Using Primary Sources

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 to engaging students with primary sources

Observe the documents

  • Who created it?
  • When was it created?
  • What is the first thing you see?

Examine the details

  • What do you see that is unusual?
  • What words resonate with you the most?

Promote students inquiry

  • Speculate on the source and its creator:

    • What was happening at this time in history (time period)?
    • What was the purpose in creating the document?
    • How do they get their point across?
    • Who was the audience?
    • Are there biases or stereotypes?