The culminating task for these investigations is the argument students write to respond to the sources and central question in the form of a Critique. Critique tasks call for students to write letters to a Silk Road Ensemble pop-up exhibit host, CNN.com editors, the New York Times editorial staff, and social studies teachers of older students in response to interpretations of the central questions that they have proposed. In their letters, students write arguments that critique a current interpretation of a historical or social issue made by someone else. In completing these assignments, students delve into issues of representation, perspective, and context as they work with sources, construct evidence-based critiques of other people's responses to the central question, and communicate their arguments to a contemporary audience.

The Critique tasks are an important stepping stone for writing Counterarguments, in that they enable students to focus directly on the notion of rebuttal without having to construct their own position. Critiques, like other arguments, still ask students to share claims, evidence, and reasoning. However, in Critiques, students' claims express what they reject in another person's argument. Students then share the evidence to support their critique of another person's argument. For example, students may find that someone has misquoted or misinterpreted a source; in presenting Evidence, students would include the corrected quotation or a more complete interpretation of the source. In reasoning, students share how the evidence presented supports their claim and why that evidence is reliable given the argument. The Silk Road investigation introduces students to the work of Critique by proposing that a Silk Road Ensemble pop-up exhibit include all of the sources students have read as a fair representation of the ancient Silk Road. In subsequent investigations, students read or watch and analyze other people's interpretations before critiquing them based on the sources, requiring more extensive investigation. For each investigation, we provide rubrics to assess students' performance. The rubrics identify four levels of development (Beginning, Developing, Proficient, and Advanced) for each component of the argument (claim, evidence, reasoning).

In this section of the site, we provide examples of student writing at different levels of performance in establishing claims, evidence, and reasoning for each Critique investigation. We annotate student writing to highlight their disciplinary thinking and work. Essays use pseudonyms and identify students as English learners or bilingual writers where applicable (English learner status means the student has been designated as such through the district's assessment process. Bilingual writer means the student reports speaking a language other than English at home.). For each essay, a rubric highlights the level of assessed performance on each aspect of a student's argument.

View Student Writing and Rubrics

  1. Which sources are most reliable for learning about the Silk Road?
  2. Why does hazardous child labor continue to exist in Nepal?
  3. Is Post-Apartheid South Africa living up to its promises?
  4. Was democracy in ancient Athens a good form of government?