Kudos for looking for ways to engage your students with challenging historical tasks. Teaching students how to craft interpretations from multiple sources is central to history but it is hard, and even harder when students struggle with reading.
You may need to raid existing DBQs and tailor documents and tasks for your students. Consider starting small--use two documents that clearly contrast with one another to help students learn how to approach documents and read them closely. For a model of this, see the warm-up activity at www.historicalthinkingmatters.org. See this page for the same documents that have been further modified to make for more accessible reading.
Don't be shy about excerpting documents or using a smaller sample from an existing DBQ. This can help students understand the nature of the task and give them practice with reading, analyzing documents, and crafting arguments.
There are some helpful printed resources out there. Try the dbqproject.com. They have books of DBQs in both long and short versions.
Another resource to consider is Mindsparks.
Thanks for your question and good luck!
Title: What is a Primary Source Document and how do we analyze them?
Instructional Objective : The students will learn how to recognize different types of primary source documents and how to analyze them by taking a guided tour of some interesting documents and creating a "How to" list to use for the rest of the year.
E1c-Read and comprehend informational materials.
E1d-Demonstrate familiarity with a variety of public documents.
E1e-Demonstrate familiarity with a variety of functional documents.
E3b Participate in group meetings.
E5a-Respond to non-fiction using interpretive and critical processes.
Do Now : Copy the definition of a primary Source document.
Primary Source- A primary source is firsthand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation. A primary source gives the words of the witnesses or the first recorders of an event. Primary sources include letters, diaries, speeches, maps, pictures, art work, posters, manuscripts, artifacts, and music.
Which one of these is not a primary Source and why? List on Board: 1.A book written by my friend last year about the Civil War. 2. A photograph of soldiers taken in 1945 during World War II 3. A picture of an artifact found in Ancient Egypt. 4. A copy of the Constitution. 5. A map of the English Colonies drawn by a student. 6. A diary page of a girl during the depression.
Mini Lesson: What is a primary source?
Review the Do Now and explain why each example is what it is and make sure the students understand that a copy of a document such as the Constitution is still a primary source even though it is a copy.
Have the students recall the list of the types of primary sources and write the list on chart paper to display in the classroom.
Now go into a discussion on why primary sources would be beneficial for us in the classroom. Lead the discussion into asking them to think about how as students they should go about analyzing a document.
Work Period : How do we analyze a document?
In groups of four or five ask the students to discuss what steps they think they should follow when looking at a document and trying to learn something from it. Have them work together to create a list.
Share Out/Conclusion: Have one person from each group read their list to the class. Write their steps on the board putting a check next to any repeats. From the class list choose or condense them into a complete "How to Analyze a Primary Source Document" list. Transfer the finished product on to Chart paper and display it in the room. Have the students copy it into their notebooks.
Homework: Think about the content that we will cover this year in Social Studies. Make a list of some primary sources that you think we should look at during the year to help us to learn the curriculum in a more in depth way.