How Teachers Can Use ChatGPT to Help Students Become Better Writers (History Class Edition!)
Confession: ChatGPT helped me write this blog post and I use it regularly to develop or refine new ideas and revise my writing. And in our classrooms, we should be teaching students to use AI similarly - as a tool to empower students and improve their writing and thinking, inside of putting a ban on its use.
And I got a strong feeling, that students will buy into our classes a lot more if they realize we are helping them learn how to leverage this revolutionary technology instead of ignoring it and punishing students for using it.
So, I'd like I to share some ways we can help students learn how to use ChatGPT to improve their writing and help them learn and show them that this tech can actually serve them rather than just do their thinking for them.
The most obvious use of ChatGPT is to have students share their first drafts with it and ask for guided feedback on how to improve their writing.
ChatGPT can be your favorite classroom helper, giving students timely and specific feedback on all their writing tasks. Simple and effective.
And here's the thing. While we as teachers defnitely need to be worried that students use ChatGPT to just shortcut their thinking and learning by just doing their work for them, if students know they are able to use this technology to improve their writing in your class, they will probably not just cheat their way through the essay or writing task.
Make it clear to your students that in your classroom that you will not ban tools or technology that can help you grow and improve. However, make it clear to them why learning to write is so important and the difference between plagarizing or cheating and getting support from AI like ChatGPT.
Now, this next strategy can be used universally with almost any writing task.
📝 Step 1: Get the Creative Juices Flowing
Give your students any standard writing prompt and let them unleash their work individually for about 20 minutes. This is their first draft- done completely by themselves.
🤖 Step 2: Ask ChatGPT for Some Help
Now, let's bring in the AI. Ask ChatGPT to respond to the same prompt and follow the same requirements as students. Students will copy and past what ChatGPT writes for step 3.
🔍 Step 3: Compare & Critique
In a Google Doc, have students create a table with two columns and put their original writing in the left column and then the AI writing in the right. Have students read over the AI answers they got and look for strengths and weaknesses. This could be done in a small group or individually. They then compare this to their original work.
🔧 Step 4: Craft a Masterpiece
Now, it's time to level-up their writing. Below the table, they rewrite their response using the strongest parts from their work and the AI’s sample.
🧠 Step 5: Reflection
Finally, have students write a short reflection on the process. Did it help them understand the history better? What specific ways did it help them improve their writing? Are they pleased or impressed with their final product?
🌪 Add a twist to the mix!
Switch up step two by having ChatGPT provide a sample with a couple of historical inaccuracies. Students don’t just analyze the writing, but have to fact-check it as well! You might want to do this anyway because AI will still make mistakes. And, this really helps students become better critical readers.
Now, lets look at how to use ChatGPT and AI more creatively!
Last week, I shared a freebie resource "Write-On History" that has over a dozen creative writing prompts to spark more creativity in your classroom while giving students more choice in what they write. You can still grab it for free here.
Here's how to spice-up creative writing even more with the help of AI!
🎤 Historical Interview:
Ask ChatGPT to take on the role of a historical figure- a Union soldier at the Battle of Bull Run, Qin Emperor Shihuangdi, or Susan B. Anthony. They can then ask questions to gather info and interesting details to help them write their own diary entries as if they were that historical figure or write up a new story or mini-bio about that figure.
📩 Narrative Storytelling:
Fuel their storytelling prowess by assigning historical narratives or biographies. ChatGPT can sprinkle some magic on their drafts by adding vivid details, historical context, or even suggesting alternative story arcs. It can give students ideas for how to turn historical events into short stories by setting the context and letting them explain the historical concepts they learned in class.
📝 Historical Letter-Writing:
Challenge your students to write letters from a historical perspective – child laborers during the industrial revolution or historical figures exchanging thoughts. Afterward, ChatGPT can assist in refining the authenticity and language, making their letters captivating and rich in history.
🗣 Historical Debate Preparation:
Gear up for argumentative essays or historical debates and discussions! Students can use ChatGPT to gather evidence and sharpen their arguments. They can input initial arguments and let ChatGPT suggest supporting points, lines or reasoning, or counterarguments. Or ask ChatGPT for several closing statements to hammer home their point. Students can choose or refine the ones given!
If your school is currently blocking ChatGPT, you might want to share some of these strategies with your admin and help them see how this technology can actually help students succeed - both in class and way more importantly, in life after the classroom.
Because if our job is to prepare future citizens and critical thinkers, I firmly believe helping students harness this technology will help with both!
Keep on teaching and learning,
History For Humans
2020 Hawai’i History Teacher of the Year