Documents”: A Web-Based Resource for Students and Teachers
Pappas is the Assistant Superintendent for Instruction at East Irondequoit CSD
and the former K-12 Coordinator for Social Studies at Pittsford Central Schools
and the director of the district's “Summer Prep School." Peter consults
and presents on curriculum, assessment, technology integration and staff
With Documents” (TWD) is a website designed to promote
document-based instruction and assist teachers, students and administrators in
making the transition to new standards, assessments and technologies. I
developed the site in response to new social studies assessments recently
adopted by New York State.
NYS exams in Global History (10th)
and American History and Government (11th) will each include a
document-based question (DBQ) modeled after the Advanced placement testing in
European and American History. The NYS social studies DBQ is designed to assess
the ability of each student to work with historical sources in multiple forms.
The secondary DBQ will have a maximum of 8 documents; at least 2 of which will
be visuals. The fifth and eight grade assessments will have a DBQ with 6
documents (including 2 visuals).
Are based on the NYS
Social Studies Learning Standards, themes and concepts.
Focus on critical
thinking skills and ask students to make comparisons, draw analogies, apply
knowledge to the given data, and require students to apply historic analysis.
Ask students to take
positions on issues or problems and support their conclusions.
Require students to
look at issues from multiple perspectives.
require student to
apply skills they use as adults
referenced and employ a scoring rubric.
I serve as the K-12 Social Studies
Coordinator at Pittsford Central Schools, a suburb of Rochester New York. Our
district serves 5900 students in 5 elementary, 2 high schools and a large
4-house middle school. As coordinator, I work with teachers and administrators
across the district as mentor, trainer, and program facilitator. I’m charged
with coordinating the social studies program delivered by 30 secondary social
studies teachers, hundreds of elementary teachers, learning specialists and
librarians. TWD has proven to be effective tools to communicate with the
school-community and create a K-12 social studies program that is cohesive,
public, dynamic and successful at improving student performance.
The site is based on summaries,
excerpts, and direct links to "The Learning Page" / Library of
Congress http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/ndlpedu/ and "The Digital
Classroom" / National Archives and Records Administration http://www.nara.gov/education/classrm.html.
My goal was to re-organize and present material from these two federal document
collections to improve their functionality and correlation with New York State
standards. TWD also includes original content, best practices from
various contributors as well as links to other relevant district and state
I developed TWD using Microsoft
FrontPage ’98.The site is divided into four sections.
is designed as a quick stop for teachers who are looking for the
easy access to teaching materials, lesson and source material.
Worksheets: ready to be copied and used with students
Lessons: gives elementary students practice in working with documents
Sources: explore a variety of fine document collections
teachers additional instructional and planning tools.
Sources: introduces tools used by historians
Sources: examines categories of primary and secondary documents
Framework: strategies for incorporating documents into instruction
Section” provides links to district and state social studies standards.
provides a link to the use of documents in the New York State assessments. The
three assessment instruments used in NYS are featured in this section -
constructed response, thematic essays and DBQ’s. Each section includes:
Descriptions of the question format and key elements
Sample questions and rubrics
Tips on how to develop questions
Tips on how to prepare students for new assessments
proven to be an effective tool improve the quality of document-based instruction
and it’s been a valuable resource throughout our district.
Students have found the site to be an easy reference point for finding links to
many interesting and engaging sites on the web. For example, elementary students
can find links to “Port of Entry” where they can use their detective
skills to uncover the stories of immigrants to the United States or click on
“The Big Picture” to complete visual jigsaw puzzles. Secondary students can
find link to scores of interesting sites. Sites such as “US Historic
Documents“ present valuable reference materials. “Egypt World”
allow students to explore a virtual museum on the Ancient Egyptian pyramids.
Links to sites such as “The 1968 Oral History Project” serve as a
great model for a student-produced oral history project. A new resource gallery
is being developed to catalogue documents by subject and time period. It will
include a new “CyberMuseum “ section where students will curate their own
galleries of historic source material.
and Instruction: One of our program goals is to
more clearly define the skills and knowledge that students should master each
grade level in our program. Teachers
and administrators have developed explicit standards and testing to determine if
standards have been met. TWD includes a new sequence in document-based
skills with samples of DBQ’s and rubrics available for each grade level 6-12.
serves as a reference guide to the many resources on the Internet. It provides
teachers with high-quality lesson plans that will enable their students to
effectively access and critically evaluate historic documents. For example,
teachers can quickly download worksheets developed by the National Archives and
Records Administration formatted for use in the classroom. Teachers who are less
adept at using the Internet can find instructions for how to download images and
print material from the site.
Development: TWD fosters creativity,
initiative and collaboration among teachers. It’s difficult to bring us all
together at meetings, but the web serves as common a reference point for
teachers to showcase different instructional practices and teaching strategies.
A growing number of our teachers have seen instructional value of the Internet.
This summer I trained over 50 district faculty and staff in web design using
FrontPage ’98. Many teachers and departments have developed new websites.
and Special Areas: Central office administrators
and school principals can quickly refer to the site to stay up to date with new
revisions in state standards, district standards and assessments. They can get a
quick summary of how document-based instruction is being implemented in the
district or download and print specific grade level standards or sample
The site has proven to be an easy access
point for librarians, educational specialists and anyone interested in the many
opportunities for interdisciplinary instruction. The site has been especially
popular among elementary teachers interested in integration and project-based
instruction. We will be expanding the site to present student projects in a new
“Student Showcase” section.
We want to involve the community in a dialogue about our program. TWD
provides a public showcase and invites collaboration with community partners.
One example is our ongoing partnership with the Memorial Art Gallery of the
University of Rochester to develop web-based curriculum and reference material
based on the museum collection and the combined expertise of the gallery and
school district. Visitors to TWD can access the partnership by clicking
on “Odyssey Online” to explore ancient Near Eastern, Egyptian, Greek,
and Roman cultures.
The web is an important tool to forge a partnership between teachers, students
and their parents. It extends learning beyond the classroom and into the home as
more homes go on-line and access speed improves. Parents are now able to
download sample DBQ question with documents to better understand the structure
and process of new state assessments.
Educators have long recognized the value
of actively engaging students in the role of historian. Document-based education
can provide students with the chance to get ”inside” of history, and
evaluate the diverse perspectives of primary and secondary sources. It’s an
opportunity to engage and motivate students and teachers in a collaborative
“Teaching with Documents” is
designed to help teachers and students make sense of the vast amount of source
material available over the Internet, and effectively bring these resources
their work as historians. It provides easy access to analytic tools,
instructional strategies, and links to source material and sample assessments.
“Teaching with Documents” is one of many new ways that computer and Internet
technology can be harnessed to improve the quality of teaching and learning.