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Tip of the Week: The perfect mashup – PSSAs and Evidence Analysis Window Frames

I’ve spent part of the last five weeks learning together with teachers from around the country as part of a Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources project. Led by folks at Waynesburg University, the focus is on using Library resources in effective ways. It’s been fun hearing from others about how they search for resources, share strategies, and integrate primary sources into the classroom.

On Tuesday, we spent time discussing some of the most effective integration ideas. The Waynesburg TPS office has posted ten of their favorites online, calling them Primary Source Starter Activities.

I really like these PSSAs because they’re fast and easy to implement and can be adapted in a wide variety of ways. Waynesburg suggests using these as a “filler” when students finish other assignments and need an activity to stay busy. So they are designed for “quiet, independent completion” with a student worksheet focused on a historical image as well as supplemental information.

But I think for many students, especially those in upper elementary and middle schools, these lessons would be best used in small groups with you guiding the thinking and learning. They would also work with high school kids.

Another way you could adapt the PSSAs is to use my Evidence Analysis Window Frame to help scaffold different historical thinking skills. The Window Frame is an 11 x 17 thick plastic sheet with sourcing, contextualizing, and close reading questions printed directly on it. You print out an image or textual primary source and kids slide the source under the plastic. Then using overhead pens or white board markers, they circle and highlight details in the evidence onto the plastic sheet.

There is space in the margins for students to write short notes as well. It’s a perfect way to encourage high levels of historical thinking. After analyzing the source, they might use their Window Frame notes and highlights to respond to a writing prompt, compare their analysis with other students, predict future events, or contrast their thinking with secondary sources.

You could have students use their Window Frame to look at different pieces of evidence to corroborate ideas, to make connections between sources, and to examine different theories. The Frame is reusable, saves money on copies, and students love the hands on thinking that happens.

Find out more about the Window Frame on my Products page. Then head over to Waynesburg’s PSSAs to download their free activity ideas.

The Battle Hymn of the Republic
Classroom Comparison: Then and Now
A Clean Sweep for the New Year
Historic Scene Investigation: A Slave Auction at the South
Interview with Fountain Hughes
Langston Hughes’ Drafts of “Ballad of Booker T.”: Exploring the Creative Process
Lincoln’s Assassination from a Friend’s Diary
Point of View in Statues of Abraham Lincoln: Three Looks at a Leader
Thomas Jefferson’s Rough Draft of the Declaration of Independence
What Was She Thinking

You can also find other tools, lessons, and project ideas at the Waynesburg TPS site. Be sure to browse through those as well.


Glenn is a curriculum and integration specialist, speaker, and blogger with a passion for technology and social studies. He provides engaging professional learning activities across the country with a focus on consulting, presentations, and keynotes. Find out more about Glenn and how you might learn together by going to his Work with Me page.

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