills: Annotating, Paraphrasing, and Relevant Evidence
    • If you have noticed students struggling with annotation or paraphrasing, you might review those skills with one or more of the readings from this section of the unit before asking them to add to their evidence logs.
    • If you have observed that students are writing every piece of evidence rather than the most relevant ones on their evidence logs, you might create a mini-lesson in which you give students a mock thesis statement (it could be for a different topic question) and a list of ten pieces of evidence. Ask students to label the evidence “R” for relevant and “I” for irrelevant, explaining their choices. Or you might ask students to rank the evidence in a ladder from most to least relevant.
  4. Evidence Logs
    Students should add to their evidence logs any information from Lessons 14 to 18 that helps them answer the essay question:
    How does learning about the choices people made during Weimar Germany and the rise of the Nazi Party help us understand the power and impact of our choices in the world today?
  5. Final Reflection
    In a final journal response or on exit cards, ask students to respond to the following questions:
    • What did you learn from the Learn to Listen, Listen to Learn activity today that extends or challenges your thinking about the essay topic question?
    • What do you feel you need to learn more about in order to answer the writing prompt and write your essay?
Step 5:

Adding to Evidence Logs, 3 of 3

Students are now ready to reflect on, gather evidence for, and discuss the unit writing prompt in its entirety:

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?

In addition to reflecting on the entire prompt and adding evidence from Lessons 19 to 21 to their evidence logs, you might also ask students to engage in structured conversations or mini-debates that challenge them to support their ideas about the writing topic with evidence and listen actively to their peers. For many students, the process of talking before writing helps them organize their thoughts, explain their thinking, and develop a clear point of view.

Suggested Activities

  1. Journal Reflection
    • Ask students to reread their journal entries in response to the essay topic. Challenge them to look for, and maybe even mark with a star, places where their thinking about the question evolved or changed. Then ask them to respond to the writing prompt in their journals:
      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?
    • Use the Wraparound strategy to allow each student to share an idea from his or her journal entries with the class.
  2. Evidence Logs
    Students should add to their evidence logs any information from Lessons 19 to 21 that helps them respond to the essay question.
  3. Take a Stand on Controversial Issues
    Although students will continue to gather evidence throughout the final two lessons of this unit, this is an appropriate time for them to begin the process of developing their position in response to the writing prompt by engaging in structured discussions with their peers. You might select from the Common Core Writing Prompts and Strategies supplement’s Strategy 14: Taking a Stand on Controversial Issues: Speaking and Listening Strategies or Strategy 15: Building Arguments through Mini-Debates. Or  you might select a different pre-writing teaching strategy from the website.
  4. Final Reflection
    In a final journal response or on exit cards, ask students to respond to the following questions:
    • How has your thinking about the essay topic question changed over the course of the unit? Which text (reading, image, video), lesson, or activity contributed the most to this change?
    • What do you feel you need to learn more about in order to answer the essay topic question and write your essay?
 

 

Step 6:

Refining the Thesis and Finalizing Evidence Logs

After finishing this unit, students will need time to complete their evidence logs, develop and refine their thesis statements, organize their evidence into an outline, and draft, revise, and edit their essays. The suggested activities that are presented below will help your students think about the unit as a whole as they answer the writing prompt, as well as start to prepare them to write a strong thesis statement for their essay. For ideas and resources for teaching the remaining steps of the writing process from outlining to publishing, we encourage you to consult the Common Core Writing Prompts and Strategies supplement and the online Teaching Strategies collection for activities and graphic organizers to support your teaching.

Suggested Activities

  1. Rapid-Fire Journal Reflection
    • Now that students have completed all of the lessons for this unit, ask them to complete a Rapid-Fire Writing entry in response to the 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?
    • Have students debrief their writing with a partner, in a small group, or in a class discussion.
  2. Evidence Logs and Fishbowl Discussion
    • Students should add to their evidence logs events any information from Lessons 22 and 23 that helps them answer the essay question.
    • Now that students have gathered their evidence and written numerous journal entries, use the Fishbowl strategy to discuss the following questions, and encourage students to pose their own unanswered questions about the unit and writing prompt:
      • Which choices made by individuals, groups, and nations in the history that you have learned about so far in this unit seemed most significant? How do those choices seem similar to or different from the important choices facing people in the world today?
      • How does the evidence you gathered today confirm or challenge your thinking about the writing prompt?
      • What have you learned over the course of this unit about the relationship between choices people made in the past and the power and impact of your choices today? Which text (reading, video, image), lesson, or activity was most significant in helping your understand this relationship?
  3. Thesis Sorting
    Depending on what sort of instruction and practice your students have had with thesis statements, you may want to give them an opportunity to practice evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of sample thesis statements before refining their own. You can learn more through Strategy 17: Thesis Sorting in the Common Core Writing Prompts and Strategies supplement.
  4. Final Reflection
    • On exit cards, ask students to respond to the writing prompt in a statement that takes a clear stance, addresses all elements of the prompt, and can be defended with evidence from the unit.
    • You can give students written or oral feedback on their working thesis statements in the next lesson and use the information from the exit cards to determine what skills you may need to (re)teach so that students are equipped to write strong thesis statements.

Unit

Introduction
Holocaust

Get Started

Begin here to find useful information and rationale for teaching this unit.

Lesson 1 of 23
Holocaust

Introducing The Unit

Students develop a contract establishing a reflective classroom community in preparation for their exploration of this unit's historical case study.

Lesson 2 of 23
Holocaust

Exploring Identity

Students identify the social and cultural factors that help shape our identities by analyzing firsthand reflections and creating personal identity charts.

Lesson 3 of 23
Holocaust

Stereotypes and “Single Stories”

Students create working definitions of stereotype as they examine the human behavior of applying categories to people and things.

Lesson 4 of 23
Holocaust

Universe of Obligation

Students learn a new concept, universe of obligation, and use it to analyze the ways that their society designates who is deserving of respect and caring.

Assessment

Topic

Holocaust
Step 1:

Introducing the Writing Prompt

Students draft a working thesis statement for an argumentative essay about the impact of choices in history.

Lesson 5 of 23
Holocaust

The Concept of Race

Students analyze the socially constructed meaning of race and examine how it has been used to justify exclusion, inequality, and violence throughout history.

Lesson 6 of 23
Holocaust

The Roots and Impact of Antisemitism

Students explore the long history of discrimination against Jews and come to understand how anti-Judaism was transformed into antisemitism in the nineteenth century.

Lesson 7 of 23
Holocaust

World War I and Its Aftermath in Germany

Students begin the unit's historical case study by exploring the brutal realities of World War I and the impact of the armistice and the Treaty of Versailles.

Lesson 8 of 23
Holocaust

The Weimar Republic

Students reflect on the idea of democracy as they analyze the politics, economics, and culture of Germany during the period of the Weimar Republic.

Assessment

Topic

Holocaust
Step 2:

Introducing Evidence Logs

Students start to gather evidence that supports or challenges their initial thinking about the writing prompt.

Lesson 9 of 23
Holocaust

The Rise of the Nazi Party

Students examine how choices made by individuals and groups contributed to the rise of the Nazi Party in the 1920s and 1930s.

Lesson 10 of 23
Holocaust

European Jewish Life before World War II

Students analyze images and film that convey the richness of Jewish life across Europe at the time of the Nazis’ ascension to power.

Lesson 11 of 23
Holocaust

Dismantling Democracy

Students examine the steps the Nazis took to replace democracy with dictatorship and draw conclusions about the values and institutions that make democracy possible.

Lesson 12 of 23
Holocaust

Do You Take the Oath?

Students consider the choices and reasoning of individual Germans who stayed quiet or spoke up during the first few years of Nazi rule.

Lesson 13 of 23
Holocaust

Laws and the National Community

Students are introduced to the Nazis’ idea of a “national community” and examine how the Nazis used the Nuremberg Laws to define who belonged.

Assessment

Topic

Holocaust
Step 3:

Adding to Evidence Logs, 1 of 3

Students respond to the writing prompt in a journal reflection and begin to evaluate the quality of the evidence they are gathering.

Lesson 14 of 23
Holocaust

The Power of Propaganda

Students analyze several examples of Nazi propaganda and consider how the Nazis used media to influence the thoughts, feelings, and actions of individual Germans.

Lesson 15 of 23
Holocaust

Youth and the National Community

Students learn about the experiences of people in Nazi Germany through a variety of firsthand accounts and identify the range of choices that they faced.

Lesson 16 of 23
Holocaust

Kristallnacht

Students learn about the violent pogroms of Kristallnacht by watching a short documentary and then reflecting on eyewitness testimonies.

Lesson 17 of 23
Holocaust

Responding to a Refugee Crisis

Students think about the responsibilities of governments as they consider how countries around the world responded to the European Jews trying to escape Nazi Germany.

Lesson 18 of 23
Holocaust

Race and Space

Students examine the Nazi ideology of “race and space” and the role it played in Germany’s aggression toward other nations, groups, and individuals.

Assessment

Topic

Holocaust
Step 4:

Adding to Evidence Logs, 2 of 3

Students share their ideas about the writing prompt in groups and continue to build their evidence logs.

Lesson 19 of 23
Holocaust

The Holocaust: Bearing Witness

Students are introduced to the enormity of the crimes committed during the Holocaust and look closely at stories of a few individuals who were targeted by Nazi brutality.

Lesson 20 of 23
Holocaust

The Holocaust: The Range of Responses

Students deepen their examination of human behavior during the Holocaust by analyzing and discussing the range of choices available to individuals, groups, and nations.

Lesson 21 of 23
Holocaust

Justice and Judgment after the Holocaust

Students grapple with the meaning of justice and the purpose of trials as they learn how the Allies responded to the atrocities of Nazi Germany.

Assessment

Topic

Holocaust
Step 5:

Adding to Evidence Logs, 3 of 3

Students approach the unit writing prompt in its entirety through journal reflection, evidence, gathering, and discussion.

Lesson 22 of 23
Holocaust

How Should We Remember?

Students both respond to and design Holocaust memorials as they consider the impact that memorials and monuments have on the way we think about history.

Lesson 23 of 23
Holocaust

Choosing to Participate

Students use the “levers of power” framework to identify ways they can bring about positive change in their communities.

Assessment

Topic

Holocaust
Step 6:

Refining the Thesis and Finalizing Evidence Logs

Students complete activities that help them think about the unit as a whole as they prepare a strong thesis statement for their essay.

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