Document Based Questions

Stages of Reading and Understanding

The Process

  • Set the Stage
  • Access Information
  • Categorize Document(s)
  • Make Inferences and Generalizations
  • Refine
  • Answer
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1. Setting the Stage

The Natives and the English - Crash Course US History #3

A Song for Everything.

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2. Accessing Information

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"We believe it is our struggling readers who most need instruction in learning how to read like a historian...It is precisely those students who find reading a textbook challenging and have never encountered sources in their other classes who most need to be exposed to historical questions and the documents that address them."
"The documentary record, a treasury of letters, diaries, secret communiques, official promulgations, public speeches, and the like confronts a reader with varied styles and textures of language that push the bounds of literacy. It is this rich diet, not the thin gruel of textbooks, that our students need most."
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Access Denied!

"The Gettysburg Address" is a brilliant speech that concisely encapsulated not only the tragedy of the Battle of Gettysburg but also the turmoil of the nation, itself in danger of losing its very life on a bloody battlefield. To many students, this speech is a jumble of pretty words.

Please take the document and make the changes necessary to allow more students to interact successfully with the text.

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3. Categorizing the Documents


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Standard DBQs - Step 3: Bucket the Evidence
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4. Generalizing and Making Inferences

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You may have also tried:

  • APPARTS (author, place & time, prior knowledge, audience, reason, the main idea, significance)
  • SOAP (source, occasion, audience, purpose)
  • SOAPSTone (source, occasion, audience, purpose, significance, tone)

No matter how you do it, we are trying to source, contextualize, and corroborate the document.

(Sourcing & Contextualizing & Corroborating)

5. Refining

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De-Bucketing, Re-Bucketing, and Multi-Bucketing

From The DBQ Project:

"We have good luck with the term 'bucketing' as a substitute for 'placing in analytical categories'.... A special power of buckets is that they become body paragraphs."

"After reading through all the documents students have enough information to re-bucket. That is, they can replace their generic pre-bucket labels with actual reasons drawn from the documents... If they were were to put a document in more than one bucket they would be multi-bucketing. If they change their mind and remove a document, they are de-bucketing (353)."

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6. Answering

Chicken Foot


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For students who are not yet able to write an essay, consider differentiating by accepting one of these products instead of a final essay.
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  • Set the Stage --> Hook

  • Access Information --> Plan for Universal Design for Learning

  • Categorize Document(s) --> Guide Students to Create "Pre-Buckets"

  • Make Inferences and Generalizations --> Provide Graphic Organizers for Analysis

  • Refine --> Encourage students to Re-think, Re-read, and Re-categorize

  • Answer --> Give Clear Expectations for Writing Format. Differentiate.