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Primary Sources: Unlocking Student Voices: Instructional Ideas

Workshop for the Oswego Writing Institute, August 20 & 21, 2014.

Engaging Students with Primary Sources

Drawing on student's prior knowledge.

Ask students to closely observe each primary source.

  • Who created this primary source?
  • When was it created?
  • Where does your eye go first?

Help students see key details.

  • What do you see that you didn’t expect?
  • What powerful words and ideas are expressed?

Encourage students to think about their personal response to the source.

  • What feelings and thoughts does the primary source trigger in you?
  • What questions does it raise?

*Information retreived from Library of Congress

Promote Student Inquiry

Encourage students to speculate about each source, its creator, and its context.

  • What was happening during this time period?
  • What was the creator’s purpose in making this primary source?
  • What does the creator do to get his or her point across?
  • What was this primary source’s audience?
  • What biases or stereotypes do you see?

Ask if this source agrees with other primary sources, or with what the students already know.

  • Ask students to test their assumptions about the past.
  • Ask students to find other primary or secondary sources that offer support or contradiction.

*Information retreived from Library of Congress

Assess How Students Apply Critical Thinking and Analysis Skills to Primary Sources

Have students summarize what they’ve learned.

  • Ask for reasons and specific evidence to support their conclusions.
  • Help students identify questions for further investigation, and develop strategies for how they might answer them.

*Information retreived from Library of Congress

Classroom Activities

Warm up Activities

Use primary sources as an anticipatory set

Students write a short answer/response

Think-Pair-Share

Primary Source of the Day - use to review yesterday's lesson or transition to a new topic

 

Writing Activities

Personal reflections/journals/blogs

Analysis of primary source

Develop research plan based on primary source

Compare/Constrast primary sources and another source

Write from the perspective of the person in the primary source

Translate documents into current day language

.

Other Activities

Group Discussions

Oral Presentations

Web Quests 

Research Investigations - treat the primary source as a mystery and have students perform a research investigation

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