A vertical team is a group of educators at various grade levels who work together to help more students acquire the academic skills necessary for success. Too often, teachers at the elementary level don’t know what their colleagues in middle school are teaching and vice versa. The communication between middle schools and high schools is often sketchy at best. As a result, teachers operate in isolation, spending either too much time or not enough time on skills or content. The result is that students can feel lost, panicky or bored.
The purpose of vertical teaming is to increase communication across grade levels so teachers, collaboratively, can identify expectations at each grade level and support one another in meeting them. Vertical teaming, implemented with fidelity, decreases the isolation of teachers, evens out expectations, and creates a systematic program that allows more students to practice high level thinking skills required for success in AP or IB programs.
The DBQ Project partners with districts and teachers elementary through high school. Our Mini-Qs are short DBQ lessons in which students answer a historical question using four to six documents. Elementary schools and Middle Schools often use our Mini-Qs to help young students gain the skills needed to analyze sources and to cluster documents so they can write about them. Many high schools use our longer DBQs that have 10-16 documents per question. However, because there are so many students who struggle with reading and writing skills, many high schools also use our Mini-Qs. Alternately, some middle schools have strong students who are ready to use our longer DBQs.
In a world with so many differences among students, among schools and among districts, all districts need to take a vertical teaming approach to ensure that they are meeting the needs of their students and helping them progress. The DBQ Project’s Professional Development Team trains teachers at all grade levels in strategies for teaching DBQs. We offer introductory workshops in which we train teachers in The DBQ Project 6 Step Method. For teachers who have already begun to use our DBQs, we offer follow-up workshops in which we address writing strategies in-depth. We also work with school districts to develop their own trainers so they will be able to reach a much wider group of schools and teachers. Districts in which students write at least 3-4 DBQs per year in elementary school and middle school see excellent results in the development of their students’ ability to analyze documents and write coherent evidence-based essays.