Cold War Reverse DBQ Activity for High School World History or U.S. History

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The Unraveled Teacher
Grade Levels
10th - 12th
Resource Type
Formats Included
  • Zip
  • Google Apps™
10 Student Pages, 3 Teacher Pages
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Includes Google Apps™
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This "Reverse DBQ" activity for the Cold War takes the traditional DBQ and flips the objective around. Students begin with a pre-created essay and must sort through a set of primary sources to determine which sources support the ideas presented in the essay. This builds crucial research skills as students must learn to identify which sources would be appropriate for a specific topic. Students do not write an essay for this activity.

In an effort to lean in to the new AI-writing tools that students now have at their disposal, such as ChatGPT, I created this activity to demonstrate where AI-generated essays fall short. For this assignment, students are given a Cold War writing prompt which they will feed into ChatGPT (or similar AI writing programs) to create a response to the given prompt. Using this AI-generated essay, students will then sort through a set of primary sources and determine which sources support the points made in the essay. Notes about the relevancy of each source are recorded on the included student recording sheet.

The activity works well as either an individual assignment or a small group assignment. It requires students to engage in primary source analysis, and it has the added benefit of showing students that using AI to answer history prompts is problematic. After the activity is complete, you have the option of having students rewrite the essay with proper citations and expanded examples. Generally, AI-generated essays do not include these things when given simple prompts.

Included in this resource you will find:

  • Teacher instructions for running the activity
  • A sample essay in the event you do not want to use ChatGPT
  • 7 primary sources that are a mix of relevant and irrelevant to the writing prompt (and in color or black and white options for printing)
  • 4-page student recording sheet to accompany the primary sources

If you have questions about how this Reverse DBQ works, please drop them in the Q&A and I'll get you an answer quickly! It's a fun activity that students enjoy, and it shows your students that you're aware of AI essay writing tools. Turn the dreaded ChatGPT into a learning tool that raises the bar on historical research!

*Please Note: Students under 13 should not be asked to use ChatGPT because of data collection/privacy laws. For students over 13, they should be made aware of the way in which ChatGPT collects and uses data. This activity does not require that students use this tool.

Total Pages
10 Student Pages, 3 Teacher Pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
45 minutes
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
Assess the extent to which the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author’s claims.


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