Practice Makes Perfect?

Teacher Lorraine Lapthorne

As I approached the DBQ assignment, I decided to use images and texts from a literacy class assignment I had just completed. At first, I thought I had a head start, since I had a collection already curated, but as I continued with the assignment I realized I had started in the wrong place. While it was nice to have images and text, I should have started with the essential question AND what I wanted students to experience as they worked through the DBQ.

Working backwards, one of the challenges is finding the essential question that ties everything together. My previous assignment was over a broad topic – the Civil Rights Movement – which I’ve realized is much too broad for a DBQ exercise. Finding the right essential question was key to finding a way to connect the materials together.

The next step was to really think about what I wanted my students to learn as they worked through the DBQ. My first set of materials were loosely related, but would require students to take some large leaps to find the connections. Even with scaffolding questions, it seemed like a stretch. Once I had an essential question identified, then I could focus on the historical thinking skills I wanted students to experience as they worked through the DBQ.

This experience reminds me that the only way to get better at something new is to continue to practice. I have a much better sense of how to organize my thoughts around creating a DBQ and look forward to adding this learning experience to my curriculum development skills.

Image Credit: Teacher, Lorraine Lapthorne conducts her class in the Grade Two room at the Drouin State School, Drouin, Victoria.

I get by with a little help from my friends: the gift of peer review

One of the "Little Rock Nine" braves a jeering crowd.
One of the “Little Rock Nine” braves a jeering crowd.

Designing my first DBQ is both exciting and intimidating. Exciting, because I love the idea of having students take ownership of their learning process, but intimidating because I know that a successful lesson requires careful planning and scaffolding. I was grateful that this assignment included a peer review process.

When I came to class last Monday, I had collected primary source documents related to the Civil Rights Movement, but I hadn’t finalized the essential questions or focus of my DBQ. As I talked to my classmates, they challenged me to think about the primary sources I had collected and to focus my question. I realized that my favorite sources were focused on sources that were written by adolescents who were the same ages of my students. I also realized that I needed to find new sources to compliment, “A Poem for My Librarian, Mrs. Long” by Nikki Giovanni and the excerpt of Bone Black by bell hooks.

Peter Pappas suggested finding the iconic photo of the Elizabeth Eckford being taunted and tormented on her way to Little Rock Central High School. While searching for the image, I was able to find an excerpt that tells the story of two teenagers who would become famous that day, Elizabeth and Hazel Bryan.

My classmates were very helpful with this process. As I have discovered in this program, my ideas are even better when I have the chance to talk about my lesson plans and receive feedback on the curriculum ideas. It helps to talk about what I want students to take away from the learning experience and then evaluate the lesson to see if my targets match my activities. Stay tuned for my final product!


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