We had the pleasure of talking to Steven Foster about his experience with DBQ. Steve teaches 7th grade Ancient World History at McAuliffe International School in the Denver Public Schools.
- Why Does The DBQ Project Work?
I think it helps students to become better writers by pushing them to use information wisely. Through DBQ, they eventually become better researchers as well. The DBQ Project scaffolds the process in a way that helps students who have struggled in the past. It is also a good launching point for students to go onto writing an actual research paper— and can be used as a step in the actual process of becoming historical researchers. We work vertically as a team and our students write several DBQs in 6th, 7th and 8th grade before going on to participate in National History Day.
We begin with teaching students the differences between primary and secondary sources. We then discuss how to use these sources in their writing. In 6th grade, for example, we focus on writing their thesis and analyzing evidence. By 7th grade, they can write the entire paper and by 8th grade they are ready to go out and research. The ultimate goal is to let them go out and research and write on their own as historians.
- How does The DBQ Project align with your state standards and expectations?
DBQ prepares kids for success on the state test. DBQ is tied directly to our state standards and the Common Core. We recently got our scores back from our 7th grade CMAS assessment and the students did well. We were ranked the 3rd highest in state for social studies! Five of our students earned a perfect score.
Our assessments are very closely aligned with The DBQ Project because they push kids to use historical documents in their writing. For example, on the CMAS students are given 3-7 sources with series of questions.
DBQ is also aligned with PARCC. We collaborate with our language arts department. Whether we are working on general nonfiction writing or the interpretation of primary sources, DBQ is important in preparing students.
- How have you been modifying the DBQ process for your students?
We recently have been working on the Hammurabi DBQ. For extension, I will have my students research additional laws. Instead of writing more paragraphs or adding a bucket, we have them do some of their own research and include a category that wasn’t included in the DBQ. For example, they might look at Hammurabi’s Code and add a category on agriculture law. They will then replace one of the three categories with agriculture. This adds depth instead of breadth.