Teaching with Primary Source Documents

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Author: Deborah Byrne

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Photograph of Addie Card, 12 Year Old Mill Spinner, 1910. Photograph and annotation courtesy of The Library of Congress.





Introduction

Welcome!

It has been said many times that primary sources are the 'raw materials' of history. They are original documents and artifacts that were created at the time under study, produced by people who lived at the time under study, and as such, they provide a powerful window into the past. History is fluid - it changes as new artifacts (primary source documents) are found and new knowledge is constructed.

Using primary source documents in the classroom builds an inquiry-rich environment - one that allows students to 'touch' and 'see' history and connect with real people just like themselves. Ultimately, using primary source documents in the classroom can lead to higher-level critical thinking skills, and the creation of new knowledge. With careful selection, these primary source objects can be used in virtually any subject area - at any grade level.

This course will introduce you to primary source documents: how to analyze them, where to find quality materials, and how to embed this inquiry based activity into your instruction.

Course Objectives

  • Given background articles, participants will be able to generate a working definition of primary sources, by writing a succinct paragraph to describe a primary source
  • Given a three-section graphic organizer, participants will be able to discriminate between primary source observations, reflections and questions
  • Given a three-section graphic organizer, participants will be able to analyze a primary source by completing relevant sections of the graphic organizer
  • Given a completed primary source analysis graphic organizer, participants will be able to generate a list of resources to conduct further research
  • Given background materials on the subject and authentic learning opportunities, participants will be able to identify strategies for inquiry-based learning in a lesson plan
  • Given multi-media background materials, tutorials and lessons, participants will be able to generate a student lesson & activities that integrate/utilize primary sources


Before we begin!

First, take a look at the screencast on this page, which will orient you to the format of each unit. Next, visit our discussion area (the tab at the top of the screen), and reply with a post to introduce yourself and share your initial thoughts about using primary sources in the classroom. Frame your thoughts by using a "3-2-1 Bridge" format: Share 3 thoughts/ideas; Ask 2 questions; Make 1 analogy.


Enjoy your colleagues' posts! We'll revisit this discussion thread in the last module of the course.


Next, read the web page below from the Library of Congress to familiarize yourself with the reasons for using primary sources in the classroom.


Watch: Introductory Screencast
Supplementary Screencast - Tips!

Read: Library of Congress’ Teaching with Primary Sources overview on their website:

“Why Use Primary Sources”

Unit 1 - Understanding and Defining Primary Sources

Unit 2 - How to Analyze a Primary Source

Unit 3 - Locating High Quality Primary Source Documents

Unit 4 - Using Primary Sources in the Classroom


Deborah Byrne's Portfolio Page

Deborah Byrne's Bio