American Revolution DBQ

American Revolution
Designing a Document Based Question, or DBQ, has been a great experience. I learned the importance of creating a dynamic generative/essential question that serves as the framework of the assignment. Just as critical, are the five to eight related documents that will assist the students in answering the generative question. The documents can be sources including images, texts, videos, or audio. Each document will also include scaffolding questions to assist the student in examining the document.

The goal of the DBQ I created was to design and utilize a generative question, documents, and scaffolding questions that incorporated historical thinking skills. I wanted students to analyze the documents, gather evidence from the sources and create an argument, or side, about a topic. The topic of my DBQ is the American Revolutionary War. This DBQ could be used as a conclusion of a unit.

I think the DBQ assignment process has given me a great deal of value as a learning experience. Creating interesting and engaging questions and finding quality sources has helped me learn and work through the process of finding content for my classroom. The challenges I had were making sure the assignment incorporated proper historical thinking skills. I found a lot of success in discovering a variety of documents and sources. Some of the lessons I learned were the importance of peer review and advice from peers.

Next time, I would approach this assignment with the intent of finding more engaging documents such as video and audio. I thought this assignment was clear and intriguing. I look forward to creating a DBQ assignment in my future career.

The American Revolution

The American WarTopic:

The class I am student teaching in just finished a unit on the Colonial period in America. We are now beginning a unit on the American Revolution, so I thought the topic for my Document Based Question, or DBQ, assignment should be the American Revolution. Using this topic will give me ideas and help me plan future lessons for my class. The essential question I want my students to answer in the DBQ is: Did the American Colonists have legitimate motivations for initiating war and separating from Britain? There are countless documents available for this topic and question, so it is important for me to pick documents that students will be able to interpret questions, such as: What does it say? How does it say it? And what’s it mean to me? I want the students to use evidence to support their answers to the questions pertaining to each document and form an argument based on what they have learned and think. I will use documents such as letters, speeches, governmental records, and pictures so students have a variety of documents from different sources. While I develop my DBQ, I have to make sure I put the students in the role of the historians.

Example Document:

Association of Members of the Late House of Burgesses, 27 May 1774

We his Majesty’s most dutiful and loyal subjects, the late representatives of the good people of this country, having been deprived by the sudden interposition of the executive part of this government from giving our countrymen the advice we wished to convey to them in a legislative capacity, find ourselves under the hard necessity of adopting this, the only method we have left, of pointing out to our countrymen such measures as in our opinion are best fitted to secure our dearest rights and liberty from destruction, by the heavy hand of power now lifted against North America: With much grief we find that our dutiful applications to Great Britain for security of our just, antient, and constitutional rights, have been not only disregarded, but that a determined system is formed and pressed for reducing the inhabitants of British America to slavery, by subjecting them to the payment of taxes, imposed without the consent of the people or their representatives; and that in pursuit of this system, we find an act of the British parliament, lately passed, for stopping the harbour and commerce of the town of Boston, in our sister colony of Massachusetts Bay, until the people there submit to the payment of such unconstitutional taxes, and which act most violently and arbitrarily deprives them of their property, in wharfs erected by private persons, at their own great and proper expence, which act is, in our opinion, a most dangerous attempt to destroy the constitutional liberty and rights of all North America. It is further our opinion, that as TEA, on its importation into America, is charged with a duty, imposed by parliament for the purpose of raising a revenue, without the consent of the people, it ought not to be used by any person who wishes well to the constitutional rights and liberty of British America. And whereas the India company have ungenerously attempted the ruin of America, by sending many ships loaded with tea into the colonies, thereby intending to fix a precedent in favour of arbitrary taxation, we deem it highly proper and do accordingly recommend it strongly to our countrymen, not to purchase or use any kind of East India commodity whatsoever, except saltpetre and spices, until the grievances of America are redressed. We are further clearly of opinion, that an attack, made on one of our sister colonies, to compel submission to arbitrary taxes, is an attack made on all British America, and threatens ruin to the rights of all, unless the united wisdom of the whole be applied. And for this purpose it is recommended to the committee of correspondence, that they communicate, with their several corresponding committees, on the expediency of appointing deputies from the several colonies of British America, to meet in general congress, at such place annually as shall be thought most convenient; there to deliberate on those general measures which the united interests of America may from time to time require.

A tender regard for the interest of our fellow subjects, the merchants, and manufacturers of Great Britain, prevents us from going further at this time; most earnestly hoping, that the unconstitutional principle of taxing the colonies without their consent will not be persisted in, thereby to compel us against our will, to avoid all commercial intercourse with Britain. Wishing them and our people free and happy, we are their affectionate friends, the late representatives of Virginia.

The 27th day of May, 1774.

Signed by 89 members of the Late House of Burgesses.

Document Link

Example Document Questions:

  • What does this document say about the colonists?
  • Is there a tone within the writing of the document?
  • What actions of the British upset these people?
  • What did these colonists recommend be done?
  • How did these Virginia colonists feel about what was happening in Massachusetts?
  • What does this document mean to the future of the Colonies and British relationship?


The process we have used to peer review my ideas have been really helpful. I received great feedback from the “speed dating” of our ideas activity, which helped me further develop my DBQ. The challenges I have faced are coming up with quality questions for each document that will connect back into my essential question. From this process, I am learning to always make sure the student is the historian in the classroom and to make sure I am asking higher level thinking questions for my students. This assignment builds upon the work we did on historical thinking earlier in the semester because I constantly refer to the SHEG website and historical thinking chart. I have to make sure the students are involved in historical thinking skills such as sourcing, contextualization, corroboration, and close reading.

Image credit:

Image taken from page 6 of ‘The American War; a poem in six books, etc. [By G. Cockings.]’ 1781
The British Library 003734518

My Big Symbolic Colonial Wedding

The Wedding of Pocahontas and John Rolfe

Target Students: 8th Grade

Historical Skills: Sourcing

Guiding Source Questions:

• Who painted this?

• What is the painter’s perspective?

• When was it painted?

• Where was it painted?

• Why was it painted?

• Is it reliable? Why or why not?

Description: This mini-lesson gives students a chance to source a document. Sourcing a document is an opportunity to identify the painter’s positions on the historical event. Identify and evaluate the author’s purpose in producing the document. Hypothesize what the painter will produce before looking at the painting. Evaluate the source’s reliability by considering genre, audience, and purpose. This lesson helps students understand an important aspect of sourcing, which is, the time elapsed between when a document was produced and the events that it depicts.

Title: The Wedding of Pocahontas with John Rolfe

Artist: Anton Hohenstein, 1823

Published: Joseph Hoover, c1867, Philadelphia

Summary: Large gathering of Natives and Englishmen for an outdoor wedding ceremony between Pocahontas and John Rolfe

Source: Library of Congress

Directions: Use the image to the right to answer the question

Question: The painting, “The Wedding of Pocahontas with John Rolfe,” is a useful resource for historians who wish to understand the wedding of Pocahontas and John Rolfe. Do you agree or Disagree? Support your answer.

Reflection: After working on my mini-lesson for two weeks, I fully understand what it means for students to engage in historical thinking. It is essential for lessons to employ historical thinking skills such as sourcing, contextualizing, and corroborating. The historical thinking chart created by Stanford History Education Group (SHEG), is a great resource for teachers who are developing lessons. Within my lesson I focused on the historical thinking skill of sourcing. I was able to use the SHEG website as a resource to help build and guide my lesson. The peer review process also gave me a chance to expand my lesson. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the process of producing a mini-lesson using Google presentation. The lessons produced by our class will give students a chance to develop in historical thinking skills and engage with primary sources.

Constitution of the United States

The Constitution

Content: My 8th grade students will explore the colonies’ fight for independence and the framing of the constitution in this lesson. This lesson will follow a unit on the colonies and prelude a unit on the U.S. Constitution.

This is defined by the standard that states: students will understand key ideals and principles outlined in the Declaration of Independence, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the U.S. Constitution, including rule of law, separation of powers, representative government, and popular sovereignty, and the Bill of Rights, including due process and freedom of expression.

This lesson includes three major elements:

  1. Higher-order thinking by creating, evaluating, and analyzing.
  2. Student choice and reflection – students choose their ideas and topics.
  3. Classroom strategies – students collaborating in small groups and working individually.

Process: The lesson is driven by a student-centered approach. Students begin by collaborating in small groups. Small groups are expected to create a list of what they think would be essential ideas/laws for the United States Constitution as if they were colonists in the late 18th century. Each group will then share and discuss their ideas in a presentation to the class. While a group is presenting, the other groups will evaluate and question the presenter’s ideas/laws. Students are expected to ask clarifying and thoughtful questions about the ideas/laws presented. I will work as a mediator, if needed, to help jumpstart questions. After every group has a chance to present and question other groups, students, as individuals, will then evaluate and analyze what they have created by free writing at least one idea/law they believe is essential for the U.S. Constitution. This gives every student an opportunity to evaluate and defend their higher order thinking. At the end of the activity, I will then present the original Constitution that was created by the colonists. Students will then be able to compare and contrast their ideas to the actual colonist ideas that still affect us today. A classroom discussion on the original Constitution will end the activity.

Product: Students will produce a small group list of the ideas/laws to present and discuss with the class. Students will also produce an individual essay that will evaluate, analyze, and defend what they created. The lesson will also give students the chance to present their lists, while other students evaluate, analyze, and question. This lesson will give students the opportunity to follow their own process rather than just learning the facts. Students will also engage in reflecting on their work and the work of their peers during the collaboration in small groups and classroom discussions. The lesson gives the students a chance to understand how the Constitution, created by the colonists, affects and applies to their life today.

Evaluation: Learning will be assessed through student essays. Learning can also be assessed within the classroom discussions, as groups peer-review and question each other’s lists. In order to participate in this lesson, students will need higher order thinking, which includes creating, evaluating, and analyzing. Students have options and choices in the components of the lesson by creating their own list with no “right” answer. Also, each student is evaluating and analyzing what they learned and created in their individual essay. They are able to choose their Constitution topic and what matters to them by reflecting on the group work.

Reflection: I really enjoyed this lesson exercise. Actively working through plans and making sure students engage in higher order thinking, gave me a chance to evaluate and analyze what goes into creating a useful lesson. The peer review and self-reflection process has also helped me gain valuable guidance and suggestions how I can continue to grow and advance my knowledge as a future educator. As I plan lessons in the future, I now know the importance of students engaging in higher-level thinking and the importance and effect of peer review and self-reflection.

Picture Credit: Constitution of the United States