Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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History/Social Studies

Bringing It All Together

Document-Based Lesson (DBL)

A few scholars and researchers have undertaken work that aims to incorporate disciplinary literacy practices into classroom instruction. Abby Reisman at Stanford has designed the document-based lesson, or DBL, as a frame for a predictable and repeatable sequence that engages students in the process of historical inquiry. This type of lesson has been used successfully in diverse classrooms to improve high school students’ historical thinking, reading, and knowledge as well as their reading comprehension.

In another research project, Chauncey Monte-Sano of the University of Michigan, Susan De La Paz of the University of Maryland, and Mark Felton of San Jose State University added writing to the elements of a DBL. Their project, taken up in diverse middle school classrooms, showed that such lessons improve the argument and historical writing of students.

The DBL with incorporated writing brings together the various aspects of disciplinary inquiry that have been covered in the units of this course. The primary components of such a DBL with writing are:

  • An essential question to frame inquiry
  • A set of related historical sources to be used as evidence
  • Development of background knowledge
  • Historical inquiry into sources
  • Discussion
  • Writing and supporting a claim/argument

In a DBL with writing, students take part in an open-ended investigation while connecting content knowledge with disciplinary inquiry into the content. They learn that facts are constructed through interpretation and not memorized. By learning this, students themselves are encouraged to make their own interpretations about the sources they read. DBLs naturally integrate reading, writing, and thinking. In short, the DBL is an investigation by design; something with which teachers can develop their own style of materials for use in their classrooms.

Explore: View Rosa Parks: Writing Assignment [PDF] for an example of how to incorporate writing into a DBL.