Unit 4 - Using Primary Sources in the Classroom

Working Girls Learning Dressmaking in the Free Evening School. Boston 1915 Exhibit. Location: Boston, Massachusetts. Photograph courtesy of The Library of Congress.

Lesson 1 – What is Inquiry?

Watch: Unit 4 Screencast
“Supporting Inquiry with Primary Sources”

Read: Inquiry Overview

Teaching History Through Inquiry


Activity: You've participated in a number of reflections in this mini-course that are designed to make your thinking visible to others. Take some time to explore Harvard University's "Visible Thinking" website, and choose some reflection/thinking routines that you might like to use in your student primary source lesson. Please share the reason(s) why you chose the thinking routine.

Lesson 2 – Outlining the Primary Source Project Plan

Read: Thinking Like a Historian and more about best practices in primary source lesson development: “Using Primary Sources”

Review: Library of Congress Module: “Analyzing Primary Sources: Photographs and Prints”


  • Slideshow of primary source photograph analysis in the instructor's classroom

Activity: Begin to develop a lesson plan to use with students, that integrates the use of digitized primary sources to engage students, and encourage critical thinking and the construction of new knowledge. Reflect on your experiences as a primary source learner in this mini-course, in addition to the materials and examples in this Unit to help you develop your lesson. Be sure to use the Project Plan Checklist and Project Plan Guide to help frame your lesson.

Reflection: Share your draft primary source document lesson with other students. Keeping what you've just learned about inquiry in mind in Lesson 1, comment on at least two other students’ lessons and respond to comments on your own. Reflection discussion labels: [One idea to take (from this fellow student’s lesson)]; [One idea to give]; [Other comments/questions].

Lesson 3 – Project Plan Wrap-up and Reflection

Materials: You will use the same materials as you did in Lesson 2. Here is a pathfinder for additional primary source lesson resources, if needed.


  • Continue to build student lesson as directed using the Project Plan Checklist and Project Plan Guide (see Lesson 2 – Outlining the Primary Source Project Plan). Submit completed draft lesson plan to the instructor, and please feel free to share it with other students for feedback.
  • Complete the final reflection questions and share along with classmates. Comment on two other students’ reflections. Frame your thoughts by using a "3-2-1 Bridge" format: Share 3 thoughts/ideas; Ask 2 questions; Make 1 analogy.

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