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Tip of the Week – SOAP

I met Wiley Popovitch at the NCSS conference several weeks ago and shared a handy, dandy primary graphic organizer with me that I hadn’t heard of before. Wiley teaches middle school in Arizona and says his kids use it a lot while working with primary sources.

I like it too and figured I would pass it along.

It’s called SOAP.

SOAP stands for Source / Occasion / Audience / Purpose and was developed by Tommy Boyle at the University of Texas, El Paso to help integrate language arts and social studies. It seems like a pretty simple way to help kids remember to ask the right sorts of questions while messing with primary documents.

  • S = What kind of source is this? (Picture, political cartoon, newspaper article, letter, etc)
  • O = What’s the occasion? (What is happening in the primary source?)
  • A = Who is the audience? (Who do you think was intended to see this, if anyone?)
  • P = What is the purpose of the document? (What was the creator’s purpose in making this primary source?  Why was it created?)

For high school kids, you may want to pump it up a bit to SOAPStone:

  • S  = What is the subject of the document? (What is the general topic and/or main idea conveyed?)
  • T = What is the tone? (What is the attitude of the document’s creator?)
  • What questions does this document create for you?

Have fun!

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7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Laura #

    Primary sources are often complex for students to understand due to the use of original, extensive language. Many students would prefer to never have to read a speech by a famous person or examine war documents. As a history student first, teacher second, I find them to be extremely interesting and informative. I have been pondering ways to effectively use them in my classroom, and I think that this may be the trick. If introduced in the beginning of a semester, students can follow this standard format for each primary source they examine. It is a more simplified technique than answering teacher-given questions which can sometimes confuse students. They will know the expectations for examining the primary sources and the short terms within the SOAPStone make it easy to remember. I am planning on implementing this in my classroom next semester. Thank you (and Wiley Popovitch) for the tip!

    December 11, 2010
    • glennw #


      I agree. For most MS kids, this can provide a practical structure for working with primary sources.

      Thanks for the comment / good luck!


      December 11, 2010

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