Women’s Suffrage DBQ Reflection

Torch BearerIn our DBQ on women’s suffrage, we wanted the students to learn how image propaganda is used to make an argument or portray a side. Our generative questions were:

  1. What is the role of image media in the suffrage movement?
  2. How are pro-and anti-suffrage movements depicted in media?
  3. What are the biases that are found in image media?
  4. How are political, social, and economic factors portrayed in image media?

After doing this unit, the students should be able to look at a women’s suffrage image and answer the following questions (which connect back to the generative questions):

  1. What side is this image from? (Pro-suffrage or anti-suffrage?)
  2. What argument is the image making? How do you know?
  3. What does this image say about the society at the time this image was printed?

Making the DBQ was a challenging assignment, mainly because we needed to find the best images that represented exactly the argument that we wanted. One of the problems was that, because there are so many images from the suffrage movement, there are often images that have different pictures but that make the same argument. We tried to be careful to choose images that did not just show a repeat of an argument, but that depicted a new suffrage position.

Our final project met all of the generative goals and objectives quite well. Each image asks the students to make a decision on the image’s argument and back up their answer with evidence, or it asks the students to compare the images to make a decision on how society had changed between the picture publications. The final DBQ is a great tool that can be used in conjunction with a social studies or communications class that is studying the suffrage movement in the United States. It can be found on the website Learnist, and soon in an iBook.

This DBQ is part of our class-produced, multi-touch iBook. Available free at iTunes

DBQ Reflection

When I started my DBQ project I wanted to show how propaganda was used throughout history and see how propaganda evolved throughout the years.  However, I decided to focus my attention at WWII and the Cold War Era.  I was able to find some great documents showing the propaganda used during that time.  I wanted to somehow link the idea of propaganda to today’s society and challenge the students to think about how propaganda may be used today.  However, I didn’t come up with a great way to do that without making the project much larger in scope. See my DBQ –“The Power of Propaganda”

I think I should have focused my attention to either WWII or the Cold War exclusively.  I think I would have been able to dive in deeper with one of them, rather than trying to span over a long time and different conflicts.  However, this DBQ could be used to try to connect the two events and show how propaganda played a part in both of these.

This DBQ is part of our class-produced, multi-touch iBook. Available free at iTunes


Now and Then: Comparing life in old Japantown to students’ lives today


Japanese Community Queens Court, 1931.

Writing lesson plans for elementary students was simple. The kids lack the cognitive development of secondary students, so one does not have to bother with exploring abstract ideas. Instead, the lessons can be more basic and focus on developing skills students will rely upon as they progress through school and life. I had two goals when writing my lessons: don’t bore the students, and let them create something.

The Lessons
Both lessons were designed to be used in conjunction with the photographs included the Nikkei Center’s traveling suitcases. One lesson is targeted at lower elementary, the other at upper. Both lessons challenge students to analyze what they see in the photographs, make connections between the past and their lives, and create a product demonstrating their understanding. Overviews of the lessons and links to PDFs are provided below.

Lower Elementary:
This lesson offers students a chance to develop their critical thinking skills and make connections between their community and the Japanese community that existed in Portland in the first half of the 20th century. Students will draw where they live, examine the photographs in the suitcase, create a second drawing depicting life in Japantown, and finish by comparing their two pieces and presenting their findings to the class.

Comparing Community

Upper Elementary:
In this lesson students will explore how personal experience can vary based on the community in which you live. Students will imagine they live in Portland’s old Japantown. They will examine the photographs in the suitcase to develop an interpretation of life there during the early 20th century. Using what they learned, students will write a letter to a friend describing their life in Japantown.

Letter to a Friend

Image credit:  These girls are the Japanese Community Queens Court, voted for by the Japanese community, 1931. From left: Emi Somekawa, Frances Maeda, Fumie Marumoto (queen), Chizuko Inouye, and Takako Saito. The queen and princesses ride on the Japanese community’s float in the Rose Festival floral parade.

Oregon Nikkei Endowment on Flickr

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