What do you know about Primary Sources?

Library Of Congress Washington DC
Did you know there is a Teacher’s section and lots of available classroom resources on The Library of Congress website?

The part that really caught my attention was the Using Primary Sources area. When I was in the classroom, helping students use and understand primary sources is something I admit I did not do very well. I really did not know what I was supposed to do and what students were supposed to be able to do …. if I could even find primary sources for us to examine.

Here is a great definition of primary sources from The Library of Congress Site:

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.

Just that definition helps me understand the reason for encouraging students to examine and explore primary sources …. we regularly talk about various points of view and perspectives. I have done a  large amount of research on Orville and Wilbur Wright. I loved being able to look at their notes and scrapbooks to see what they thought and how they understood what they did instead of reading an interpretation of their actions.

On the Using Primary Sources page, there are three sections which some direction for teachers and questions for students:

  1. Engaging students with primary sources.
  2. Promote student inquiry.
  3. Assess how students apply critical thinking and analysis skills to primary sources.

Even though those areas generally cover the before, during, and after reading skills, there were a few questions which caught my attention:

  • Where does you eye go first?
  • What do you see that you didn’t expect?
  • What powerful words and ideas are expressed?

Also included in the Primary Sources section of The Library of Congress website is information about:

  • Citing Primary Sources
  • Copyright and Primary Sources
  • Finding Primary Sources
  • Teacher’s Guides and Analysis Tool for a variety of types of Primary Sources

So what do you think? Are you more willing to try using some Primary Sources? Do you understand a bit more about Primary Sources? I do! 🙂


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