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Teaching History Blog

The WOW Factor assignment

The posts so far this year have been very “serious” assignments leading to a big project. However, students need lower stakes assignments to practice and experiment with their writing skills. Also when learning new topics, students need time and encouragement to reflect on what they’ve learned.

The WOW Factor assignment encourages students to share with their class and instructor something that really surprised them in their reading, research or study of the topics for that unit or had them say “I didn’t know that” or “WOW! That’s cool!” The topic may also encourage them to ask questions or say “I would like to know more”.

Title: The WOW Factor
Objective/s: Learner will develop an internal dialogue while reading, studying, and researching history. Learner will build note taking skills. Learner will reflect on the content they are studying.
Assignment type: Formative
Assignment Details:
1. Students are assigned reading from texts and other sources, but many students view this as a passive process and often fall asleep on the book hoping for some sort of learning osmosis to occur. To be more effective readers and efficient students, learners should carry on an internal dialogue while reading. Check out this resource for some great lessons to implement in your courses about talking to the author and building critical thinking skills. If you can not conduct an activity to teach this skill, at least with adult learners share some resources about Question-Answer Relationships while reading. Be sure to share with your adult learners that this skill is expected but often not taught, and that a study skill like this can be more effective and efficient.

2. Now that the students understand what is expected of them while reading, it is time for them to practice the skill. While reading the required text or participating in a content discussion, the student will write down at least 5 WOW “I didn’t know that” or “That’s amazing” facts. Then for each WOW, they are to write at least 3 questions about that topic that come to mind and they would ask the author. Breaking from the traditional note taking techniques, the student is learning to engage with content and if they own the book could write their WOW facts and questions right on the page.
3. Students will then select one WOW fact and questions and build a reflective assignment that they will share in a discussion with their classmates. At the top of the document the student will quote or paraphrase the WOW fact and provide the source of that fact in APA or MLA format. The student will write a brief paragraph about why that information excited them or why they related to that information or found it most interesting. Then below the paragraph they will list each of their internal dialogue questions with an answer for each that may have come from more reading, research, or the answer may be they didn’t find anything definitive but they found out something else interesting related to the fact. Each answer should also include the source in APA or MLA format.
4. Student will post their WOW assignment in a discussion to share with classmates.
5. Student will respond to at least two classmates WOW assignments with 2 additional questions/answers and resources they found to answer their new questions.

Rubric: Based on 100 points
Student selects and posts in a discussion their WOW fact and asks 3 questions. -20 points
Student included a paragraph about why that fact interested them and how they relate to that term. -10 points
Student cites sources for WOW fact and the answers to their 3 questions. -10 points
Student included the answers to their questions in their post or additional information they located about the topic. -30 points (10 points for each question)
Student responded thoughtfully in a supportive and constructive manner to at least 2 classmates’ submissions. The response should include at least 2 more questions, answers, and sources. -30 points (15 points for each response to a classmate)


The WOW moments are now spreading through your class. Students may realize from reading each other’s WOW assignments that they overlooked something interesting in their reading and go back to read it again. Students will encourage each other to think critically about the content they are discussing and find the answers together. History is a broad subject that doesn’t have to bore students. Instead, they can find the areas that most excite them. For example, they might be fascinated with fashion from a certain age or how a weapon or sport became popular. Instead of sitting passively waiting for all the “facts” of history to somehow be absorbed for a test, they can activate their prior knowledge of a subject, engage with new content, and share their excitement with others.

Links
How to Make a Playlist on HippoCampus:
A four-minute tutorial video
HippoCampus U.S. History & Government Study Group on OpenStudy.com:
Library of Congress:
United States House of Representatives:
National Archives:
United States Senate:
U.S. Federal Court:
U.S. Supreme Court Media:
National Constitution Center:
Virginia Historical Society's Virginia History Explorer:

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