First Ladies as Political Symbol: A Visual Literacy DBQ

» 03 March 2015 » In Ed Tech, History / DBQ's, Publishing » No Comments

First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton Posing with Big Bird

My Social Studies Methods class at the University of Portland recently published a free multi-touch iBook - Exploring History: Vol II. It features ten engaging questions and historic documents that empower students to be the historian in the classroom. For more info on our project and free download of multi-touch iBook version click here.

To better publicize student work, I’m featuring each chapter in it’s own blog post. More in series here.

First Ladies as a Political Tool by Emily Strocher Download as PDF (5MB)

We do not elect our First Ladies ... but we can and do criticize them just as if they were politicians.

Some of the Presidential wives made great First Ladies and some did not, but, overall, the nation has been most fortunate in the caliber and charm of the women who presided at the White House table, stood beside their husbands in innumerable receiving lines and served, each in her own way, in what must be the most trying unpaid fulltime job in the country. We do not elect our First Ladies nor can we turn them out of office but we can and do criticize them just as if they were politicians. (And indeed some of them are!)” ~ Sadler, Christine. “America’s First Ladies,”

As you proceed through this section of the book, answer the multiple choice questions about what category each photograph should be placed in.

  • Why did you choose to place the images in the categories that you did?
  • What is the importance of these themes? Why would photos that support these ideas be important to have?
  • How do you feel these photos illustrate how the First Lady and First Family can be used to spread an idea?
  • What do you notice about where the First Lady is standing in each of these photos? Do you think this photograph was staged or candid? If it was staged, why would the individuals in it be posed as they are?

Reflection by Emily Strocher

In addition to being practice in how to go about making a DBQ, this assignment has also been a solid lesson in how not to create a DBQ. I feel that as an actual practicing teacher, this will be easier as I will have a better idea of what I want and need the DBQ to do. I will have a topic in mind, and a message that I am trying to convey to the students, or messages that I want them to come up with on their own. There will be more structure in place. Creating a DBQ in the manner that we did for this class allowed me too much freedom, I feel. I needed a more concrete goal, as my DBQ turned into doing whatever I wanted to with it, not trying to meet specific requirements for student learning.

Going along with that, I decided early on that I wanted to create an image based DBQ. I found my resources, and shaped my DBQ around what I had discovered. If I were to do this again, I would reverse my work flow. The topic would come first, and then I would find documents that fit with it. There would be more diversity in the sorts of documents that I included, rather than just using images.

While I do like my DBQ, and feel that it would get students to think about something that wouldn’t normally cross their minds, I am less pleased with the process that I went through to create my DBQ. My problems aren’t so much with my content as with my process. If anything, I became too attached to my content, and struggled to make changes because of that. ~ Emily Strocher AboutMe

Image Credit: Photograph of First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton Posing on the Big Bird Nest Set with Big Bird  to Celebrate the 25th Season of Sesame Street , 10/14/1993
U.S. National Archives’ Local Identifier: P08630-13

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The Marshall Plan: Altruism or Pragmatism?


In this interactive DBQ, readers are guided through posters, photographs, political cartoons to examine the motivation behind the Marshall Plan.

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Combat Troops in Context: A Visual Literacy DBQ


This DBQ project explores posters, videos and other media that contribute to the popular image of the soldier in the minds of the American people.

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New Deal Poster DBQ: Public Persuasion or Propaganda


This DBQ uses WWII-era WPA posters to examine how art can be used to influence public opinion. Key questions guide student through a close reading of the works.

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Classroom Tech: When Less is More


In this 18 minute podcast I share idea for fusing technology into instructional design. You think about the instructional goals that you want to achieve, and then from there, you say, okay, so what kind of tools are out there. The big question is what’s the least amount of technology you could use to get the job done?

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Perspectives on the US Immigration Debate: 1920s DBQ


This DBQ assignment is meant for students to view the issue of immigration through various primary sources based on the perceptions of different individuals and groups from the 1920s. As you look over them, consider the various perceptions of immigration throughout the 1920s. What was the reasoning and motivations behind these differing beliefs? How did different groups or individuals view immigrants and immigration? What did these same individuals and groups believe should be done with immigrants? How are their arguments similar and different?

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Little Rock Nine: Evaluating Historical Sources


This chapter examines the historic setting of the Little Rock Nine though a variety of documents. They include news photographs of the events, governor’s proclamation, historic essays, Presidential speech, TV news reports and video reflections by participants. Your task is to examine the context of these documents and decide which are most helpful to your understanding of the conflict.

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WWI and Chemical Warfare: Shaping World Opinion


Students examine images, text and ephemera from WWI to develop an answer to the question: How did the experience of WWI shape international opinion of chemical weapons?

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Letters From Egypt: Anzacs Train for Gallipoli

Anzac troops - featured

Students explore the attitudes of the Anzacs towards the local population of Egypt where they trained prior to the landing at Gallipoli. Race hate is a reoccurring theme in wars and this DBQ gives students another avenue in which to explore it.

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The Pig War: Constructing Historic Narrative


Here’s a chapter from my latest student-designed iBook “Exploring History: Vol II.” The Pig War by Andy Saxton – s tudents are given historic documents related to the US / British Border Dispute of 1859 (the Pig War) and asked to reconstruct a historic narrative.

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