Common Core Alignment:
Grades 6-12 Literacy in History/Social Studies
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-12.9: Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
These are prompts for reflective writing on essential questions in civics/government/political science. What are essential questions? Essential questions are compelling questions with debatable answers. They call on teachers and students to acknowledge complexity and wrestle with multiple points of view. They spark fascination, interest, discovery and, very importantly, motivation.
Essential questions should do more than just draw from central themes in government. Yes, they should require content understanding but they should also ignite deliberative original thought. They should invite students to think for themselves and take ownership of their part of creating the meaning that guides our behavior as humans.
It is suggested to bookend a unit with the essential question by using it to start a class discussion at the beginning of the unit and to prompt reflective writing at the end of the unit. It helps to project the question on the board both times so that students can see it and refer back to it.
You might consider refreshing students’ content knowledge before they begin writing. Even if they struggle with writing, the chance to practice thinking independently about hard questions is valuable for every student. Every opportunity for rigorous independent thought brings them one step closer to becoming the thoughtful and reflective citizens that our democracy needs!
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