Lessons from the DBQ

Thus far, the DBQ has been a very challenging, but educational, experience. I initially began this journey thinking that I would do my DBQ on Operation PB Success. However, I found that would not be feasible so I changed my topic to the Anzacs in Egypt during World War I and perceptions of the ‘other.’ Through this, I have learned how to conduct a successful history lesson without a lengthy lecture. The setup of my DBQ allows students to interact successfully with the material and make an argument without needing in-depth background on the topic beforehand. Students, therefore, practice thinking like historians and the classroom becomes more student-centered.

Another lesson I have learned from the DBQ is how to find primary sources. Finding primary sources is, clearly, very important to the DBQ process. The internet makes it possible to track down hundreds of primary sources from a range of websites whether they be from an academic institutions or a small blog. In order to ensure that my sources are reliable, I have found that government websites are really helpful in locating legitimate primary sources. While it is certainly tempting to just steal primary sources without worrying about their origin, I believe it is important to ensure that I am giving my students something that is quality and genuine.

I would really enjoy using this DBQ in a class that was exploring World War I. Race hate is a reoccurring theme in wars and this DBQ gives students another avenue in which to explore it. When we think of race hate we often think of groups such as the Nazis, but it is important to show students that there are many dimensions to history and while it is easy to villains only one group, it is not necessarily accurate. Racial prejudices come in many shapes and sizes and can be found in all eras. The Anzacs provide another perspective to historians. It is not my intent to belittle the bravery of the Anzacs in World War I. Rather, I want students to remember that history is not black and white. It is not simple and it is not static. It is fluid and gray. It is their job to sift through it and make a claim and support it with evidence as historians in training.

Nothing More or Less Than A Big Brothel


Originally, I designed by DBQ around Operation PBSuccess when the American CIA helped stage a coup in Guatemala in 1954. However, it became clear after speaking with the professor that this topic would not be feasible due to the sources available and the background knowledge required to answer the generative questions.

I thought instead about what primary sources I had easily available that did not require extensive prior knowledge to understand. Fortunately, as part of the Senior Thesis in history, I have accumulated a wealth of letters written by Anzacs in World War I from Egypt that provides accounts of racial tensions.

As a dominion of Great Britain, Australia was called to serve the metropole– a call 320,000 answered most proudly. The Anzacs are most famous for participating in the Campaign of Gallipoli when the Entente Powers attempted to open up the Dardanelles in order to send supplies to Russia via ships. In the end, they were defeated and thousands of Australian soldiers lost their lives. However, this event is regarded as the birth of Australian nationhood. Rather than focus on this particular event which has already been studied extensively, I want to direct my students to Egypt where the Australians trained for Gallipoli.

In Egypt, many Australians were quick to raise sales in alcohol, narcotics, and brothels. However, their opinion of the local people who provided these goods and services was very low to the point they nearly burned down the red light district of Cairo. Anzac letters provide extensive details on the locals that are less than flattering. Generally, these letters see whites as superior based on hygiene, intelligence, and morality.

For my DBQ, I hope to have students examine these letters in order to figure out the what and why.

Example of Source


  • What did the Anzac soldiers think of the Egyptian “natives?”
  • What were their opinions informed by?
  • Are these letters reliable sources?
  • Do the Anzac letters corroborate each other?

Looking Ahead

In order to further my DBQ, one goal is to narrow down my sources. There are dozens of letters available, but I want to select the most powerful and descriptive letters.

Secondly, I would like to see if there are any letters that speak to the contrary and describe the Egyptians in a much more positive light in order to provide contrast. I do not want to encourage students to generalize Australian soldiers in World War I and I think finding other points of view will prevent that from happening.

Overall, I feel that this topic is much more appropriate for the task at hand than my previous one and I look forward to continuing to modify and improve my DBQ.

We Found a Lot of Naked People

Central Historical Question: What were the European perceptions of the natives in the New World?

Historical Skills: Corroborating

Topic: Colonization of the New World

Grade Level: 8th


Have students read the two diary entries from Christopher Columbus and decide whether they think it is enough evidence for for historians to understand European perceptions of natives. Then, have them read the two additional documents from Amerigo Vespucci and the London Company and decide whether they corroborate Columbus and why.


Question A: Explain why a historian might or might not believe that the excerpts from Columbus’ diary provide enough evidence to understand European perceptions of Native Americans.

Diary of Christopher Columbus. 1492

Thursday, 11 October.

Here follow the precise words of the Admiral: “As I saw that they were very friendly to us, and perceived that they could be much more easily converted to our holy faith by gentle means than by force, I presented them with some red caps, and strings of beads to wear upon the neck, and many other trifles of small value, wherewith they were much delighted, and became wonderfully attached to us. Afterwards they came swimming to the boats, bringing parrots, balls of cotton thread, javelins, and many other things which they exchanged for articles we gave them, such as glass beads, and hawk’s bells; which trade was carried on with the utmost good will. But they seemed on the whole to me, to be a very poor people. They all go completely naked, even the women, though I saw but one girl. All whom I saw were young, not above thirty years of age, well made, with fine shapes and faces; their hair short, and coarse like that of a horse’s tail, combed toward the forehead, except a small portion which they suffer to hang down behind, and never cut. Some paint themselves with black, which makes them appear like those of the Canaries, neither black nor white; others with white, others with red, and others with such colors as they can find. Some paint the face, and some the whole body; others only the eyes, and others the nose. Weapons they have none, nor are acquainted with them, for I showed them swords which they grasped by the blades, and cut themselves through ignorance. They have no iron, their javelins being without it, and nothing more than sticks, though some have fish-bones or other things at the ends. They are all of a good size and stature, and handsomely formed. I saw some with scars of wounds upon their bodies, and demanded by signs the of them; they answered me in the same way, that there came people from the other islands in the neighborhood who endeavored to make prisoners of them, and they defended themselves. I thought then, and still believe, that these were from the continent. It appears to me, that the people are ingenious, and would be good servants and I am of opinion that they would very readily become Christians, as they appear to have no religion. They very quickly learn such words as are spoken to them. If it please our Lord, I intend at my return to carry home six of them to your Highnesses, that they may learn our language. I saw no beasts in the island, nor any sort of animals except parrots.” These are the words of the Admiral.

Saturday, October 13

This is a large and level island, with trees extremely flourishing, and streams of water; there is a large lake in the middle of the island, but no mountains: the whole is completely covered with verdure and delightful to behold. The natives are an inoffensive people, and so desirous to possess any thing they saw with us, that they kept swimming off to the ships with whatever they could find, and readily bartered for any article we saw fit to give them in return, even such as broken platters and fragments of glass.

Source: Fordham University

Question B: Read the additional documents from Amerigo Vespucci and Virginia Company. Does each document support the diary excerpts from Columbus? If they cannot be used to support Columbus’ claims, explain why not.

Letter by Amerigo Vespucci, 1503

We found a lot of naked people. they have no laws, and no religion. They just live by nature. They own nothing, and share every thing. They have no country, borders or king. It seems that everyone is his own master.

They live together in huts, built without any metal. What a surprise, I have seen houses 220 feet long, and 30 feet wide that can hold 500 people. They sleep in hammocks of cotton; they sit on the ground and eat the roots of herbs, or fruits and fish.

They are cruel people, but I don’t understand why they go to war. They don’t fight for power or to take things from their enemies. When we asked them about this, they said they fought as payback for the murder of their families.

Source: Peter Pappas

Virginia Company of London, 1622

It will be easier to conquer them, than civilize them. They are a rude, barbarous, naked people, scattered in small villages. This would help us to defeat them. It would also make it tough to civilize them. We can conquer them all at once. Civilizing them is slow and will take much more effort.

We can have victory over them many ways– by force, surprise, and famine.We can burn their corn, boats, canoes, houses and fishing equipment. We can disrupt their hunting. That’s how they get most of their winter food. We can chase them with our horses and bloodhounds, and our big mastiff dogs will tear them apart.

Source: Peter Pappas

About the Assessment:

Students should be able to use the sources to figure out whether or not the sources are enough to make a judgement and whether or not they support one another and why.

Question A:

Students should note that while the source is very detailed, it is the account of only one man who was also known for bending the truth to achieve his aims. The account is, on the other hand, reliable in that it is written in the time period it describes by someone who experienced it first hand before anyone else, so his response is not marred by the bias of others before him. Regardless, what Columbus say may not be representative of all Europeans.

Question B:

Student should see that the two additional accounts support European perceptions of natives as backward and savage peoples though they are written years apart. They should also be able to cite specific similarities in the accounts, such as seemingly simple lifestyles and modest housing.


What I really enjoyed about creating this lesson using the SHEG model was how it genuinely encouraged students to think like historians through emphasis on sourcing, contextualizing, and corroborating. Students are given concrete ways to look at the sources and practice these skills in a way that is not intimidating, but that still allows them to use primary sources. It’s fantastic to see so many lessons that get students to engage with the material directly and make their own arguments instead of being told what to think from a textbook. I look forward to implementing some of these lesson plans and seeing how students feel about them as well.

Batty About Bats

Batty About Bats Unit: Stellaluna Character Inferences and Development


As per the Oregon standards for 3rd grade, the students will work on their ability to make inferences and track character development in a work of fiction. In this lesson, we will be looking specifically at Stellaluna by Janell Cannon while meeting the guidelines set in the following standard 3.RL.3:



Together as a class, we will read Stellaluna. Before reading, I will also ask the class to pay special attention to how Stellaluna changes in the beginning, middle, and end. Then, I will model the inference-making process via a poster on the board so they can see what the expectations are for this activity. To begin, I will redirect the students to the beginning of the story, point out a sentence, and ask them to think about how Stellaluna is feeling or thinking based on what the author has told us. Is she scared? Happy? Hungry? As a class, we will come up with at least 1 inference for each section. Then, the students will brainstorm additional words for their final product with the help of their table group and the teacher(s).


For the final product the students will create the following:

Stellaluna Template for Inferences

Inside the bats, the students will write the inferences they have chosen to describe Stellaluna at each part of the story. In the boxes they will provide the textual evidence they used to make the inference, paraphrased in their own words. The teacher will use the product to evaluate the students’ understanding of making inferences and character development. Then, they will be displayed around the room so the students can see their work and the work of their peers. The students may work in their table groups if they wish, but each student will make their own poster.

Thank you to Linda from Around the Kampfire for her inspiring lesson on bats from which my activity template was created. If you want to see how she used the template to create a lesson on Stellaluna’s responses to different situations check our her fantastic blog post!


Stellaluna RubricIf I want to do a formal evaluation process, I will use this rubric. Students will shade in the boxes with the faces/point values that they think best describe their work. Then, they will write comments to further reflect on the activity. I will circle the faces/point values I think they deserve and write in my own feedback. The rubric should be returned to students so they can accrue a sense of their progress and make note of how they can improve for next time.


After creating my first lesson plan study assignment, I have learned quite a bit through not only the creation of the lesson, but also through the feedback of my peers. I came to class a little unsure of my work since I have not drafted many lesson plans in the past. However, I found that at the end of the day I was excited to try out my activities thanks to the enthusiasm of those who edited my lesson. I received thoughtful feedback that was both constructive and encouraging. My peers challenged me to look more closely at how my students will receive the lesson. Will they understand all the terms I’m using? Will they be able to finish the assignment in the time given? What are ways students with limited written communication can participate? Through these questions and others, I was able to alter my lesson plan so that it better fit my students. Thus, I really enjoyed this lesson plan study. It helped me build upon my ideas and improve them in a way that I would not have been able to do on my own. I look forward to continuing to work with this class and constructing more lessons!