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5 Planning Tips to Ensure an Engaging DBQ Experience

March 26, 2014 / by Carolyn Henderson

Editor's Note:  This week's blog comes to us from Laura Bean, history teacher at Phillips Academy High School and member of the Network History Team.

Our blogger Laura Bean in action at Phillips Academy High School Our blogger Laura Bean in action at Phillips Academy High School

Quarter three is coming to an end. Are you ready for our 4th quarter common world studies DBQ? If you’re anything like me, you’re up to your eyeballs in grading and not even close to wanting to think about whether the Reformation or Exploration was the most important consequence of the printing press.

Fear not! We’re here to get you started down the path of making this DBQ meaningful before our Q4 DBQ Day.  In fact, even if you're not teaching the world studies DBQ, the tips below might spark some great planning ideas.

The Printing Press DBQ - what’s it all about?

This DBQ is all about comparing and evaluating the effects of innovation. Students must first be able to describe how the invention of the printing press shaped the Reformation and Exploration and then compare and evaluate their effects.

Below are our top five tips for teaching this DBQ, based on our AUSL Historical Reading and Writing Framework.

Before

1. BUILD IT INTO A UNIT OR USE IT AS A LINK BETWEEN TWO UNITS

The Printing Press DBQ requires students to have a solid understanding of several huge concepts:

  • What life was like during the Middle Ages
  • How and why the Renaissance made life drastically different
  • The “basics” of the Reformation and Exploration and their connection to the Renaissance

We suggest situating this at the end of a unit on the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. That way, students will be well versed in the themes of Renaissance Europe, particularly the emphasis on learning. Don’t forget, however, that you will also need to provide some background info on the Reformation and Exploration (think WHAT and, especially, WHY). Students will learn about consequences of each in the documents, but they need to know what these things are all about in order to effectively analyze the documents.

2. CATCH STUDENTS' ATTENTION WITH A DIFFERENT HOOK

Fish_hookAs we said, this DBQ asks students to evaluate the effects of innovation. Our students know a whole lot about innovation - think about the role of social media in their lives! We suggest beginning with a two step hook.

First, ask students to make a list of all the social media outlets they know. Second, compile this list and ask students to evaluate the effects of the two most popular. Are the effects good or bad? The goal here is to emphasize that all innovation comes with consequences, both positive and negative. After this, dive into the background essay. Use the actual hook provided by the DBQ Project as a check for understanding after the background essay.

Purpose

3. USE STUDENTS' BACKGROUND KNOWLEDGE TO MAKE SURE THEY UNDERSTAND THE ESSENTIAL QUESTION

By now, our students get that the Reformation and Exploration were consequences of the printing press. Let’s use that knowledge to make sure they understand the question we’re asking. We suggest doing Frayer Models for the words Reformation, Exploration and Consequence. Make sure students don’t just remark on the dictionary definitions, but also add in their background knowledge.

4.  DEVELOP PRELIMINARY ANALYTICAL CATEGORIES

Next, predictions, predictions, predictions! Have students think ahead about the consequences of the Reformation and Exploration. List these on a poster that you frequently add to and refine during the document analysis process. These predictions become their "pre-buckets".

During

5. BREAK DOWN DOCUMENTS TO ENHANCE STUDENTS’ UNDERSTANDING AND ANALYTICAL CAPABILITIES

The printing press docs can be dense. Some (like Document A) could be broken down into two documents. Some like Document E would be more understandable if used in conjunction with the transparencies in the back of the DBQ  binder. Others (Documents B and C) might require some extended explanation. We also think that pairing Document D with a different perspective would deepen students’ abilities to analyze Columbus’ claims.

There’s a great children’s story book called Encounter, by Jane Yolen, which tells the story of Columbus’ arrival in the Americas from the perspective of a Taino boy. For higher level comparison, you could use the chapter “Columbus and the Indians” from Howard Zinn’s A Young People’s History of the United States. These supplemental resources provide students an opportunity to corroborate what they read in the documents, something not really emphasized in this particular DBQ as is. They also give students access to some of the negative consequences of Exploration, which are not highlighted in the documents, but may influence their evaluation of the importance of the Reformation and Exploration.

Carolyn Henderson

Written by Carolyn Henderson

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