Thing 22 Teaching and Learning with Primary Sources

I think primary sources are so interesting because the person was there when they wrote/photographed/or made the primary source. Oftentimes primary documents were not made to convey information like news media but were photographs of people and their lives, their diaries, etc. In other words, things that were not made for others but fortunately, these document survive and we can use them to glimpse another time.

Primary sources need to have context with what students are learning so they can associate it with their learning but primary documents give an extra layer to their understanding. Many of these ideas are talked about in “Engaging Students with Primary Documents”. This is a great resource because the pros and cons of different types of primary sources are discussed as well as tips and questions to ask when examining the resources.

NY Heritage is an interesting site since it’s all about NY and “The Green Book” would be a very valuable primary source for a project tie-in to something like The Watsons go to Birmingham. The family is travelling and discussions could include mapping their route using “The Green Book”. Extension activities could include finding additional primary sources like diaries talking about personal experiences during the time period.

Another librarian developed a lesson with primary documents and the book Esperanza Rising, which the 5th graders were reading. So I used the documents that she gathered to give a lesson on primary documents. It did not go as well as I had hoped because even though the students were reading the book for over a month, most of the classes hadn’t gotten far enough into the book to have much of the information needed to make inferences. I am not making that mistake with the next book project, they still haven’t finished Esperanza Rising so I now have more time to develop a lesson with the next book.

Many of the lessons that were in the resources listed were for middle and high school. And I think I would need either a lesson that corresponds to something that Grades 5-6 are learning or have a stand alone lesson in library that is engaging to the students. I would also have to scaffold the lesson so that the students were aware of what I was looking for with regards to connections and background information.


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