The Weigh the Evidence tool supports thinking across sources and developing evidence-based conclusions through discussion of historical/social issues and sources. Weigh the Evidence discussions support students in sorting through what they have read and figuring out what they will write, acting as a bridge between reading and writing. Weigh the Evidence discussions focus on the central question and the sources with the goal of identifying compelling and reliable evidence. Students talk through possible claims that the evidence supports and reason about how the evidence supports the claims. This talk is the basis for developing a strong argument, as students corroborate evidence and process ideas together through discussion. The Weigh the Evidence tool is intended to support discussions and enable students and/or teachers to track the ideas in the discussion, creating a public record that students can reference when they decide on the arguments they will make. This tool is not intended for silent, individual work time.
In preparing to write Critiques, Weigh the Evidence discussions are analyses of other people's arguments about the issue they've been investigating and comparisons of the sources they've read to those arguments. Weigh the Evidence - Critique discussions focus on what problems students see in the exhibits, news articles, speeches, and essays that they critique. The exhibits, news articles, speeches, and essays that students critique share flawed responses to the investigation's central question. So, instead of responding to the central question directly in their writing, students critique someone else's response to the central question. The problems students identify become the basis for their claims. The evidence they use to support their claims come from the sources, and their reasoning makes explicit how the evidence highlights problems in other people's arguments and raises issues of reliability.
Typically, students Weigh the Evidence at the end of Day 3 or beginning of Day 4 of an investigation, after they have analyzed the various sources. But this tool can be used in flexible ways. The point is that the discussion helps students think across sources, generate possible claims, and decide what arguments make sense given the sources. As a result, students are supported in making the transition from reading to writing.
The Weigh the Evidence tool offers a way to publicly record ideas from the discussion. You can project this chart and write on it to display students' thinking for the whole class, create a version of this chart on a white board, use poster paper to capture students' thinking, ask a student to record the ideas during discussion and project it after, or identify problems/evidence/reasoning directly on the texts being critiqued. All options offer a support students can refer to when they begin to develop their own written arguments. The tool is not meant to be a worksheet that all students fill out, but a way to create a public record of the discussion.
Record of Weigh the Evidence Discussion for Critique, Investigation #2