Teaching students to think critically about history is a key social studies skill but also one of the most challenging to teach young learners. Primary sources are the foundation of historical study yet they are often difficult to interpret. Primary sources offer the best way to help kids engage with history, connect to the people of the past, and make history come alive.
Students at this age group will have had very limited exposure to working with primary sources. These guides—combined with the instructional material in the Analyze It! section on the student side of the website—will guide kids in learning close-looking techniques and encourage them to really look at the primary source before them. They will also help teachers introduce children to the basic principles of working with primary sources, mainly the effort to understand the primary source better, date the primary source, and begin to explore how the primary source reflects its time.
Timelines, although not a primary source, as also very useful for learning about the relationship between various historical events and chronological sequencing. Powerful visual learning tools, timelines offer students a different way to conceptualize information and a structural framework in which to organize their developing knowledge of the past.
In addition, the Analyze It! section of this website offers an introductory video for students that covers each type of primary source presented here.
In the years ahead, students will further develop their abilities to work with primary sources, but this instructional material will help teachers introduce important foundational concepts.