If you don’t know what a Document Based Question (DBQ) is, you should. DBQs are collections of primary sources that lead up to a main idea. After a class studies a set of primary sources, they formulate that main argument and support it. For instance, earlier in the year my students studied why so many colonists at Jamestown died, and recently we have studied Harriet Tubman and students had to argue what her greatest achievement was during her lifetime. Intense right? Visit the DBQ website to learn more about DBQs.
Charleston County was required to teach two DBQs during this school year, and as I planned and implemented these lessons I realized I learned as much as the kids! Did you know Harriet Tubman’s real name was Araminta Ross? I didn’t. Did you know colonists at Jamestown drank the same water they relieved themselves in and it was a major cause of why colonists died?!?! Yuck!
The documents provided with DBQs are fantastic. They are engaging and provide teachers with specific questions for students to answer that aid in the formulation of the topic of a paper students write after analyzing the documents. But, what if a DBQ doesn’t answer a question that a student has pertaining to the subject? After initially analyzing the Harriet Tubman documents, my students were voracious for more information to support their arguments. I had little ones coming up to me saying, “Mrs. Blalock, how did Harriet originally become a spy?” or, “Mrs. Blalock, did Harriet ever become seriously ill when traveling on the Underground Railroad?”
Well, unfortunately, my knowledge of Harriet Tubman only goes so far so when students began bringing these questions to me I was forced to give them the tool they are now so used to using, their iPads. All over the classroom, it seemed as if more and more students were trying to come up with complex questions just so they could do research and use an original supporting fact in their writings.
I am so thankful that I have a classroom full of students that not only know how to ask important questions, but they also know how to find the answers to these questions! Thanks to a year of hard work and supportive documents, my students have developed into advanced writers and thinkers.