Primary sources are the original documents and objects created at the time under study. Secondary Sources are interpretations of events created by people without firsthand experience. Students can gain a powerful sense of history and the complexities of the past when they examine primary sources. Analyzing primary sources can also guide students toward better critical thinking skills.
Guidelines on using Primary sources
How to engage students with primary source material
Observe the documents:
Who created it?
When was it created?
What is the first thing you see?
Help students see details:
What do you see that is unusual?
What words resonate with you the most?
Encourage students to think about their personal responses:
What feelings and thoughts are triggered when you read the document?
What questions does the document raise for you?
Promote students inquiry:
Let them speculate on the source and its creator:
What was happening at this time (time period)?
What was the creator’s purpose in creating the document?
How do they get their point across?
Who was the audience?
Are there biases or stereotypes?
Suggested activities to get primary sources into the classroom:
Writing activities: Share a letter and have the students write a reply to the letter writer.
Inspiration for projects: Use World Ware I posters to inspire students to promote an ideal.
Visualization: Have students use images to gain an understanding of what it may have been like when a historical event happened.
Listening activities: Have the students listen to recordings and describe/draw the event.
Develop technical skills: Have the students make a interactive game or create a website using the documents.
Some of the lesson plans are large files and may take a while to load on slower connections. All lesson plans are presented as PDFs.
In many historical photographs there are signs of technology present. Identifying such technology and recognizing the changes in it over time is an important skill and one that may or may not be covered well in a textbook. Studying historical photographs can be an effective method of teaching such progressive changes.
An important document can be taught in a variety of ways: for its informational value, for its significance in history or as an artifact. Many documents that are very important for their content, such as the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, or a state constitution, meet all three criteria.
On May 1, 1868 Tom Dula (pronounced Dooley) was hanged for the murder of Laura Foster. The hanging followed several sensational trials, including two in the North Carolina Supreme Court. Prior to the hanging Tom Dula gave one of his attorneys a note in which he said that he was the only one who “had any hand in the murder of Laura Foster.” In the 1950s a ballad, entitled “Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley,” was recorded about the events and reached #1 on the Billboard chart for 1958.
The landscape of most cities and towns includes land set aside for burials. Burial practices and cemeteries have changed throughout history and give us a visual interpretation of society’s beliefs and precepts. Any unit on cemeteries and/or gravestones will likely involve either an actual site visit or a virtual one. Luckily the latter is relatively simple to do. An actual trip to a cemetery will need to be well planned, but the trip itself could be very educational. Cemeteries contain a wealth of information that can be used in many subject areas. While language arts and social studies may be obvious subject areas, lessons on science and mathematics can be developed as well. Gravestones also offer a look at an under-explored art form.
Tiny Broadwick was a daring young woman who parachuted for the first time from a hot air balloon in 1908. She was fifteen years old. During her lifetime she made over 1100 jumps from balloons and airplanes.
On December 17, 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright made the first machine-powered flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. With Orville aboard, the flight lasted about 12 seconds. The first flight covered 100 feet. The brothers made 3 other flights that day with the final one lasting 59 seconds and covering 852 feet. The machine the Wright brothers used was powered by a 12-horse power motor and 2 propellers that they designed.
Over the next few years the Wrights built stronger machines that flew farther and were more reliable.
Millie-Christine McKoy, conjoined twins, were born in Columbus County, NC in 1851. Born to enslaved parents, the twins shared one spinal column and were likely two girls with one nervous system. They referred to themselves as one person, however, and hyphenated their name to reflect this belief.
The North Carolina State Archives has a collection of private papers that relates to Millie-Christine. This private collection, PC 266, has been digitized and will soon be available on the Archives’ website.
George Moses Horton was a slave who composed poetry and sold his poems to university students. His initial book was the first one published in the South by an African American. The sample acrostic is one written for Sion Hart Rogers, UNC student in the 1840s for Miss Mary E. V. Powell.
Propaganda is a powerful tool used to sway people’s opinions on certain issues. Examples of propaganda can be found in many different formats. A definition of propaganda is: Any technique that attempts to influence the opinion, emotions, attitudes, or behavior of a group in order to benefit the sponsor.
Letter from John Futch, Co. K, 3rd North Carolina Troops, to his wife Martha Ramsey Futch and a letter from Catherine Ramsey to Futch, her son-in-law. John Futch enlisted February 1, 1862 in New Hanover County and was reported absent without leave from August 11-31, 1863. He was shot for desertion on September 5, 1863. John and Martha Futch were married February 11, 1862 in New Hanover County where they lived with their families in the Holly Shelter area.
Maco is a small crossroads west of Wilmington where the Manchester and Augusta Railroad crosses the road. In 1867 it was known as Farmers Turnout. The legend of a mysterious light appearing there is an old one, dating from soon after 1867. Among the many suggested causes of the light are automobile lights or marsh gas from the nearby swamp.
The teens and 20s were a time of great travel in the United States. People often took voyages that lasted for months and many left diaries and journals chronicling their journeys. North Carolina has had its share of word travelers and many of them have left details about their journeys. In the North Carolina State Archives are journals, itineraries, mementos, and photographs of the travels of many of our state’s residents.
Natural disasters happen every day, and in North Carolina in 2011 we seemed to have had more than other years. Natural disasters bring out many emotions in students, and adults, as well. Fear predominates, but there are other feelings, such as anger, insecurity and anxiety. One effective way to deal with natural disasters is to study them historically. It is often helpful for students to talk about what led up to the disaster and what people did after it to cope and carry on. This puts students on an intellectual footing when confronted with the uncontrollable. It gives a non-emotional avenue to pursue and channels negative, albeit it, necessary emotions in more productive ways. Many areas of the world are prone to certain types of natural disasters, just because of their location. North Carolina’s geography lends itself to large numbers of hurricanes and shipwrecks, so there are many examples of those types of disasters in our history.
National Archives and Records Administration Analysis Sheets
The State Archives of North Carolina created this website in hopes of sharing newly developed material with the public - most notably North Carolina's educators and students. The site includes five episodes from North Carolina’s rich history for students to explore and includes companion lesson plans and other resources for teachers. The website was created by Carrie Misenheimer, the Youth Advocacy and Involvement Program intern working in the Information Management Branch during the Summer of 2009.
North Carolina Digital Collections
The North Carolina Digital Collections contain over 29,000 historic and recent photographs, state government publications, manuscripts, and other resources on topics related to North Carolina. The Collections are free and full-text searchable, and bring together content from the Archives and Library of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.
Treasures of the State Archives of North Carolina
This website is an online exhibit of some of the most priceless items from the collections at the State Archives of North Carolina, with supplemental materials from the State Library of North Carolina to be added later. These archival documents are not available for public viewing except at specifically designated times due to their importance to the state’s history and, in some cases, their fragile condition. Also included in this online collection are some examples of presidential signatures that the State Archives has collected over time.
State Archives of North Carolina Flickr Account
Flickr is a photo management and sharing application that allows users to post, tag, search and comment on their own photographs and videos and the photos and videos of others. The State Archives' photostream allows the public to search and interact with some of our most popular photographic materials, although not all of our iconographic collections are available through Flickr. For more information about our photographs, visit the Non-Textual Materials page or search our online catalog, MARS.
North Carolina Maps
North Carolina Maps is a comprehensive, online collection of historic maps of the Tar Heel State. Featuring maps from three of the state's largest map collections -- the State Archives of North Carolina, the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill, and the Outer Banks History Center -- North Carolina Maps provides an unprecedented level of access to these materials. When complete, North Carolina Maps will contain over 1,500 maps, ranging in date from the late 1500s to the 1960s, and will include detailed maps for each of North Carolina's one hundred counties.