DBQ Creation and Reflection


A few weeks ago Kristi Convissor and I started creating a DBQ project. We first started with a general outline the DBQ would take. We asked ourselves “What do we want students to learn from the DBQ overall?” To answer that we came up with a generative question to help guide our designing processing and to help the students when they are using the DBQ. The generative question was: “How does a nation develop such an intense fear and enemy, creating mass hysteria?”

From there we narrowed it down to look specifically at the Red Scare in 1950s America. We wanted students to learn about Americans fear of communism during the time. We wanted students to not only be aware of the hysteria but to understand where that fear developed from. One of the goals of the DBQ was to get students to think about what kind of words, actions, depictions lead to fear and what kind of outlets are needed to create mass hysteria. If students understand that then they can see how the Red Scare came to encapsulate so much of the 1950s.The design of DBQs lends well to this kind of investigation.

When creating the DBQ, we chose documents that helped answer the generative question. We had found some cool documents, but they side tracked too far from our question, so we cut them. Having the generative question kept us focused on the main point of the DBQ. In addition we also created follow-up question to each document, which helped us pick quality documents. If the document could only address one question then it probably was not the best source we could use. We made sure to use sources that could be asked several questions because they held a decent amount of information in them for students to discover.

The final project which can be found on Learnist and soon on an iBook, met our goals. Our DBQ allows students to see for themselves how America came to have such an intense fear of communism through films, articles, and posters. Our DBQ took a media lens to the issue, examining the creation of an enemy based on characterizations rather than on facts or true events.

Image Credit: Digital History retrieved from Library of Congress
Media type: poster
Museum Number: LC-USZ62-80757

Bringing Primary Sources to the Classroom: Nikkei Center Suitcase Lesson

           ImageFor the EdMethods class a few peers and I have created a set of lessons for the Nikkei Legacy Center (a museum located in Portland, OR) to pair with the museum’s suitcases. Educators can check out the suitcases, which contain numerous primary sources about Japanese Americans in Portland and their time spent in incarceration camps. The lessons we created range from elementary, middle to high school level.

Creating lessons is always a bit of a challenge but it is even more of a challenge when making them for someone else. The suitcase project has been a great way to practice my lesson making skills by making sure the lessons are thorough in explanations, complete in resources but still flexible so teachers can adapt them to their classrooms.

My lesson is for a middle school social studies classroom. The lesson (that can be broken up into two days) focuses on the incarceration of Japanese Americans from a cultural perspective. The lesson will show students the daily life of internees. The lesson uses readings, videos, and primary source documents with individual and group activities. The lesson would be best used in a class that has already covered World War II.

Here is the procedure of the lesson. For a PDF of the whole lesson click here Suitcase Lesson. (138KB pdf)

Overview: Today’s lesson will focus on the incarceration of Japanese Americans from a cultural perspective. This lesson would fit in after learning about WWII.

Goals: To understand the experience of Japanese Americans being incarcerated during the WWII.

Objective(s): Students will be able to identify the key aspects of life for Japanese Americans in incarceration camps during WWII.


CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.9 Analyze the relationship between a primary and secondary source on the same topic.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.7 Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.

Resources: suitcase, pencil/pen, paper, projector, internet access, printed documents included in lesson plan


  • Ask students if they know the following terms: interned, incarceration, Japanese-American, Nisei and Issei. If not, go over as a class making the definition together using previous knowledge.
  • Read them Scenario A. Have them write a short paragraph on how they would feel, what would they do. Then share with a partner. Have a few students share with the class aloud. [Attached to lesson plan. Called “SCENARIO A”]
  • Have students read brief background on why the Japanese Americans were incarcerated. Either read aloud, popcorn style or at teacher discretion. [Attached to lesson plan. Called “HISTORICAL CONTEXT”]. Answer follow up questions.
  • Have students watch a short interview with George Takei about leaving behind his life to go to an incarceration camp. Answer follow up questions [Attached to lesson plan. Called “Video Questions.”]
  • Have students read about life in the incarceration camps. Split up students into different groups based on the sections. Then have them create a poster depicting their section. Share with class. Have class answer as a whole the follow up questions. [Attached to lesson plan. Called Behind the Fence: Life in the Incareration Camp]
  • Show pictures of incarceration camps. Have students draw connections between what they read and what they see in the pictures. Have class discussion. [Pictures in suitcase. Choose from the following images: G3, G2, I6, I5, D2, I3, I4, H2, F2, G1]
  • For the remainder of class and homework, have students write a letter home to a friend pretending to be an incarcerated Japanese American. Have them use material that they learned about from the day. Have them express their feelings of being interned, and have them tell their friend if they still feel like an American after this experience.

Formative Assessment: Students will answer follow up questions to readings, and the class will go over them as a whole.

Summative Assessment: Students will write a letter pretending to be an incarcerated Japanese American.

Photo Credit: A Japanese Child in an incarceration Camp from http://all-that-is-interesting.com/japanese-internment-camp

Lesson Study Reflection: Share Out of Ideas!


Today in Ed Methods, we went over our Lesson Study assignment. Each person wrote their own plan on a topic they hope to teach in the future. We paired up based on similar topics, which was nice because we could see similarities and differences in our plans right away. Then we did a share out to the class so everyone could hear everyone’s ideas. It was a discussion-filled class for sure that did not need much prompting from the professor, which to me is a good sign (it means we are thinking!).

I really enjoyed that the lesson plans were all varied, ranging from world history to specific congressional roles in the U.S. It was interesting to see how much people varied their writing style. Some were super detailed on a specific lesson for one day, while others did a broad scope on a unit. What I did notice that almost everyone’s lesson dealt with the (sometimes-daunting) Work Sample. I think it is okay that everyone zoned in on that, it shows that we are excited and wanting to prepare for it.

The discussion of the lesson plans was almost more beneficial than the writing of the plans actually. It was quite funny because while I was writing my plan, I kept thinking how I wished someone was near me so I could bounce ideas off of them. Then I get to class and I have eleven colleagues throwing ideas and suggestions at me! It was great!

At times, the sharing felt like a long process though. It was hard at certain times to see how someone else’s lesson related to mine. I also noticed that people struggled to give concise summaries of their plans (I included!). I think it is because we are all educators at heart and educators just seem to be a bit more longwinded. We want to make sure everyone is clear on what we are saying which means a detailed explanation, of course. Other than the summaries though, I think we had a great higher-level discussion. It is so beneficial to talk with our peers because we understand both theory and classroom reality, and can therefore give more detailed feedback. The feedback was not simply “that sounds like a fun activity.” Instead, the feedback went deeper by discussing how students will probably respond and potential speed bumps that could occur.

This assignment allowed me to gain some good ideas from my peers on activities to try in my future career. I especially like it when people share their simulation ideas because I am big on simulations in classrooms. To me, lectures and simulations are a great way to solidify knowledge.

Before class was even out, I found myself contemplating how I could do the assignment differently next time. I know I want to be more specific next time, picking a specific lesson instead of an overarching unit. Discussing the unit was helpful because it gave me a direction to head in, but now I am ready to figure out the specifics and start to lay down actual plans to carry out. I also want to be more mindful of including formative assessments because I noticed many of our lessons did not include much of either kind of assessments (formative & summative). Sometimes assessments (especially formative) are the hardest to create because it is difficult to boil down a whole lesson into a specific (and usually brief) summation/quiz. I know they are just check-ups on student learning but I still struggle to find specific things to gauge their processing of the new information.

Overall, I am feeling more ready for lesson planning in the future!

Photo cred: StefCooke on http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/p/keep-calm-and-write-a-lesson-plan/