Primary sources are the raw materials of history — original documents and objects which were created at the time under study. They are different from secondary sources, accounts or interpretations of events created by someone without firsthand experience.
Examining primary sources gives students a powerful sense of history and the complexity of the past. Helping students analyze primary sources can also guide them toward higher-order thinking and better critical thinking and analysis skills.
But maybe you’re not sure what to do with them or how to use them in your classroom.
The Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources program provides primary source-based, independent study professional learning. Earn a certificate of completion by taking the Library’s self-paced interactive modules. Each multimedia-rich program delivers approximately one hour of staff development.
Head over to get the full details or click a link below to jump in with both feet: Read more
Several months ago, I was in beautiful Fremont, Washington, a community north of downtown Seattle. My son had just graduated from Seattle Pacific and we had the opportunity to spend a few days exploring the metro area. We had already done all of the typical Seattle touristy things – Pike’s Market, Space Needle, the icky wall of chewing gum.
While looking for lesser known attractions, Jake suggested Fremont. Every Sunday, Fremont hosts a huge flea market / delicious food truck / arts and crafts extravaganza that attracts thousands. I went for the food and stayed for the old books and super cool old maps.
While browsing through one particular booth looking for artistic inspiration, my daughter ran across a box full of old photographs. No names. No dates. So we practiced our primary document sourcing skills, deducing that they must have been taken in the late 1940s / early 1950s by American soldiers and their families. Scenes of the Eiffel Tower, festivals complete with lederhosen, and celebrations with uniformed Americans were prominent.
Erin selected a pile of the most interesting images – picking quite a few that seemed to be from the same camera roll and photographer.
Okay. Your daughter found some old photos. And . . . so what?
It took me a while to figure out the so what. The so what started to develop when she became intrigued with several of the images, particularly with one that showed what seemed to be a Gothic cathedral. Read more
Is there a better way to start the week than by spending all day talking and learning about more effective ways to do social studies? You’re right. There isn’t. I had the sweet chance to spend yesterday with a small group of social studies teachers as we discussed ways to use five under-appreciated Google tools to teach social studies.
Most of us are familiar with the typical Google tools: Search, Drive, Docs, Slides, Sheets, Forms. Been there. Done that. But there are lots of other very cool tools that often slide in under the radar that we need to be using. And I’m convinced that the following Google goodies will make your life easier and your students smarter. Read more
What could you do with one million minutes of historical YouTube video clips? If I’ve done my arithmetics correctly, that’s almost 7000 days or just over 19 years worth of video goodness. What could you do with that many video clips?
Deliver a base of foundational knowledge. Hook students into content. Develop writing prompts. Supplement instructional. Create a playlist of subject and period specific clips. Generate interest in a topic. Design a PBL unit around a series of related videos.
If your brain isn’t already bouncing off the walls in your head with other possible ideas, head over to the AP and Movietone YouTube channels to check out thousands of online video resources. I will guarantee that you’ll leave the vault with all sorts of possibilities.
According to their press release, the Associated Press and British Movietone, one of the world’s most comprehensive newsreel archives, are together bringing more than 1 million minutes of digitized film footage to YouTube. Showcasing the moments, people and events that shape the world, it will be the largest upload of historical news content on the video-sharing platform to date. Read more
It’s official. Zoom In just went live. And you and your kids so need this.
I know that I’ve mentioned Zoom In before. But a year ago, the tool was still in beta. The signup process was a bit clunky and the lessons were still in development. So I was incredibly excited to find out that last month, Zoom In is officially official. The site has been remodeled, signup is a snap, and all 18 lessons are ready to go.
If you missed my earlier excitement about Zoom In, here’s a brief recap. Zoom In is a free, web-based platform that helps students build literacy and historical thinking skills through “deep dives” into primary and secondary sources.
Zoom In’s online learning environment features 18 content-rich U.S. history units that supplement your regular instruction and help you use technology to support students’ mastery of both content and skills required by the most recent state and national social studies standards: Read more
The shift is on. We’re moving beyond simple rote memorization and direct instruction to a more hands on, interactive and evidence-based learning method. We want kids to solve problems and communicate solutions.
That’s a good thing.
But as we all get better at giving kids problems to solve and asking them to use evidence to solve those problems, it’s easy to focus on certain types of evidence. Diaries. Journals. Speeches. Photos. Maps. You know . . . the basic types of primary source documents many of you having been using forever. Absolutely nothing wrong with those types of evidence. Heck, secondary sources work too.
What can start to happen, though, is that we rely too much on the old reliables and never ask kids to use more complicated kinds of things. And one type of evidence that we need to start using more is the huge amount of public data that is available. Statistics. Population numbers. Demographical data. Movement of people and materials. This kind of stuff is perfect for creating authentic problems and encouraging creative solutions by your students.
The problem, of course, is that the data has been hard to access and even harder to make sense of. But there is a solution. Right there in plain sight. Most of us just missed it. Read more