Lesson 3: Designing Inquiry Lessons Around Primary Sources

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Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this lesson, participants of this course will...

1. examine lesson structures that promote historical inquiry and analysis of primary sources

2. observe full-length lessons that revolve around the analysis of primary sources.

3. choose a lesson format that effectively implements your primary source(s) selected in the previous lesson and explain why you chose it.

Warmup: Reflection on Lesson Structures

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As teachers, we know that what makes a good teacher has not changed drastically throughout the years. We also know that tried and true teaching methods transcend educational eras. As education continues to shift, the notion of what effective instruction looks like and what students should know changes. For those who have taught long enough, they find that this sometimes resembles a cycle, where old methods are implemented under new titles. Simply put, in this course we are not trying to "reinvent the wheel."

Take a minute to grab a piece of scrap paper or open a word processor. Spend about 7 minutes reflecting on lesson formats and activities you have used in the past. What aspects of these lesson structures or activities support inquiry? What aspects support the analysis of primary sources? How could these lessons or activities be tweaked in order to foster historical inquiry using primary sources?

Lecture: Lessons Formats to Support Historical Inquiry & Primary Source Analysis

The benefits of lessons that use historical inquiry and primary source analysis are endless. Watch Reading Like a Historian to understand the benefits of historical inquiry in the classroom from teachers and students who use these lessons.

The following are four basic lesson structures for historical inquiry. There are plenty of other structures that are equally effective, but these are simple and effective. They can be used as is, or be adapted to your unique classroom needs. Read about each of the formats and then view an example of each using the links provided. You may need to register at Stanford History Education Group

a) Opening Up the Textbook (OUT) In these lessons, students examine two documents: the textbook and a historical document that challenges or expands the textbook's account. For a sample OUT, see the Battle of Little Bighorn Lesson Plan.

b) Cognitive Apprenticeship These lessons are based on the idea that ways of thinking must be made visible in order for students to learn them. In lessons following this format, teachers first model a historical reading skill, then engage students in guided practice, and ultimately lead them to independent practice. For a sample cognitive apprenticeship lesson, see the Stamp Act Lesson Plan.

c) Inquiry All of these lessons include elements of historical inquiry, where students investigate historical questions, evaluate evidence, and construct historical claims. Some, however, are designed around an explicit process of inquiry, in which students develop hypotheses by analyzing sets of documents. Such inquiries are best suited for block or multiple class periods. For a sample inquiry, see the Japanese Internment Lesson Plan.

d) Structured Academic Controversy (SAC) For these lessons, students work in pairs and then teams as they explore historical questions. After taking opposing positions on a question, they work to gain consensus or at least to clarify their differences. These lessons are well suited to block or multiple class periods. They work best after students have gained experience working with primary documents. For a sample SAC, see the Lincoln Lesson Plan.

Source: "Reading Like a Historian" Stanford History Education Group



Now that you know how to design an inquiry lesson using primary sources...

Explain a lesson for your central historical question and primary sources. Why did you choose this type of lesson?

This is the third step in creating your own historical inquiry lesson using primary sources. Next is the final step in creating your own historical inquiry lesson using primary sources.

Proceed to Assessment: Developing Your Own Inquiry Lesson Using Primary Sources


"Home | Stanford History Education Group." Home | Stanford History Education Group. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2014. <http://sheg.stanford.edu>. "Teaching with Documents." National Council for the Social Studies. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2014. <http://www.socialstudies.org/publications/

"Library of Congress Home." Library of Congress Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2014. <http://www.loc.gov/index.html>.

Sandwell, Ruth W.. "Using Primary Documents in Social Studies and History."The Anthology of Social Studies 2.Issues and Strategies for Secondary Teachers (2010): 295-307.http://www.learnalberta.ca. Web. 2 Mar. 2014.

"Teaching with Documents." National Council for the Social Studies. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2014. <http://www.socialstudies.org/publications/