Democratizing the DBQ

A System-wide Approach to Historical Thinking

Core Beliefs

  • All students need to learn how to think.
  • Learning to think requires practice.
  • Clear thinking is hard work.
  • Thinking is clarified by writing.
  • Thinking is for everyone.
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Why Do a Document-Based Question?

1.Content- Dig Deep into content

2.Improve Literacy (Reading and Writing - that is what historians do)

3.Inquiry Skills (Critical Thinking, Reading, Writing, Analysis, Debate, map, chart, visual observations, graphs)

4.Evaluation (best practice)-Evidence- Student writing

Why Democratize the DBQ?

•If every student writes four essays a year from 6-11th grade- by the time of senior year, that equals 24 expository essays.

•Next year all Government classes will write 2 essays- brings essay total to 26.

•By the time of 10th grade AP World History – every student has written 16 essays.

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Point to Ponder- How will the teacher make sure all students understood the idea behind the hook?
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Step 2- The Background Essay: Focus on Literary Strategies

Point to Ponder: How will a teacher check to make sure students have understood the background essay?
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Step 3- Clarifying the Question: Defining Key Terms and Indentifying the Task

Point to Ponder: How will the teacher check to make sure the students understood the DBQ question?
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Step 4- Close Analysis: Predicting and Understanding the DBQ

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Point to Ponder: How will the teacher know the students understand the documents?

Point to Ponder: How will the teacher assess the students' categorizing of documents?
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Step 6- Writing: From thrash out- oral debate to essay, from Thesis to Final Draft

Point to Ponder- How will the student give and receive feedback?
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Create rubric the students can understand

Student friendly words-

  • Let students have input to develop the rubric for writing an essay.

A great source is to create a rubric.

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Student Writing Conferences

What do Students think? Where do they see themselves?

Have students RAINBOW EDIT their own papers

Thesis/Topic Sentence in BLUE

Evidence in GREEN

Argument in ORANGE

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What Next?

Question to Think About:

Considering we do a full blown DBQ once a nine the DBQ assignment the practice? or the assessment?

Strategies To Try


Pre-Write, Free-Write, Quick-Write

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You Be the Judge!


Backwards Reading

The DBQ Project