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It mentions things that are true, but lacks any meaningful details or explanation that would demonstrate understanding of the time period in discussion. In the early years, compromise was key to avoiding the moral question, but as America entered the mid 19th century sectional tensions and crises with popular sovereignty, Kansas, and fugitive slaves made the issue increasingly unavoidable.
Often times, students find history difficult or boring because they don’t see connections between different historical time periods and the world they live in today.
They assume that events occur in a vacuum, and don’t realize that the historical context is critical in helping explain people’s beliefs and points of view in that period of time.
One aspect of the DBQ rubric that can be a bit confusing initially is that students are asked to do this contextualization, but there is also another area which gives them the option to use historical context. Contextualization refers to putting the entire essay into a broader context (preferably in the introduction).
However, when writing their essays, students are also required to analyze four of the documents that they utilize by either examining the author’s point of view, describing the intended audience of the source, identifying the author’s purpose or putting the source into historical context.
This helps them understand and analyze documents, but it also can be helpful in practicing contextualization.
Looking at different perspectives and points of view in the actual historical time periods they are learning is key in allowing students to understand how the era can impact beliefs, values and events that occur.The latter sounds similar to contextualization (and it is essentially the same skill), but historical context is only focused on the specific document being analyzed, not the entire essay, like the contextualization point.For example, if a document is a map that shows slavery growing dramatically from 1820 to 1860, a student might point out that this growth can be explained in the context of the development of the cotton gin, which made the production of cotton much more profitable and let to the spread of slavery in the Deep South.Students don’t want to write a 6-8 sentence paragraph (they will want to save time for their argument in the body), but they need to do more than write a vague sentence that superficially addresses the era.Analyze Lots of Primary Sources One of the best ways to prepare for the DBQ is for students to practice reading and comprehending primary source texts, particularly texts that are written by people who use very different language and sentence structure from today.It discusses attempts at compromise, but increasing sectional tensions that led to the Civil War.The writer paints a vivid and clear picture of the situation, events, and people that set the stage for the Civil War.In general, it would be difficult for students to earn the point if they are writing only a sentence or two.Early in the year, I assigned students a DBQ based on the following prompt: Evaluate the extent in which the Civil War was a turning point in the lives of African Americans in the United States.Use the documents and your knowledge of the years 1860-1877 to construct your response. Without any specific detail, this student could not earn the contextualization point.This was the third DBQ we had written, and students were now getting brave enough to move beyond a thesis and document analysis and started attempting to tackle the contextualization point. One student wrote: Of course this is a true statement, but is extremely vague. Another student wrote: Again, this is a drive-by attempt at earning contextualization. These are the types of details that would add meaning to contextualization. She wrote: The peculiar institution of slavery had been a part of America’s identity since the founding of the original English colony at Jamestown.