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Lesson One

Lesson Two

Lesson Three

Lesson Four

Lesson Five

 

Lesson Three: Preparing Students for Document-Based Questions

 

Five-Step Model for Prewriting the Essay

Analyzing the Sample DBQ

 



To be successful in writing a response to the DBQ, students need a strategy for planning and writing the response.
The following model was adapted from the work of Alice Grant, Supervisor of Social Studies (retired) at Pelham High School, Pelham, NY.

 

Five-Step Model for Prewriting the Essay

Step One
Read the question and highlight (underline) action words. Determine required tasks. Identify key words, eras, names, issues, categories, etc.

Step Two
Brainstorm the topic or era. Write down key facts about the topic and time.

Step Three
Read and analyze the documents:

Step Four
Consider all parts of the question.

Step Five
Make connections to outside historical information.

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Analyzing the Sample DBQ Using the Five-Step Model

Step One
Read the question and highlight (underline) action words. Determine the required tasks. Identify key: words, areas, eras, names, categories, etc.

1. Direct students to the Historical Context and the Task. This is where tasks and key words are specified.

Historical Context:
Throughout history, different systems of governmental decision making and different roles of citizens in the decision-making process have developed. Two of these systems are absolute control and democratic rule.

Task:
Describe
two characteristics of a government under absolute control and two characteristics of a government under democratic rule.

Analyze the role of citizens in the decision-making process of a government under absolute control and the role of citizens in the decision-making process of a government under democratic rule.


2. In this question, the action words are describe and analyze. The area to be described is the characteristics of governments under both absolute control and democratic rule. The area to be analyzed is the role of citizens in the decision-making processes of both absolute and democratic governments.

3. A useful strategy is to have students "block" or "box" the tasks:

Step Two
Brainstorm the topic or era. Write down key facts about the topic and time.

1. Students might jot down examples of democratic principles, characteristics of absolute rule, societies that exemplified both systems of political decision making, etc.
 
Examples:
  • Democratic Principles: limited power to the ruler, power in the hands of the people (popular sovereignty), voting, freedom of expression, etc.
    • Examples: British Parliamentary System, Modern Japan, Ancient Greece
  • Absolute Rule-Police State: lack of rights, people have no voice, persecution and discrimination, etc.
    • Examples: European Monarchs, Russian Czars, Chinese Emperors, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin

Step Three
Read and analyze the documents.

1. Students read the question carefully and answer the scaffolding questions. This is an important step, as the response to the scaffolding will comprise about 15% of the DBQ grade. Students respond in a complete sentence, address the question, and refer to the document.

2. Examine example: Document 1.

  • The response states the main idea, is written in a complete sentence, and offers supporting evidence from the document.

3. Students go beyond merely answering the scaffolding.

  • As they read the documents, they make margin notes that reflect point of view, purpose, frame of reference, similarities, differences, and changes over time.
  • Margin notes include references to outside information and are incorporated into the essay.
     

Step Four
Consider all parts of the question.

1. Make sure students analyze the task and answer all parts of the question. In this example they:

  • describe the characteristics of governments under absolute control and democratic rule
  • analyze the roles of citizens in the decision-making process of governments under each system
     
Step Five
Make connections to outside historical information.

1. The strongest student responses weave outside historical information with the documents. (Students refer to their margin notes for this information.)

2. To ensure the response is structured and outside information is incorporated, encourage students to "block" or "box" the documents.
 
Examples:
  • Documents that support democratic rule: List and state main idea of the document.
  • Documents that support absolute rule: List and state main idea of the document.
  • Related outside information: Refer to margin notes and list.

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