In-Class Short Answer & Document Based Writing Techniques

An effective model for timed in-class writing and peer review:

For writing based on an extensive prompt with multiple sources provided as we would see with a WHAP or APUSH DBQ - in a 90 min class a writing & reteach event could be paced as follows: 

-8 min. Read the prompt with the whole class, break down the prompt together, what is it asking for? What do we know from what we’ve learned already? 

-8 min. Look at the documents and notate evidence that would support our answer to the prompt

-10 min. Model for the students outlining and then next time, with a partner, they outline their answer and where they would place their evidence from the documents/ which order they would present the evidence to support their answer

-20 min. Timed writing (students provided a rubric) Students fully answer prompt in 2-4 paragraphs using the evidence from the documents

-5 min. Students switch papers with their partner. Partner is given 5 minutes to read response to prompt

-15-20 min. Instructor goes over rubric and has a class discussion of what a successful response would look like while going through each step of the rubric. Partner writes in suggestions in different color marking up peer’s response, instructor is addressing misconceptions and re-teaching while students are analyzing one another’s response against the rubric and instructor’s suggestions

Using this technique to increased time writing events to once a month or more frequent essay based assessments

Repeat the process above every month or more frequently as your students get use to the process .


Grading & Feedback that is immediate

Grading can be based on student’s effort and attempt and this would be a way to get students motivated and into analytical writing a bit more (maybe once a month or every two weeks, these are really thinking intensive days for students recalling what they’ve learned and then applying it with the documents you provided for them to analyze).  Over time students could peer review with one another & give rubric points and that can be translated into a grade after the teacher reviews the peer checks for validity. Students would not be grading one another but the teacher would review the essays and peer review points at a later time - but that is most common to do in an AP class where students need to really get those points - in regular or pre-ap we just want to encourage students to get better at analytical writing, not to discourage students but to get the students explaining their analysis through writing more frequently. It's  instructor’s call on how to grade if this is practice writing or your students are use to timed writing and peer review is pretty honest in your classes. If students are ready to be graded heavily AP style and can handle it, go for it. Just ensure that you can explain to parents you have given the students rubrics during their writing and went over in class the rubric with the student and reviewed peer points given for every essay - always give the student the ability to make corrections are re-write the essay for half points back based on peer suggestions - so parents can know - they are being graded strictly by you but the proper supports and options to re-write for half points back have been given.   

Peer Review Rubrics

Make rubrics content specific that way peer & whole class review is a bit more focused on what you want to see in the writing. For example, if students need to include aspects of the effect of a new government in a country write in the rubric: (the writer discussed the practices of former government citing a piece of evidence or using quote from at least one document, changes of practices made by the new government - citing a piece of evidence or using a quote from at least one document , and an example of the effect of the change caused by the new government - citing at a piece or using a quote from at least one document). We can be super specific on what we want to see to help students however as you will see AP is not super specific in their rubrics but our students are not AP, we are just helping them learn how to do this until they can on their own without those supports if that is what we are aiming for. Students can get this rubric as they are writing and over time the rubric can go away as students are trained to be as detailed as you would want them to be in answering the prompt. 


Again, if you are increasing practice timed writing in the classroom do not overburden yourself to take these home and grade them, it would be more effective to do the in class review and address misconceptions instantly that day and then move on so writing events are something that can be done a little bit more frequently with in-class support as students get more practice at it. 

Social Studies Writing Resources

Writing Resources from OWL Purdue