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Lesson One

Lesson Two

Lesson Three

Lesson Four

Lesson Five


Lesson Two: Creating Document-Based Questions


Types of Documents Used

Accounting for the Needs of All Students

Creating “Workable” Questions

Writing the Questions

What is Scaffolding?

Assessing the DBQ


What different types of documents are used?

1. Document-based questions require students to do the work of historians and social scientists. The materials of social scientists are the “stuff” of the DBQ. Documents include:

2. There are many sources for documents, including:

3. There are many valuable Internet sites:

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How do teachers account for the needs of all students?


1. When preparing DBQs, work progressively.

 2. It is imperative that students examine visual sources: charts, graphs, cartoons, photos, etc.

 3. Passage length is important. Readings should not be wordy or lengthy.

 4. Where vocabulary is difficult, dated, or colloquial, provide “adaptations” and parenthetical context clues. See the Sample DBQ.


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How do teachers create “workable” questions?

1. The best DBQs center on such examples as:

2. Sample DBQ tasks:



3. Achieve balance when selecting documents.

4. The Sample DBQ (on governmental decision making) illustrates balance. The documents are grouped into two distinct patterns illustrating the principles of rule by:

 5. The DBQ should be linked to one of the themes for social studies taken from the “Concepts and Themes for Social Studies” section of the Social Studies Resource Guide with Core Curriculum.

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How should the question be written?

1. Always ensure that the quality of all visual documents is excellent. Visuals must be clear, clean, and readable.


2. Begin the DBQ by stating the directions.


3. State the Historical Context. This context represents the theme of the DBQ as it applies to a specific time and place in history.


4. State the Task. This statement directs students to:

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What is scaffolding? What is its purpose? How should sound scaffolding questions be written?

1. Scaffolding questions are key questions included after each document in the DBQ.


2. Sound scaffolding questions:

3. There is at least one scaffolding question for each document. However, if a document provides

opposing perspectives or contains multiple points, two questions are appropriate.


4. Refer to the following GENERIC DBQ FORMAT model below when constructing questions:


Generic DBQ Format

This question is based on the accompanying documents. It is designed to test your ability to work with historical documents. Some of these documents have been edited for the purposes of this question. As you analyze the documents, take into account the source of each document and any point of view that may be presented in the document.

Historical Context:
Provide a general historical context, framework, or overview for the question.

State the question. Identify the task. Use bullets to segment each part of the task. Use verbs such as describe, compare, contrast, analyze, evaluate, etc.

After reading the documents, complete Part A.

Part A - Short Answer
Analyze the documents and answer the short-answer questions that follow each document in the space provided.

Document 1:
Place the document here.

State the question. You may have 1 or 2 questions for each document. (Remember: the purpose of the scaffolding is to lead students into a proper response to the question.) Provide five or six lines on which students will write their responses.

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Assessing the DBQ

Analyze the DBQ according to the attached criteria. If your classroom assessment also contains multiple-choice questions and/or a Thematic essay, you may want to ensure that no overlap exists between them in the content tested.

DBQ Checklist  (Note: this is a Word document)

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