Saturday, September 17, 2016

A week with DBQs

Greetings colleagues! This week in my classroom we worked on the Jamestown DBQ. For those of you that may not know, a DBQ is a document-based question. Five years ago, I was trained by the DBQ Project. Ever since then, I have been in love with DBQs. DBQs are very beneficial for students: they are analyzing primary and secondary sources, they look at one's point of view, they create inferences, and importantly (for me) the materials are all pre-made! I have seen success with students using DBQ materials and will use them in any classroom that I ever have.

As I have said in previous posts, my current students do not have the same drive or work ethic that I have seen in past years. I knew that how I have used DBQs in the past would not quite work. The staff was trained in Kagan strategies a couple of weeks ago, so I thought I would attempt some of their strategies with the DBQ materials. 

Numbered Heads Together: The students picked a number (1-4) in their groups. They answered their questions individually, then presented their response to the group. They had to explain where they got the answer, and everyone had to agree before they wrote down the answer. Was this successful? The students liked this one the "best," but I think that's because it was the easiest. The students tried to use this strategy every time we answered questions. I didn't care for this approach as much because the students did not put in much effort. It did, however, hold the students accountable for answering at least one question. Every student was engaged in the task, but it was compliance more than engagement.

Team Stand 'n Share: The students picked a number (1-4) in their groups. They answered their questions individually, then met with other students in the class with the same number. They shared out their answer and made sure that they all agreed. One student (whose birthday was closest to that day) shared out to the class. Was this successful? I liked this strategy better than numbered heads together because the students had to share out and ensure they had the right answer. The students had the right answers across the board. Knowing the students had the right answer was a nice change of pace. Again, every student was engaged in the task, but it was compliance more than engagement.

Find the Truth: This was my take on find the fiction. I created a multiple choice quiz on Schoology with possible answers to the question. They had to figure out which one was the right answer and write the answer down. Was this successful? The students also liked this strategy because it provided them with multiple choice answers (SHOCKING!). I liked this method for the document that they were analyzing because it was number heavy/math heavy. There were trick answers built in so it required them to do their math right to get the right answer. I had only one student put the answers into the quiz (the other students had a different task). This strategy led to many discussions with some groups, but in other groups, the quiz taker ended up just taking the quiz on his/her own. The quiz taker was chosen by random, so that was a little frustrating. We just need to keep doing these procedures, and I need to make sure my directions are clear.

Quiz-Quiz-Trade: I created cards with questions and answers from the DBQ materials. Students found a partner, they quizzed each other, traded cards, then found a new partner. I had them repeat five times. Was this successful? I wish all of my classes weren't over thirty! I have two classes over 35, and this strategy was not very successful. They clustered in one spot, and most of the groups did not follow the task at hand (they talked about whatever they wanted). I almost feel like I needed to have dots on the floor where they had to stand (or needed a larger area to work). In my classes of 21-22, the strategy worked fine. The students were spread out and were on task. I did like the strategy as it was a valuable review of the information. The students were outlining their essay, so I was hoping a reminder of the information would be helpful as they worked, plus they got up and out of their seats after working for thirty minutes.

I think the Kagan strategies were a good start, but I still saw some aggravating student behavior that I hadn't seen before. I saw some students completely check out. They were excellent at pretending to work but then waited until we went over the answers as a class and wrote their answers down. It was evident to me that the students have to be held accountable for every question. While talking with a colleague she mentioned uploading the DBQ materials to Actively Learn. This is an intriguing idea that I will pursue on the next DBQ. Now, let's just see how the final essays turn out!

Thanks for reading! I'll be out of town next weekend, so I'll see you two weeks :)

- Rachel
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