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The Progressive Movement DBQ

80 min
  • Students will be able to examine the principles of the progressive movement and those of the American Founding by analyzing primary source documents using historical thinking skills.
  • Students will evaluate the extent to which the progressive movement diverged from the Founding in terms of the purposes, scale, and scope of government by writing a thesis statement.

Handout A: Student Document Packet

  • Document 1: The Declaration of Independence, 1776
  • Document 2: Constitution of the United States, 1787
  • Document 3: “The Author and Signers of the Declaration of Independence,” by Woodrow Wilson, 1907
  • Document 4: “Who is a Progressive,” by Theodore Roosevelt, April 3, 1912
  • Document 5: An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States by Charles Beard, 1913
  • Document 6: “Speech on the 150th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence,” by President Calvin Coolidge, 1926

The document excerpts in this activity are longer than what students will encounter on the AP Exam. As such, this lesson recommends extended time beyond what is provide on the AP Exam to read and answer the questions associated with each.

a. Have students count off 1 to 4. Assign students the following roles:

1) Alexander Hamilton

2) Thomas Jefferson

3) James Madison

4) George Washington

b. Have students write, from their assigned point of view, what the role of government is in three or fewer sentences.

Have students share their ideas with the class and lead a brief discussion. Taken as a whole, can students generalize what the Founders believed the role of government to be? Is there any disagreement in like groups? Between different individuals?

c. Transition to the DBQ by telling students that throughout U.S. history, the purpose and role of government have been debated by individuals. Many in the Progressive Era offered their own interpretations of the role of government. Students will examine this in the following documents.

Have students read and complete the questions in the student document packet.

Have each student write a thesis statement to the DBQ prompt: To what extent did the progressives diverge from the Founding in terms of the purposes, scale, and scope of government?

You may solicit volunteers to share their thesis and workshop several using the following questions, or have students share with a partner and provide feedback on the following questions:

  • Does the thesis answer the question without restating the prompt?
  • Does the thesis make sense?
  • Is the thesis historically accurate?
  • Does the thesis provide clear and cohesive reasoning?
  • Does the thesis provide a road map or “table of contents” for an essay?

Thesis statements can be collected and assessed using the AP LEQ Rubric from the College Board for a successful thesis statement, or with an individual class rubric. Depending on where students are in their understanding of the DBQ essay, have students outline their response or write a full essay as best fits your teaching situation.

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