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History Essay Rubrics High School

Grading rubrics can be of great benefit to both you and your students. For you, a rubric saves time and decreases subjectivity. Specific criteria are explicitly stated, facilitating the grading process and increasing your objectivity. For students, the use of grading rubrics helps them to meet or exceed expectations, to view the grading process as being “fair,” and to set goals for future learning.

In order to help your students meet or exceed expectations of the assignment, be sure to discuss the rubric with your students when you assign an essay. It is helpful to show them examples of written pieces that meet and do not meet the expectations. As an added benefit, because the criteria are explicitly stated, the use of the rubric decreases the likelihood that students will argue about the grade they receive. The explicitness of the expectations helps students know exactly why they lost points on the assignment and aids them in setting goals for future improvement.

  • Routinely have students score peers’ essays using the rubric as the assessment tool. This increases their level of awareness of the traits that distinguish successful essays from those that fail to meet the criteria. Have peer editors use the Reviewer’s Comments section to add any praise, constructive criticism, or questions.
  • Alter some expectations or add additional traits on the rubric as needed. Students’ needs may necessitate making more rigorous criteria for advanced learners or less stringent guidelines for younger or special needs students. Furthermore, the content area for which the essay is written may require some alterations to the rubric. In social studies, for example, an essay about geographical landforms and their effect on the culture of a region might necessitate additional criteria about the use of specific terminology.
  • After you and your students have used the rubric, have them work in groups to make suggested alterations to the rubric to more precisely match their needs or the parameters of a particular writing assignment.

How do Social Studies teachers view writing in their curriculums?

Social Studies teachers see writing as a process. They believe that the writing process needs to be vertically and horizontally aligned so that there is a gradual progression of writing skills from grades 6 through 12. These skills should be sharpened each year and not continually re-taught as if no instruction had ever been provided. The grade where each writing skill is introduced and an explanation of how the skill is going to be developed should be provided to all middle school and high school teachers.

Social Studies teachers believe that the pre-writing process must be an important component of the writing process.  Just as AP and SAT exams provide for a pre-writing period of 4-5 minutes for essays and 15-20 minutes for a DBQ, students must be taught to make pre-writing part of their writing experience.

How do Social Studies teachers use writing?

Social Studies teachers use writing both to help students learn and to assess those students. Writing is physical evidence of thinking therefore writing must be an important component of all social studies classes.  Critical thinking and critical writing go together to both help students learn and provide evidence that learning has taken place. As Social Studies teachers integrate the historical thinking skills identified for high school history AP courses into middle school and Pre-AP classes, these skills will enhance the teaching of writing skills.

What kind of writing instruction must Social Studies teachers provide?

Social Studies teachers believe that students must be taught how to write 5 paragraph narrative, persuasive, and analytical/argumentative essays. They also want to teach students how to read and scrutinize an essay question, address all parts of the question, write a clear thesis in response to the question, and link historical or social science information to what the question is asking them to do (analysis). Social Studies teachers place a great deal of emphasis on the writing of a thesis, because the essay should flow from that thesis. But before they can write the thesis, teachers know they must spend time helping students analyze the question being asked {e.g. identifying key task verbs like compare/contrast, analyze, evaluate, justify, assess the validity etc.}so that student writing matches what the prompt is asking them to do. 


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