Document-Based Questions with Newsela to Analyze Multiple Perspectives with Secondary Students

Craft central questions and document-based lessons to develop historical thinking skills in students
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DBQs with Newsela to Analyze Multiple Perspectives

About This Strategy

Key to student understanding of historical concepts is their acknowledgment and analysis of multiple perspectives. Students must understand that "history" is dependent upon human interpretation; thus, accounts of events include bias and can vary depending on the author's audience, purpose, and beliefs. While these multiple perspectives can sometimes make it challenging to tease out an accurate account of events, they do give students valuable insights into the human experience, what motivates people, and what is important to people. Understanding these things about people leads to more empathetic students with a greater global awareness. When students learn to employ historical thinking skills to approach documents about events in history, they can better analyze the accounts. Teachers can scaffold students' thinking to address DBQs using Newsela primary sources and the Document-Based Questions with Newsela to Analyze Multiple Perspectives strategy.

Before Reading Implementation Steps

Teacher Preparation and Planning:

  1. In order to model the analysis of multiple perspectives of a single event, craft an engaging scenario, such as those listed in the resources section.

  2. Pose a Central Question to be answered through Document Analysis and, ultimately, a DBQ. This Central Question should be broad and thematic, not too specific. It should prime student thinking about the topics in the documents. Teachers might consider using the DBQ Examples and Scoring Guide from College Board, linked in the resources section.

  3. Create or use a Newsela Text Set that is related to this question and assign this Text Set at the Newsela Recommended reading level for each student.

Student Preparation:

  1. Place students in groups of 3-4, and assign each group a "role." These roles should be kept secret from other groups. 

  2. In their groups, students should create a 5-6 sentence narrative account of the event, assuming the role assigned, and answering the question, "What went wrong?"

  3. After writing, students should share their accounts with the class. While other student groups are sharing, each student should complete a NoteTaker sheet, as in the Resources section.

  4. Students should discuss what was added to the NoteTaker sheet with "role" group and preview the Document-Based Question (DBQ), as listed in the resources section. This "document" used in this DBQ will be students' notes on other group's accounts, rather than a published historical document.

  5. Students should draft a plan for a response to the DBQ based on what they captured in their NoteTaker sheet and the demands of the question. Teachers might consider providing a graphic organizer, as in the resources section.

    • Teachers should be sure to share that not all information required of the DBQ can be found directly in the group accounts; students should take some creative license with the "facts" and context of the event.

  6. Student DBQ Plans should be posted around the room, and students should complete a Gallery Walk exercise to provide an "I like" and an "I wonder" piece of feedback on each DBQ Plan. This feedback should be rooted in the demands of the question.

During Reading Implementation Steps

  1. Assign the Text Set at the Newsela Recommended reading level for each student.

  2. While reading, students should complete annotations on the articles

    • Newsela PRO users can edit the Assignment instructions to list the types of annotations students should be making, as listed below:

      • Text Evidence that shows Perspective, as analyzed in the Before Reading exercise, should be annotated in blue.

      • Contextualization information should be annotated in red.

      • Text Evidence that answers the Central Question should be annotated in yellow.

    • Non-PRO users can provide a graphic organizer for students to take notes as they read, as in the resources section.

After Reading Implementation Steps

  1. Students should return to their groups from the Before Reading activity and share what they've each annotated on the articles.

  2. Teachers should share a DBQ for the Text Set. Teachers might consult the link in the Resources section for examples of past Advanced Placement test DBQ examples.

    • In their groups, students should discuss how their annotations address the demands of the recently assigned DBQ.

  3. Independently, students should respond to the DBQ.

    • Some students may need the scaffolding of the Planning Graphic Organizer, as in the resources section.

    • Some students may pursue their own form of planning.

  4. After responding to the DBQ, students should trade their response with a partner and complete a "Color It Up" peer-review exercise. In this exercise, students check to ensure that their peers have addressed all the demands of the prompt. With colored pencils or markers (or highlighting if completed on Google Docs), students should mark:

    • The THESIS in yellow.

    • The ARGUMENT in red.

    • USE OF THE DOCUMENTS in blue.


    • OUTSIDE EVIDENCE in purple.

    • SYNTHESIS in orange.

  5. After the "Color It Up" exercise, students should return papers to the writer; the writer should revise to ensure all parts are appropriately addressed.

Recommended Newsela Texts or Text Sets

Branches of Government  

  • Grade Level: 6-12
  • Content Area: Social Studies

Foreign Policy & International Affairs

  • Grade Level: 9-12
  • Content Area: Social Studies

US Civil War

  • Grade Level: 9-12
  • Content Area: Social Studies