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Tip of the Week: Primary sources writing prompts aligned to Bloom’s Taxonomy

Kansas water wagon

If you haven’t spent at least a few hours at the TPS-Barat blog site, you’re missing out. They’ve got some amazing resources designed specifically to support historical thinking. Using funds and support from the Library of Congress, the Barat Educational Foundation created a site focused on the effective use of primary sources in the classroom. Titled TPS-Barat Primary Source Nexus, the site has themed sets of primary sources, teaching strategies, online and face to face professional development, and tech integration tips.

Seriously. Be prepared to spend some time there. Plus you know it’s all good cause the LOC is involved.

I recently ran across a little bit of their goodness that seems like a no-brainer.  As we shift our instructional focus to include more historical thinking process and literacy, using primary and secondary sources should be one of our prime strategies. But it can be difficult integrating the use of primary source images with literacy activities.

The good news?

TPS-Barat has got you covered. They’ve developed a whole series of writing prompts aligned to Bloom’s Taxonomy that are designed for use with images and photos.

I like the idea of having different levels of thinking and writing tied to photos and images. And just because these are called writing prompts doesn’t mean you can’t use them as small group or whole class conversation starters.

You can get the the full version as a PDF or hand over to the actual website to get the rest of the prompts. But I’ve pasted a few below to give you a sense of what’s available.


  • List the different shapes you see.
  • How many people do you see?


  • Estimate how many _______ might be in this picture.
  • What is the main idea or topic of this picture? What story does it tell? What details in the picture support your thinking?


  • Use as many adjectives as you can to describe someone/something in this picture.
  • List 3-5 questions you have about this picture.


  • Where might this picture have been taken? What makes you think that?
  • When do you think this picture might have been taken? How do you know?


  • What don’t you see in this picture that you want to see or think you should see?
  • Cover half of the photo. How might this change how someone views the picture?


  • Create other objects that could be placed in this picture and seem to belong.
  • Give a title to this picture, then explain your choice.

These prompts would work great with the Library of Congress primary source analysis worksheet that asks kids to Observe, Reflect, and Question. Some teachers use this worksheet but call it I See / I Think / I Wonder. I’ve been using a sample activity that I call Three Stage Media Analysis that would work well with these writing prompts as well.

And the prompts also align very well with Common Core Literacy Standards at both elementary and secondary levels.

Have fun!

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thanks for sharing, Glenn! Elementary teachers might also want to check out our CCSS K-5 writing prompts, which provide ideas for writing activities aligned to each CCSS writing standard.

    October 31, 2014
    • glennw #


      Sweet! Thanks for sharing. Will use this with some K-5 teachers on Monday!


      October 31, 2014

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