Using Standards - Develop Activities

You are interested in having your students gain some specific ability or skill. Identify what you want them to learn by reviewing the objectives of that activity. Then review the learning outcomes for each of the Standards and select those that match.

Also see our bibliography for faculty and the Toolkit section on developing courses.


Class: United States History, Civil War Era

This example has two parts: the first outlines the assignment and the second revises the assignment to more adequately prepare the student to succeed by using the Standards to develop an activity related to the assignment

Part One: Original Assignment with no activity

You may have an assignment that looks like this:

Requirements for the paper: For your paper, you should select a topic dealing with some aspect of the Civil War. You will research that topic thoroughly and then decide what aspect of that topic you want to focus on. I advise you to narrow your topic to a manageable size. You must have a thesis statement for your paper that you will argue and prove throughout your paper. Your paper must do more than merely summarize the history of an event or the biography of a prominent person. Typed, double-spaced, 12 pt. font and one-inch margins, 7-12 pages, Bibliography with correct citations, use of at least six different sources (only one of which may be an encyclopedia),at least one of your sources must be a book as opposed to an Internet source.

While you would like to have the students narrow their topic to a manageable size not all students know how to do this successfully, you may be assuming that they know how to do this.

Part Two: Revision using the Standards and including an activity

This example does not clarify to the student how to narrow their topic so we suggest this activity, based on the Standards, to teach the students how to do this and to practice writing thesis statements and learn how to find information sources on the Civil War.

We now revise this assignment to include an activity that incorporates information literacy instruction. Using the Standards we develop an in-class activity that takes the students to the library for in-depth explorations helping them to develop this skill and give them an opportunity to get excited about a topic dealing with the Civil War.

Standard and
Learning Outcome

You want students to spend some time investigating options before selecting a topic for their research paper. Your goal is to have them pick a topic that is both of interest to them and for which resources exist allowing for in-depth research..

Standard One: KNOW

Outcome: 1C: Explores general information sources to increase familiarity with the topic.

NOTE: Other standards and outcomes can also be included in this activity.

Collaboration with the librarian results in development of a set of “quests” that allow students in groups to explore information on a broad topic and break it down into more manageable topics of interest.

Each group of 2-3 students will look for information on the Civil War as it relates to the following aspects: Racial, gender, economic, political, geographical, the arts (music, literature, theater, visual arts, etc.), portrayal in films, military, social. Each group will bring back to a class discussion 3-5 thesis statements that would involve their aspect of the Civil War.

Example of Thesis Statement Resulting from this activity:
“Music and its instrumentation not only changed the tone of the Civil War, but the Civil War marked a very critical time in the evolution of music.”