Kathy Hays, BHP Teacher
Arizona, USA

We’re finishing Unit 2 in my Big History class, and students recently completed their reflections on the unit’s driving question: How and why do individuals change their minds? I love the DQ Notebook activity (which, by the way, is one that’s repeated in the first and last lesson of every unit of BHP) because it allows me to see how students have grown over the course of the unit. We’re still working on providing thorough and thoughtful reflections, but we’ll get there.

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A little more on what this looks like in my classroom:

I have students take a stab at responding to the driving question (DQ) at the beginning of the unit, which allows them to activate any prior knowledge they might have. The DQ itself is written on my board throughout the unit, so we constantly refer to the question and they see it daily. Anytime during the unit that we make a connection to the DQ, we write it in our notebooks.

The DQ Notebook worksheet asks students to answer this question at the end of the unit: “How and why has your thinking changed?” I do not accept the easy answer, “My thinking did not change.” If their thinking truly didn’t change, students have to explain why, or what they learned that has supported their original thinking and kept their thinking the same. It’s a good warm-up for the unit-culminating Investigation.

I spend a lot of time on the early DQ Notebook activities, providing feedback to each student so they know the expectations for higher-level responses. So often, students think their work won’t be read and it’s just a turn-in-for-credit activity. Once they understand that I truly do read their writing and respond to everyone, the quality begins to improve. Of course, the improvement is also the result of students gaining a better understanding of the concepts.

Note: Meet Kathy and continue the discussion about this activity in the online BHP Teacher Community!

About the author: Kathy Hays has been teaching for 30 years, teaching Big History since 2015. She teaches five BHP classes a year, and so reaches about 130 ninth-grade students. Her school is on a semester schedule with daily 52-minute periods. Kathy’s favorite thing about teaching Big History is the opportunity to learn with her students!

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