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Classroom Toolkit

Teaching with historical records is a pedagogically sound method that develops critical thinking skills as students gain historical perspective. The eight teaching topics below, encompass nineteen separate Document-based Questioning (DBQ) lessons. This website also has transcripts of original letters from Judge William Cooper and John Whipple, a Civil War veteran. Use of these original sources can be a wonderful experience for your students.

Resources for developing document-based lessons.

The buttons above, link to teacher’s notes, lesson plans, worksheets, and procedures for activities which are correlated with the New York State Social Studies Standards. Each topic includes a number of scanned documents, suitable for duplication. All documents are primary sources from the Town of De Kalb or nearby towns in St. Lawrence County.

Displaying items for the entire class would greatly enhance the delivery of these lessons. The teacher can point out things to the students in the front of the room and then complete the worksheets together, without printing out many of the supporting documents. The curriculum would be less expensive to deliver and create less prep work for the teacher. All documents do not need to be duplicated and distributed to all students.

When you click a new topic, begin by reading the document labeled “Overview of the Lessons Including Procedures.” This document contains details about the individual lesson plan activities for the included documents. Most of the materials will print on letter-sized paper. (8.5" X 11") However, when noted, some of the longer documents must be printed on legal-size paper. (8.5" X 14") To print correctly on legal paper, remember to change the page size setting to "legal" in the page setup window for your printer.


Transcripts are provided for most of the documents which are handwritten in script. However students are required to read script documents on the NYS Social Studies test. The best way to learn to read script documents is through practice. Use the provided transcripts judiciously.


These lessons were originally developed through a grant from the New York State Archives and Records Administration, Local Government Records Management Improvement Fund. They were developed during the fiscal year 2003-2004 by Bryan Thompson, Town of De Kalb's Historian.


In 2009, Bryan Thompson received the Bruce W. Dearstyne Annual Archives Award for Excellence in the Educational Use of Local Government Records. This award is presented to an individual who has demonstrated outstanding initiative, leadership, and creativity in encouraging and promoting the use of local government historical records for elementary and secondary education.

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