Writing Instructions and Practices



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Writing Instructions and Practices
Based on

Michael Henry’s work



US History Skillbook



Table of Contents

IDENTIFYING CRITICAL WORDS IN A PROMPT 4

DETERMINING WHAT DOCUMENTS MEAN 6

FOCUS ON QUESTION: WHAT IS IT ASKING 8

DETERMINING CREDIBILITY: WHOM DO YOU BELIEVE 10

WHICH QUESTION TO WRITE ABOUT? 13

MAKING INFERENCES FROM DOCUMENTS 16

PUTTING ANSWERS INTO A GRAPHIC ORGANIZER 18

USING DOCUMENTS TO SUPPORT AN ARGUMENT 20

ORGANIZING YOUR ANSWER: WRITING AN OUTLINE 22

DEALING WITH DOCUMENTS THAT CONTRADICT EACH OTHER 25

WRITING A STRONG THESIS STATEMENT 27

ANALYZING CHARTS 29

WRITING A POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE THESIS STATEMENT 31

ANALYZING POLITICAL CARTOONS 34

CREATING CATEGORIES TO ANSWER ESSAY QUESTIONS 38

USING DOCUMENTS AND CHARTS TOGETHER 40

SUPPORTING YOUR THESIS 45

USING DOCUMENTS AND CARTOONS TOGETHER 47

DEALING WITH ALL ASPECTS OF THE STATEMENT OR QUESTION 52

ARRANGING SOURCES INTO CATEGORIES 55

WRITING AN INTRODUCTORY PARAGRAPH 58

WRITING A PARAGRAPH FROM DISSENTING DOCUMENTS 60

WRITING A CONCLUDING PARAGRAPH 63

ORGANIZING A DOCUMENT BASED QUESTION 65



IDENTIFYING CRITICAL WORDS IN A PROMPT 3

DETERMINING WHAT DOCUMENTS MEAN 5

FOCUS ON QUESTION: WHAT IS IT ASKING 7

DETERMINING CREDIBILITY: WHOM DO YOU BELIEVE 8

WHICH QUESTION TO WRITE ABOUT? 11

MAKING INFERENCES FROM DOCUMENTS 14

PUTTING ANSWERS INTO A GRAPHIC ORGANIZER 16

USING DOCUMENTS TO SUPPORT AN ARGUMENT 18

ORGANIZING YOUR ANSWER: WRITING AN OUTLINE 20

DEALING WITH DOCUMENTS THAT CONTRADICT EACH OTHER 22

WRITING A STRONG THESIS STATEMENT 24

ANALYZING CHARTS 26

WRITING A POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE THESIS STATEMENT 28

ANALYZING POLITICAL CARTOONS 31

CREATING CATEGORIES TO ANSWER ESSAY QUESTIONS 35

USING DOCUMENTS AND CHARTS TOGETHER 37

SUPPORTING YOUR THESIS 41

USING DOCUMENTS AND CARTOONS TOGETHER 43

DEALING WITH ALL ASPECTS OF THE STATEMENT OR QUESTION 48

ARRANGING SOURCES INTO CATEGORIES 50

WRITING AN INTRODUCTORY PARAGRAPH 53

WRITING A PARAGRAPH FROM DISSENTING DOCUMENTS 55

WRITING A CONCLUDING PARAGRAPH 58

ORGANIZING A DOCUMENT BASED QUESTION 60



IDENTIFYING CRITICAL WORDS IN A PROMPT

One of the most basic skills in essay writing is determining what the question is asking. As a first step, always look for the important components of the prompt. When examining a prompt ask three questions.




  1. What is the time period of the prompt?

  2. What am I to do with the prompt?

  3. What content is appropriate in responding to the prompt?

Every prompt will have these three elements. The time frame will either be stated very clearly or alluded to; a task will be given to perform; and the content area(s) will be apparent.


Below are some common phrases and words that are likely to appear in a free response.

What to do



  • Evaluate/assess the validity: This is just a fancy way to ask, “Is this statement accurate or inaccurate about the historical problem.” Weigh the pros and cons of the issues and decide the relative accuracy of the statement.

  • Analyze the extent to which: Asks for an argument that divides and separated the events and ideas of a problem in order to weigh whether a statement accurately describes a historical period. It is similar to the process of assessing the validity of a statement.

  • Discuss: consider and argue the pros and cons of an issue. Should present all sides of the debated and make some evaluation of the issue.

  • Compare: look for similarities between events, causes, persons or ideas.

  • Contrast: Look for differences between events, causes, persons or ideas.

Content Areas

These are the most common content areas that essay question ask students to draw from as they support their arguments.


  • Political: dealing wit governmental issues, voting, parties, legislative action and partisan affairs

  • Diplomatic: dealing with relations between the United States and other countries

  • Economic: dealing with financial issues, income, money, business activities, production, and distribution of goods and services

  • Social: dealing with people living together and their relationships with other people in recreational, educational and communal settings

  • Cultural: dealing with works of art and literature and their expressions of interest, skills, and dispositions of a time period

  • Intellectual: dealing with ideas, thoughts, understandings, and reasoning

Practicing Skill

The following statement has been broken into its three components. After reviewing it, discuss the parts to make sure it is understood.
Although the thirteen American colonies were founded at different times by people with different motives and with different forms of colonial charters and political organizations, the seeds of democracy grew in America. Assess the validity of this statement.”
Time—1607-1734

What to do—decide whether this statement is accurate about colonial development

Content—political activities in the colonial period
Practice

Look at the statement below and fill out the accompanying exercise. It will be discussed in class.


In the seventeenth century, the cultivation of tobacco made a profound impact on the social and economic development of the Chesapeake colonies. Assess the validity of this statement.”
Time Period-- _______________________________________
What to do--________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Content—

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

DETERMINING WHAT DOCUMENTS MEAN


One of the critical skills necessary for success in this course is the ability to read and understand primary documents. This requires a basic understand of how to analyze a primary source. Eventually primary sources will be combined with other documents to argue a thesis in a document based question (DBQ).
Analyze primary documents in a consistent and systematic manner. Ask the four Ws.
When was it written? (time or setting)

Who wrote it? (authors)

What is it saying? (Limit this to no more than three major ideas—if not the document will be copied)

Where is the message directed? (audience)
Practicing the Skill
My friends, there is one great God and power that has made the world and all things. This great God has written his law in our hearts, by which we are taught to love help and do good to one another. Now this great God has been pleased to make me concerned in your parts of the world. the king of the country where I live has given unto me a great province, but I desire to enjoy it with your love and consent, that we may always live togther as neighbors and friends…I have great love and regard toward you and I desire to gain your love and friendship by a kind, and peaceable life…

--William Penn to the Delaware Indian Chiefs, 1681


  1. When: 1681, when Pennsylvania was founded.

  2. Who: William Penn, proprietor of the colony and a devote Quaker

  3. What:
    A. Good brought the Quakers to Pennsylvania
    B. The Quakers wanted to follow the teaching of God
    C. Penn wants cooperation and peace with the Native Americans

  4. Where: The audiences are the Delaware Indians and Quaker settlers.

Below are two more primary documents Identify the four Ws for each and discuss as a class.


Document A

We the Inhabitants and Residents of Windsor, Hartford and Wethersfield… well knowing where a people are gathered together the word of God requires that to maintain the peace and union of such a people there should be an orderly and decent Government established according to God…

1. It is Ordered, sentenced, and decreed, that there shall be yearly two General Assemblies or Courts...

4. It is Ordered, sentenced, and decreed, that no person be chosen Governor above once in two years, and that the Governor be always a member of some approved Congregation…

--Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, January 14, 1639
When-- ____________________________________________________
Who--_______________________________________________________________________
What--________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Where--________________________________________________________________________________
Document B
Now, dear brother, I will obey your command and give you a short description of the part of the world in which I now live. South Carolina is a vast region near the sea. Most of the settled part is flat…South Carolina is filled with fine navigable rivers and great forests of fine timber. The soil in general is fertile. There are few European or American fruits or grains that cannot be grown here…
The people in general are hospitable and honest. The better sort of people are polite and gentle. The poorest sort are the laziest people in the world. Otherwise they would never be poor and wretched in a land as rich as this.

--Eliza Lucas, Journals and Letters, 1742
When-- ____________________________________________________
Who--_______________________________________________________________________
What--________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Where--________________________________________________________________________________




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