About Writing in History

The California History-Social Science Project (CHSSP) has been dedicated to supporting teacher excellence and leadership in history and the social sciences since its beginning in 1990. We are a network of member sites housed at universities in the California State University and University of California system who work together to bridge policy and practice. With the introduction of Common Core Standards (CCSS), we recognized that effective instruction in California classrooms required changes in practice that integrated the reading, writing and speaking skills identified by CCSS with the knowledge and analysis skills of the content standards. Our sites began a series of discussions on how best to engage teachers in thinking about the relationship between these new standards and the existing History-Social Science Standards. The resources on this site represent the collective work of our member sites and of our collaboration as a network.

     We began with an understanding that there is a distinctive approach to thinking and communicating in history-social science, and have thus found it important to provide discipline-specific tools to support teachers as they help their students develop the ability to reason about the past. The work of a number of scholars on historical thinking has provided us guidance. Through an informal multi-year collaboration with Dr. Peter Seixas, Professor of Education at the University of British Columbia, we began working with six discrete historical thinking concepts that he and his colleagues at the Centre for the Study of Historical Consciousness identified:

  • Historical SignificanceDeciding what is important to learn about the past

  • EvidenceUnderstanding how knowledge about the past is constructed

  • Continuity and ChangeMaking sense of the complex flows of history

  • Cause and ConsequenceDetermining why events happen and what their impacts are

  • Historical Perspectives: Learning how to better understand the people of the past

  • Ethical Dimension: Reflecting on how history can help us live in the present

     These six skills and their concrete descriptions of student proficiency clearly articulated the distinct way that facts, evidence, knowledge, and arguments are defined in history-social science. In so doing, these skills provided guidance in our efforts to help teachers integrate CCSS and the History-Social Science Standards.
      The tools on this website center around a set of guidelines designed to identify, develop, and assess students’ abilities to write effectively in history courses using evidence and making appropriate claims. Because formal writing is often the culminating stage in thinking about and discussing historical topics, these writing guidelines also provide direction in developing skills in reading and discussing historical texts. In short, this website aims to help students grapple with—and communicate—their understanding of history-social science’s distinctive way of reasoning.