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Tip of the Week: TRAP3 equals sweet strategy that encourages argumentative writing

Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to chat with Meghan McDermott while we were both attending a Library of Congress gathering. She’s doing some amazing things with her middle schools kids, including having them write a ton.

She’s using a variety of successful strategies (You’re gonna want to check out her 7th graders Seven Themes of History Memes.) but I especially fell in love with her TRAP3 tool. Teachers I work with are always looking for handy tools that can help kids think historically and to write using evidence. And Meghan’s TRAP3 organizer seems like a great way to help students structure historical arguments. I asked if I could share her great ideas with you – not only did she agree but she sent examples, presentation slides, and student work.

The beauty of the TRAP3 is that it provides a powerful structure that makes it easier for kids to develop not just an opening paragraph but a clear outline for their essay.

What is the TRAP3?

T = time period
R = region
A = argument
P = proof x 3

The T for time period could be a specific date, a date range, or a historical period. This helps kids connect the event or topic with a specific time in history. But it could also help connect past events with contemporary issues.

The R for region forces students to connect events, ideas, or people to a geographic area. This could be a very specific place such as a city, country, or continent but it might also be something more vague like a trade route or region.

The A for argument is the thesis or topic sentence. This is the part of the organizer where a student will actually answer the question.

The P3 for proof asks students to provide three pieces of evidence that support their topic sentence. The cool thing is that you can ask for just one or two Ps for younger kids. One or two Ps would also be good at the beginning of the school year as you ease them into the idea of creating argumentative products.

Meghan provided her own color-coded example:

She also shared her presentation slides that she uses with students. But what I really like is that Meghan shared a few student examples:

Gillian, 8th Grade
The LA Purchase of 1802 was only beneficial for some Americans, because
The LA Purchase of 1802 was only beneficial for some Americans, because Native Americans were losing land and Natives were getting infected from small pox but it did help the U.S. double in size. Native Americans were relocated from their homeland to places with bad soil. Americans were immune to smallpox, but they carried it around and ended up infecting Native Americans who were not immune to smallpox. This caused the death of many Native Americans. However, this was beneficial to American farmers. America doubled in size, which meant more land for farming! In conclusion, this was beneficial to some Americans, but it hurt the Native Americans by taking away their land and infecting them with smallpox.

Tommy, 7th Grade
What kind of impact did the trade routes have on the Kingdom of Ghana?
From 400-1200 C.E. in the Kingdom of Ghana, the trades route had a strong impact on the kingdom because they made money, they were introduced to new ideas and cultures and their military get stronger. They made more money because they taxed traders entering and exiting the Kingdom of Ghana. New ideas were introduced because traders would talk about them and spread them. One idea was the religion of Islam. The military got stronger from all the funding and money they got from taxing traders. It is clear that the trade routes were very beneficial to the Kingdom of Ghana.

Hailey, 6th Grade
Why did Hammurabi create his code of laws?
In 2000 BC, Hammurabi created his law code because he wanted to expand his empire, and all of the empires he captured had different laws, so he created his law code.

Sweet stuff. H/T to Meghan – I’m loving your TRAP3.



4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Brandy #

    I can’t open the slides. When I try to the Doc opens. Can this be fixed?

    December 14, 2016
    • glennw #


      Long time! How are things in Topeka?

      My bad on the link! Sorry.

      Fixed and updated. Thanks for noticing and passing on the issue. Have a great holiday!


      December 15, 2016

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