TeachersFirst's Primary Sources

Other TeachersFirst Special Topics Collections

Discover this collection of tools relating to primary sources and engaging suggestions on using them in your classroom. Primary sources offer direct (firsthand) accounts about events, people, works of art, and more. There are many different types of primary sources: audio and video recordings, speeches, historical or legal documents, eyewitness accounts, and many more possibilities. This curated list includes resources for all grades, compares primary to secondary sources, and countless other topics to explore. Get inspiration from the "In the Classroom" section of each review, offering several suggestions to try in your class. View our even larger tagged list of resources for Primary Sources


 

 

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Engaging Congress - Indiana University

Grades
5 to 12
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Engaging Congress is an interactive game that uses primary sources to help students evaluate information as they learn about the United States government. Download the app from Google...more
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Engaging Congress is an interactive game that uses primary sources to help students evaluate information as they learn about the United States government. Download the app from Google Play or the iTunes store, or select the webGL link to play on the web. Begin play by choosing a story, primary source, or pick a trivia challenge or practice. Use the Teacher Toolbox to find documents by era or topic, learning objectives matched to Common Core Standards, and compelling questions for use with each issue and story. Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the home page to find the link to request classroom giveaways to encourage play!

tag(s): branches of government (60), congress (42), DAT device agnostic tool (171), primary sources (100)

In the Classroom

Take advantage of the free games and materials on this site to use as a supplement to your current resources for teaching history and government. Instead of written notes, strengthen learning by having students use an online tool such as Creately, reviewed here, to create diagrams, mindmaps, and other visual graphic organizers. To compare and contrast information found in different primary sources, create a Venn Diagram using Creately. As students prepare to share their findings and summarize their learning, have them modify their learning by creating infographics using Canva Infographic Creator, reviewed here, to visually represent facts and information. As a final assessment for your unit using these materials, ask students to form teams to debate different sides of the issues presented. Share their debates as a podcast using Anchor, reviewed here. Anchor is a simple to use podcasting tool offering several free options for creating, hosting, and sharing podcasts. As an alternative, ask other students redefine their learning and to create multimedia presentations using Sway, reviewed here to share text, videos, images, and more.
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OneHistory - Hilary Mac Austin and Kathleen Thompson

Grades
6 to 12
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OneHistory uses stories, images, biographies, editorials, and essays to tell the history of America through the diversity of its people. Use links on the site to view information through...more
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OneHistory uses stories, images, biographies, editorials, and essays to tell the history of America through the diversity of its people. Use links on the site to view information through reading history and visual history. Be sure to check out the teacher feature index containing tips for teaching through photographs and links to great speeches and documents.

tag(s): 1800s (53), 1900s (45), african american (108), biographies (86), cross cultural understanding (137), essays (23), great depression (28), primary sources (100), speeches (19)

In the Classroom

Bookmark OneHistory as a resource for primary sources when teaching American History and as an excellent tool for finding information featuring diversity throughout the years. Have students create a multimedia presentation using Slidestory, reviewed here. This site allows you to narrate a picture. Challenge students to find a photo (legally permitted to be reproduced), and then add music to their narration. Slidestory allows you to add narration to a picture. Challenge students to find a photo (legally permitted to be reproduced), and then narrate the photo as if it is a news report. Take advantage of the high interest, low readability level stories on the site to differentiate for the variety of reading levels in your classroom and to include informational (nonfiction) reading standards.

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Children and Youth in History - Center for History and New Media

Grades
9 to 12
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Learn about children and youth in history through primary sources, case studies, and teaching modules available from this extensive site. As you begin your exploration of primary sources...more
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Learn about children and youth in history through primary sources, case studies, and teaching modules available from this extensive site. As you begin your exploration of primary sources by world regions take the time to read the introductory essay that includes strategies for using these items successfully. Be sure to take advantage of the well-developed teaching modules including lesson plans, teaching strategies, and more.

tag(s): africa (168), china (65), england (57), japan (60), primary sources (100), Research (20), slavery (70), south america (40)

In the Classroom

Save time with the ready-to-go, free resources found on this site during your studies of geography and cultures. Compare and contrast life in your area to those around the world. Modify classroom technology use by having students create maps using Animaps, reviewed here, as they learn about children around the world. Students can add text, images, and location stops!

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Students Investigating Primary Sources - Florida Joint Center for Citizenship

Grades
2 to 12
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Students Investigating Primary Sources is a series of lessons designed through a collaboration with the National Archives, Pinellas County Public Schools, and Brevard Public Schools...more
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Students Investigating Primary Sources is a series of lessons designed through a collaboration with the National Archives, Pinellas County Public Schools, and Brevard Public Schools for 2nd grade through High School Students. Choose from topics including separation of power and women's right to vote. Each lesson correlates to National Standards and a PDF link to the original activity including vocabulary, handouts, and other necessary materials.

tag(s): branches of government (60), civil rights (127), constitution (94), primary sources (100), womens suffrage (28)

In the Classroom

Benefit from the free lessons on this site for use when teaching the use of primary sources. Challenge younger students to demonstrate concepts learned by creating a presentation using slides, reviewed here, and older students to use a presentation tool from Lucidpress, reviewed here. The easy drag and drop features of Lucidpress allow you to personalize flyers, posters, presentations, and more. Ask students to incorporate primary sources and other research materials into an interactive timeline using Timeglider, reviewed here, as a visual look at historical events over a certain period.
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The USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive - USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education

Grades
8 to 12
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At The Visual History Archive discover an online portal of 53,000 audio and video testimonies of survivors and witnesses of twentieth-century genocides. These are cataloged and indexed...more
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At The Visual History Archive discover an online portal of 53,000 audio and video testimonies of survivors and witnesses of twentieth-century genocides. These are cataloged and indexed with over 1,660 viewable at this URL. Besides the WWII Holocaust, other genocides covered are the Armenian Genocide during World War I, the 1937 Nanjing Massacre in China, the Cambodian Genocide of the 1970s, and the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. The interviews, collected by volunteers, were conducted in 63 countries and 40 languages. To register and access the content click FAQs in the left margin and find Register/Login at the top right of that page. Search by genocide, experience groups, specific people, places, time periods and indexed terms. Save results in your account. Each item shows streaming audio or video file, identifying data and an interactive map of the location. No transcripts are provided. Many of these videos are available on the YouTube Channel of the USC Shoah Foundation. If your district blocks YouTube, the videos may not be viewable.

tag(s): 20th century (52), holocaust (42), interviews (13), jews (26), oral history (12), primary sources (100), world war 2 (144)

In the Classroom

The streaming audio and video interviews of first-person accounts makes this collection a powerful classroom experience using non-text primary sources. Show students the extensive searching capabilities, have students research a topic, person or place, preview and then summarize content. Study interactive maps of interviews and locations. During class time, show selected interviews to make history come alive or assign videos to watch for flipped or blended classrooms. Using the interviews as models, have students video or write up an interview with someone on the topic for a local history collection. Since registration is required, teachers will need to register and show students how to register if they are to do their own research.

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Primary vs Secondary Sources - The Minnesota Historical Society

Grades
6 to 12
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Primary vs. Secondary Sources is an excellent YouTube video explaining the difference between these two types of sources. The video provides several examples of each type of source...more
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Primary vs. Secondary Sources is an excellent YouTube video explaining the difference between these two types of sources. The video provides several examples of each type of source and tells why it fits into that category. If your district blocks YouTube, then this video may not be viewable.

tag(s): primary sources (100), video (267)

In the Classroom

Share this video with students as they begin any research project. Be sure to add a link to this site on your class website for reference at home. Have students create a simple infographic with examples of both types of resources using Easel.ly, reviewed here. Have students upload a photo they have taken of a source and add voice bubbles to explain why it fits into a particular category using a tool such as Superlame, reviewed here.

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TPS Teachers Network - Metropolitan State University of Denver

Grades
K to 12
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TPS Teachers Network is a social networking site for social studies and history teachers. The Library of Congress funded this as part of their Teaching With Primary Sources Program....more
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TPS Teachers Network is a social networking site for social studies and history teachers. The Library of Congress funded this as part of their Teaching With Primary Sources Program. Create an account to begin using features on the site (email and password required). Once enrolled, options include participating in a chat, adding friends, and searching using keywords. Use the search from the top right menu after logging in on the main page to find specific information topics such as primary source sets or political cartoons. Create albums on the site, including primary and secondary sources, and videos to easily share with students or fellow teachers. Be sure to check out the Help section by clicking the question mark at on the top menu bar when you first get started for Quick Tips to all sections of the site.

tag(s): bookmarks (54), primary sources (100), professional development (193), social networking (94), Teacher Utilities (86)

In the Classroom

Bookmark and save TPS Teachers Network as an excellent professional development and social networking site. Share with your colleagues to create your own professional learning network on the site. Create albums with primary sources for use throughout the year in one easy to find location.

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Engaging Elementary Students with Primary Sources - Library of Congress

Grades
K to 5
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This excellent resource is a PDF version of the Fall 2010 Teaching with Primary Sources Quarterly newsletter. Contents include articles on teaching primary sources to elementary students...more
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This excellent resource is a PDF version of the Fall 2010 Teaching with Primary Sources Quarterly newsletter. Contents include articles on teaching primary sources to elementary students and information on the latest research on this subject. Scroll through the newsletter to find two learning activities linked to standards for classroom use.

tag(s): primary sources (100)

In the Classroom

Use information from this article when including primary sources in your Common Core based lessons. Take advantage of the free included lesson plans. Be sure to click on the links in each lesson activity to be directed to the complete lesson plan. Share information with your teaching colleagues. Use images from the lessons (with proper credit, of course) and create an annotated image including text boxes and related links using a tool such as Thinglink, reviewed here.
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Teachers - Primary Source Sets - Library of Congress

Grades
4 to 12
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This collection of primary sources from the Library of Congress is organized around key topics and themes in American History. View Primary Source Set titles in alphabetical order from...more
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This collection of primary sources from the Library of Congress is organized around key topics and themes in American History. View Primary Source Set titles in alphabetical order from Abraham Lincoln through Women's Suffrage. Choose any topic to view Teacher's Guides and analysis tools including graphic organizers for students. Sort information to find materials meeting Common Core Standards, State Standards, or national organization standards.

tag(s): 20th century (52), authors (118), black history (60), civil war (151), constitution (94), hispanic (12), jefferson (21), lincoln (85), new deal (5), primary sources (100), segregation (16), thanksgiving (33), veterans (18), washington (32), westward expansion (33), womens suffrage (28), wright brothers (19)

In the Classroom

When introducing a new unit, show students photos from the era and have them describe what they see and what period they think it is. Find plenty of questions and activities (including a blank analysis organizer for students) in the Teacher's Guides. Also look at Library of Congress: for Teachers, reviewed here. Encourage your students to use this tool for projects. Challenge students to find a photo (legally permitted for reproduction), and then narrate the photo as if it is a news report. Have students create a multimedia presentation using Slidestory, reviewed here. This site allows you to narrate a picture modifying student learning. Include this site on your class webpage for students and parents to access as a reference.
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TPS-Barat Primary Source Nexus - Barat Education Foundation

Grades
2 to 12
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Find high interest primary sources for anything from teddy bears to Abraham Lincoln to King Kamehameha and much more. There are also primary sources for world connections for Serbia,...more
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Find high interest primary sources for anything from teddy bears to Abraham Lincoln to King Kamehameha and much more. There are also primary sources for world connections for Serbia, Iran, and Cambodia. Common Core emphasizes "reading" of visual sources of information, and this is the perfect source. This is a growing resource, so be sure to sign up for their newsletter. The Primary Source Nexus is the online support resource for the TPS-Barat Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Program. This is a great place to look for ideas to use for History Day! Preview before sharing with students.

tag(s): advertising (37), black history (60), cross cultural understanding (137), history day (24), immigration (63), journalism (69), lincoln (85), martin luther king (38), poetry (221), presidents (134), primary sources (100), professional development (193), roosevelt (14), slavery (70), writing prompts (85)

In the Classroom

Take a look at the free professional development for using primary sources for teachers. In the Archives for Connecting to the Common Core, there are writing prompts for K-5 plus a link to the triangle activity. Download and use the PDF for the Thinking Triangle. Have older students research an interest and report to the class using a tool like Zoho Show (similar to PowerPoint, but easier and free) reviewed here.
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Founders Online - National Archives and University of Virginia

Grades
6 to 12
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Founders Online is an archive from the National Archives of over 119,000 fully annotated primary source documents from six of the nation's founding fathers: George Washington, Benjamin...more
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Founders Online is an archive from the National Archives of over 119,000 fully annotated primary source documents from six of the nation's founding fathers: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison. Enter any search term or browse by author, recipient, or time period. Each document includes information such as author, recipient, date, and links to other similar documents if available.

tag(s): american revolution (90), colonial america (110), colonization (17), constitution (94), declaration of independence (13), franklin (10), jefferson (21), primary sources (100), washington (32)

In the Classroom

Search and view information from this site on your interactive whiteboard or projector. Find documents from similar time periods and events to compare and contrast different points of view. Have students download to create an annotated image including text boxes and related links using a tool such as Thinglink, reviewed here. Have students create timelines (with music, photos, videos, and more) usingTimeline JS, reviewed here. Have students use Fakebook, reviewed here, to create a "fake" page similar in style to Facebook about any of the founding fathers included on this site.
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Engaging Students With Primary Sources - Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Grades
6 to 12
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The Smithsonian Institution offers a printable guide to using primary sources in any classroom. View examples of how to do it and suggestion! Explore each of the main sections including...more
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The Smithsonian Institution offers a printable guide to using primary sources in any classroom. View examples of how to do it and suggestion! Explore each of the main sections including documents, photographs, oral histories, and objects for ideas and tips. Each activity is aligned to National Center for History in the Schools standards. The guide is in PDF format for easy printing and use.

tag(s): primary sources (100)

In the Classroom

Bookmark and save this site for use throughout the year as a guide for using primary sources. Use some of the lesson strategies with other primary source collections
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Digital Public Library of America - Digital Public Library of America

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5 to 12
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The Digital Public Library of America is a central portal pulling together the collections of US libraries, archives and museums. These individual collections are available in a single...more
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The Digital Public Library of America is a central portal pulling together the collections of US libraries, archives and museums. These individual collections are available in a single large database. The DPLA does not actually have any collection of its own; rather it provides direct links to individual artifacts that reside in other collections across the US. Artifacts include text, images, video clips, and more. You can search the DPLA using a timeline, using a map, or using a more traditional search box. The timeline feature makes accessing topics such as "civil rights" by decade very helpful. Creating a free account allows you to save searches. The DPLA also "collects" groups of artifacts into exhibitions.

tag(s): 1910s (7), 1920s (16), 1930s (13), 1940s (11), 1950s (11), 1960s (30), 1970s (12), 1980s (9), 20th century (52), data (156), museums (44), primary sources (100)

In the Classroom

Adding the DPLA to your classroom bookmarks or introducing students to this resource will put a wealth of information into students' hands, aggregated into one place. Consider this a museum/archive/library specific search engine. Because each search links to an artifact or document which may actually be the property of any of dozens of different entities, students will need to understand that copyright and the ability to download material may vary depending upon where the original item "lives." Be sure to demonstrate how to FIND the rights information. Challenge students to explore basics on an artist, an author, or a social studies topic such as "civil rights" or "Martin Luther King" to see an overview in many media using the timeline display. Be sure to test the searches in advance to know which terms yield reasonable results.

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America in Class - The National Humanities Center

Grades
5 to 12
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Discover American History lessons correlated to Common Core reading and social studies literacy standards, especially those that require close reading and evidence. The goal of these...more
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Discover American History lessons correlated to Common Core reading and social studies literacy standards, especially those that require close reading and evidence. The goal of these lessons is to use primary resources, background information, and the analytical strategies suggested to meet the Common Core standards. In addition to these outstanding American History lessons, also find free online seminars and secondary sources. The secondary sources, under TeacherServe, include essays on topics in American literature and history.

tag(s): abolition (7), american revolution (90), civil war (151), colonial america (110), colonization (17), democracy (17), native americans (82), primary sources (100), slavery (70), women (100)

In the Classroom

Use your interactive whiteboard or projector to help your class learn the background information and read the material through once. Work through the lesson together; then consider assigning groups of four students to go through the readings again, discovering the answers to the essential questions. Have students post the group's answers on a back channel chat program such as Today's Meet reviewed here so all groups can see all answers. Where answers differ, have students go back into the reading and cite evidence to support their answer on Today's Meet for all to see.

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Picturing US History - American Social History Project / Center for Media and Learning

Grades
4 to 12
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"Picturing U.S. History" helps you use visual evidence to learn about the past. The subtitle "Lessons in Looking" tells it all. The lessons are very detailed and flexible. Primary source...more
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"Picturing U.S. History" helps you use visual evidence to learn about the past. The subtitle "Lessons in Looking" tells it all. The lessons are very detailed and flexible. Primary source media includes: photographs, drawings, paintings, political cartoons, print media, statuary, furniture, and collectibles. Additional links provide explanations of historical and culture behind the images used at the site.

tag(s): art history (78), black history (60), painting (62), primary sources (100)

In the Classroom

The "Lessons on Looking" can be used for a single class period or over several periods. Using a projector or interactive whiteboard, use the zoom tool to look at one aspect of the picture and have students interpret the image. Challenge your students to create a web exhibit collection about a historical topic using a tool such as Bag The Web (reviewed here). Students can share all of the important links, information, and even brief descriptions that they find on this site.
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Using Primary Sources in the Classroom: World War I Unit - Alabama Department of Archives and History

Grades
6 to 12
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This museum site provides five different lessons plans about World War I. It offers learning objectives, activities, and links to primary documents. Though the site focuses on Alabama...more
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This museum site provides five different lessons plans about World War I. It offers learning objectives, activities, and links to primary documents. Though the site focuses on Alabama history, it is a good way to show multiple perspectives about the war. The site itself is no visual treat, but the activity ideas can bring a hundred-year old era to life.

tag(s): primary sources (100), world war 1 (57)

In the Classroom

Use the activities to help your students better understand World War I. Be sure to check out the activity in the Selective Service lesson. The activity has each student being assigned to a role. The students write a letter to Senator Bankhead which would explain their positions concerning conscription prior to the declaration of war. To extend the activity, have your students dress as their character and read their letters to the class. Or have students create blogs. If you are beginning the process of integrating technology, have students create blogs sharing their learning and understanding using Pen.io, reviewed here. This blog creator requires no registration.

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Docs Teach - The National Archives

Grades
6 to 12
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Explore collections of primary documents from US History enhanced with tools for teaching. This site adds the ability to manipulate primary documents to build informative and challenging...more
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Explore collections of primary documents from US History enhanced with tools for teaching. This site adds the ability to manipulate primary documents to build informative and challenging lessons. While a few of the documents and lessons are available for the casual visitor to the site, you need to register (and it's free!) in order to make full use of the amazing resources here. Once you have registered, you can access all the documents and use the activity builder to create lessons which use primary documents to teach sequencing, mapping, weighing evidence, interpreting data, and seeing the big picture. Please note that you do not HAVE to create anything, you can simply use what is already here. (And they do already have a lot to offer.) You will need to create a project if you want to package an activity that you can use now and again later.

tag(s): american revolution (90), civil war (151), digital storytelling (147), great depression (28), industrial revolution (26), primary sources (100), Teacher Utilities (86), westward expansion (33), world war 1 (57), world war 2 (144)

In the Classroom

If you teach history or social studies, you know what a great emphasis is being placed on the use of primary documents in helping students develop an awareness of the perspectives of those who lived during a particular era. Use this site to develop sophisticated lessons using primary documents on US History with the activity builder. Use the ready-made activities (the majority of which are available once you've registered), on an interactive whiteboard or projector for the whole class or assign groups of students to work independently at a computer workstation or at home. These activities encourage higher order thinking among students rather than simply the memorization of facts.
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Our Documents - 100 Milestone Documents - National Archives

Grades
6 to 12
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This site, a collaborative effort among the National Archives, National History Day and USA Freedom Corps, highlights the most important documents in US history. Each of these "milestone"...more
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This site, a collaborative effort among the National Archives, National History Day and USA Freedom Corps, highlights the most important documents in US history. Each of these "milestone" documents is detailed and photographed on a separate page; the photo can be enlarged for presentation on an interactive whiteboard. What is most helpful for teachers, however, is the link to tools for educators: a downloadable sourcebook, suggestions for using the documents to meet specific national social studies, economics, English, arts, civics, history, geography and technology standards, and lesson plans. This site was clearly designed with teachers in mind!

tag(s): history day (24), primary sources (100)

In the Classroom

The use of primary sources in teaching has been greatly increased by our digital access to documents like these. Peruse the list of "milestone" documents, and commit to using the photographs on an interactive whiteboard (or projector) when the document comes up in a lesson or discussion. For teachers who are supporting student projects for National History Day, this site also has a link to specific tips, although it appears the site has not been kept up to date with current information on individual competitions. Challenge cooperative learning groups to investigate one of the documents and create a multimedia project of their choice. Looking for some inspiration? How about having groups create a podcast using PodOmatic (reviewed here). Or have students create online posters on paper or do it together as a class using a tool such as Web Poster Wizard (reviewed here) or PicLits (reviewed here). Have students narrate a photo of the document (using a FREE and LEGAL photo) using a site such as Thinglink, reviewed here.
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H.S.I. - Historical Scene Investigation - College of William & Mary School of Education

Grades
5 to 12
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H.S.I. or Historical Scene Investigation takes the work out of locating primary sources, and provides you with an interesting way for students to "investigate" history. This site presents...more
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H.S.I. or Historical Scene Investigation takes the work out of locating primary sources, and provides you with an interesting way for students to "investigate" history. This site presents "case histories" for "Dropping the Bomb," "Antonio the Slave," "Children in the Civil War," "The Boston Massacre" and many others. For each "case" there is a student view and a teacher view. The teacher view is a lesson plan with a list of objectives, additional contextual information and resources as well as instructional strategies, and suggestions for such things as age group and further questions to explore. The student view is set up as a mystery to solve. Students are presented with the situation and given a question to guide their inquiry. There are three steps for students to follow "Investigating the Evidence" where students are provided links to appropriate digital primary sources, "Searching for Clues" where students are provided with a set of questions to guide their analysis of the evidence, and "Cracking the Case" when students give their answers and cite the evidence they found to support their answers. This site is definitely the C.S.I for history!

tag(s): american revolution (90), atomic bomb (11), civil rights (127), civil war (151), constitution (94), jamestown (10), mysteries (23), primary sources (100), slavery (70)

In the Classroom

You might want to do the first investigation as a class using your projector or interactive whiteboard. Have students help analyze and annotate the information they are learning from the primary sources. This way you can also point out different points of view on the topic so students will know to look for this in other investigations. In your blended or flipped classroom, have students complete investigations before beginning any complementary unit. You, your gifted, or more technology inclined students could use these investigations as a model to enhance learning and create inquiries into any unit of study. Use a tool like Webs, reviewed here, a free and easy web maker, to share a project such as this. Have students "become one of the people" in the historical event and put together a web page or online poster using a site such as Webs, reviewed here, portraying that person and justifying their point of view. This could be done in small groups where each student, or partners, portrays a different (or opposing) character in the event and tells the story from their point of view, citing the evidence to justify that point of view.
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Spy Letters of the American Revolution - Clements Library, University of Michigan

Grades
4 to 12
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This fascinating site is based on an exhibit of American Revolutionary spy letters from the William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Gallery of...more
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This fascinating site is based on an exhibit of American Revolutionary spy letters from the William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Gallery of Letters provides a brief description of each letter and links to more information about the stories of the spies in the letter or the secret methods used to make the letter. This site is rich with primary sources, taking students back in time!

tag(s): evolution (106), primary sources (100)

In the Classroom

The use of spy letters shows students a different perspective of the Revolutionary War. Have your students use the information about the spies and write a biography. Add a little mystery to your classroom and have students write spy letters from the perspective of people on each side of the war. Have students use the images and information from the site and create a poster using Canva reviewed here. Post the letters on an interactive whiteboard or projector and use the letters in an English class to discuss letter writing, grammar, and sentence structure. The whiteboard tools can be used to highlight and annotate. Several more examples of fun activities including writing with disappearing ink can be found in the Teacher's Lounge.

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