Monday, November 21, 2016

Writing Prompts

Over the last few weeks, I've been responding to comments and suggestions teachers sent my way during our annual year-end survey. See earlier posts on this here and here.

One request seemed to merit its own post. The teacher wrote: "I could always use more writing prompts or ways of getting my students to do more reflecting/research on what we are learning/discussing in class."

If you are teaching Montana history and are looking for writing prompts, check out the "Critical Thinking" and "Past to Present" questions at the end of each chapter. Here are a few samples from Chapter 3, "From Dog Days to Horse Warriors":

  • What are the main reasons for dividing the history of the Americas into Pre-contact and Post-contact Periods? 
  • What are some of the pros and cons of the introduction of guns and horses to the Plains? 
  • The horse and gun radically changed life for the people of Montana. What changes, if any, have occurred in our society with equal impact? How has our society adapted to these changes? 

And here are a few from Chapter 22, "Living in a New Montana":

  • The present circumstances in Libby and at the Berkeley Pit represent the worst side of mining. Yet the industries there employed many people for a long time and added greatly to Montana’s economy. Is the present cost worth the past benefits? Why or why not?
  • Create a list of the five things you think have had the greatest impact on life in Montana throughout human history. Explain your choices.

For every chapter in the textbook, I hope at least one question in the end-of-chapter material resonates with you and your students and makes a good writing prompt. If not--we did something wrong.

A more general strategy to generate good discussion and reflection comes from retired Simms teacher Dottie Susag. She calls it DICE (an acronym that makes it easy to remember) and we used it in our Montana Mosaic discussion guides, among other places. I think these questions are great for engaging students’ critical thinking skills and eliciting their emotional responses:

  • What Disturbed you? 
  • What Interested you? 
  • What Confused you? 
  • What Enlightened you? 
Do you have other go-to prompts? Feel free to share

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