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Primary source is a term used to describe source material that is

closest to the person, information, period, or idea being studied.
Primary sources are great resources for researching, creating
projects, writing prompts and sparking discussions. Many primary
source materials are available in the public domain through the
Library of Congress and other online sites.

Examining primary sources gives • What was the creator’s

students a powerful sense of purpose in making this primary
history and the complexity of the source?
Critical Thinking past. Helping students analyze • What does the creator do to
primary sources can also guide get his or her point across?
Problem Solving
them toward higher-order • What was this primary source’s
Communication thinking and better critical audience?
thinking and analysis skills. • What biases or stereotypes do
Collaboration you see?
Promote student inquiry and assess • Ask for reasons and specific
Creativity & Innovation how students apply critical thinking evidence to support conclusions.
and analysis skills to primary • Identify questions for further
sources. investigation.
• What was happening during •Develop strategies for
this time period? answering questions.
Bicycles, [ca. 1914]. Sears, Roebuck and
Co. Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special
Collections Library, Duke University. From: Library of Congress @
How will primary source materials help students develop
good research skills and habits?
Standards Aligned System (
Search Materials and Resources for Karpeles to access many primary
source documents. There is a text overlay that converts the digital ink to
readable fonts!
Library of Congress
Ready-to-use materials that bring the Library’s primary sources into the
classroom. The Library of Congress has classroom sets, themed resources,
lesson plans, collections, presentations and activities.
Thinkfinity (
Thinkfinity offers comprehensive K-12 teaching and learning resources
that are grade specific and aligned to state standards. Search Primary
Sources and click Go!

For each primary source, employ higher order thinking questions with
students to get them thinking about connections. Have them observe the
resource, reflect on the importance and pose questions of their own. The
Library of Congress has analysis guides here.
A key skill of a good researcher is the ability to keep resources organized.
As students learn about primary sources and begin to use them as support
for research, it is a good idea to help them establish a system of
organization. Folders on a thumb drive that hold primary sources
materials is one way. Another way would be to use PowerPoint to organize.
Drag/Import files to a PowerPoint slide and enter notes in the Notes box
below the slide.
Online Activities
Digital Vaults ( from the National Archives
Primary Access (
PrimaryAccess is a suite of free online tools that allows students and
teachers to use primary source documents to complete meaningful and
compelling learning activities with digital movies, storyboards, rebus
stories and other online tools.
Eyewitness to History (
A ringside seat to history - from the Ancient World to the present. History
through the eyes of those who lived it.