Sequencing Formal and Informal Writing Assignments To Support a Discussion-Oriented History Course

Professor Susan Johnson, History and Chican@ & Latin@ Studies, UW-Madison
In this sample syllabus, Professor Susan Johnson leads her students through a sequence of writing assignments that balance formal and informal writing tasks. One formal assignment, a review essay, is included.

The U.S. Southwest: “The Middle Place,” El Norte,” or “The Southwest”?

History 600, Seminar 7

Chican@ & Latin@ Studies 330

5245 Humanities

Sample Evaluation Criteria for Papers in History

Professor Stephen Kantrowitz, History Department, UW-Madison
Giving students explicit evaluation criteria, tailored to a particular assignment, helps students meet your expecations and helps instructors be consistent in their evaluation.  Here's a sample from the TAs and professor in a history course.

We will grade your papers on the following criteria:



Student Guidelines for Peer Review: History and Jewish Studies

Professor David Sorkin, History and Jewish Studies, UW-Madison
In this carefully designed peer-review process, students do their reviews in class, reading their drafts out loud in a small review group.  Notice how the professor asks students  to offer responses rather than judgments.  And notice that when students submit their revised papers to the professor, they need to include a reflection on what they found helpful in the peer-review process and how they used the feedback as they revised.

Instructions: Please read this sheet carefully in order to know how you are to help your peers.


Bring 3 copies of your paper to class.


Preparing Students for Conferences

Professor Steve Stern, Department of History, UW-Madison
Many instructors find that conferences are more effective when they ask students to come prepared to discuss particular aspects of a paper.  The questions in this example help students prepare for a conference and to give a progress report about their research in class.

History 574:  "Sharing Exercise":  for Presentation of Paper Themes on 10 Nov. 20__, and for Office Hour Discussions of Papers.


1.     If I had to summarize the theme of my historical essay in no more than two or three sentences, I would state:



The Weekly One-Pager

Michael Shank
Professor Michael Shank uses weekly papers to encourage student engagement and to stimulate class discussions.

The purposes of this assignment are several:


The Fifty-Word Assignment

Professor Charles L. Cohen

Seeking the holy grail of an exercise that teaches writing, advances critical skills, adds only a modicum of time to students’ weekly work load, and requires even less time/student to evaluate? The closest thing I have found is the “minor assignment,” a fifty-word sentence covering the week’s reading.

A Comm-B History 200 Syllabus

Charles L. Cohen
In the following syllabus, Professor Charles Cohen introduces his course, articulates his goals for his students, clarifies the place of a Writing Fellow in a Comm-B course, and outlines his paper assignments. Under "minor assignments", note how Professor Cohen gives a series of 50 word (that's right. . . only *50* word!) writing assignments. These assignments not only mean less grading time for the professor and TAs; they force students to gain the invaluable skill of writing to the heart of the matter on a particular topic.

This course is intended to make you into an historian—which is not the same thing as knowing where Nathaniel Bacon slept or how many commas Hamilton used in the 27th Federalist Paper.

The required readings consist of two packets designed specifically for this course. They are available from the Humanities Copy Center, 1650 Humanities Building:

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