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Tip of the Week: Reading Primary Source Images Like a Book

I had the privilege to meet Shana Crosson from the Minnesota Historical Society face to face earlier this week at the #ISTE2016 conference. And I walked away smarter than I was before. But not just smarter. After several conversations and listening to Shana work her magic at her poster sessions, I left Denver incredibly impressed with what she and others at the MNHS are doing to support historical thinking and technology integration in K-12 classrooms.

Shana’s session, created with help from MNHS Education Outreach Specialist Jessica Ellison, focused on ways to help teachers and kids use primary sources images as part of the learning process. These are skills that we all should be using as social studies teachers.

We live in an increasingly visual world. Students are bombarded with strong visual images all day, in school and out of school. Learning how to read historic images empowers students to learn essential critical thinking skills that can be used on any image, document or other primary source, whether it’s historic or contemporary.

She provided a ton of reasons for using images, sites for finding useful images, and strategies for integrating them into instruction.

Advantages of Images:

  • Images include photographs, artwork, posters, cartoons and more
  • Good for visual learners
  • Helpful for young students, ELL students, struggling readers
  • Excellent companion to text
  • Teach critical consumer skills
  • Students live in a world where information is largely visual

Get all of the good stuff at Shana’s Google Doc. You’ll find links to tools such as HSTRY, Pinterest, and the new, very cool Smithsonian Learning Lab. She also shared a link to her presentation Pinterest page. You’ll be able to access all sorts of goodies in both places.

Shana ISTE flyer

shana 2

shana 3

shana 4

You can feel it, can’t you? You’re smarter already. Go beyond smarter by visiting the MNHS educator page. You’ll find more lessons, primary source sets, webinars, and teaching with primary source ideas. You especially need to check out their primary source packet project – a great focus on historical thinking and using evidence. And they have some websites that are pretty popular: The US-Dakota War of 1862  and Becoming Minnesotan. Both have a Minnesota focus but could easily be used broadly.

It’s all great stuff!

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Maggie Fountain #

    This is wonderful however the link to Shana’s google doc is not working. Is there still a way to see her great ideas?

    September 14, 2019
    • glennw #

      Good morning, Maggie! Shana has moved to the University of Minnesota since I wrote that post – so I’m guessing all of her stuff from MHS has gone missing. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind sharing what she has. Her directory page at U of M is:

      Let me know if you can’t make contact and we’ll work together to figure it out. Have a great week!


      September 16, 2019
      • Maggie Fountain #

        Thank you! I will.

        September 19, 2019

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