Syllabi & Teaching Materials





Research and Writing Seminars





General Teaching Resources





K-12: Preparing for College Writing


Workshop #1: What is history? What does a historian do?

This workshop is intended to introduce high school students to history as a discipline and explain the job duties of a historian. Students are encouraged to use the analogy of a crime scene investigation to reflect on the process of historical research and writing.

The Mystery: Why was Martin Luther King’s speech appealing to the American public in the 1960s? (2) What qualities did MLK have that made him a successful leader in the 1960s?

The Clue: King, Martin L., Jr. “I Have a Dream.” Speech. Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D. C. 28 Aug. 1963. (Note: MLK’s speech is used as a case study. This is not a lesson plan on MLK. The same lesson can be done with any primary source.)

For homework, students will read and annotate MLK’s speech looking for words and phrases that would have been attractive and/or provocative to people in the 1960s (A basic overview of political, social, and economic trends of the 1960s is included in the packet and will have been discussed in class prior to the reading assignment).

In class, students will re-read MLK’s speech as part of an instructor-modeled close reading exercise. Then, students will work in groups of four to find one quote from the text that can be used to solve the “mystery.” Each group will present their findings and explain (1) what the quote means, (2) how it answers/addresses the “mystery,” and (3) what it can tell us about society in the 1960s.


Workshop #2: What is historical analysis?

This workshop is intended to reinforce the skills developed in Workshop #1 and reflect on their importance. Students are once again encouraged to use the analogy of a crime scene investigation to understand the steps involved in the process of historical research and writing.

After completing the instructor-modeled close reading and group exercise as part of Workshop #1, students should be prepared to begin communicating their interpretation of the MLK’s speech. In class, students will complete a chart that models the step-by-step process of primary source analysis.

For homework, students will transform the chart into a paragraph and then reflect on their experience. In particular, students will consider what about history is objective and what is subjective, as well as how the historian is involved in the creation of history.



Workshop #3: Historian as storyteller!

This workshop is intended to introduce students to argumentative essay structure by building upon and integrating the skills acquired and ideas discussed in the previous two workshops.

Using the chart from Workshop #2, students will complete a “fill-in-the-blank” essay with instructor assistance. The essay contains transitions, but expects students to provide the content.

For homework, students will reflect on the role of correlating and coordinating conjunctions in creating a convincing argument.

Workshop #4: Writing an Academic Thesis

This workshop is intended to introduce students to the two main components of an academic thesis: falsifiability and specificity. Using examples, students are asked (1) to consider the difference between a summary statement, opinion statement, and an academic thesis, and (2) how to avoid the trap of a summary and opinion statement.