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  • This year I began my discussion of primary source documents by trying to explain their unique value as sources for researchers.  I asked my seventh graders if anyone had ever said something untrue about them- we specifically did not disclose what things were said- but we talked about how it felt to have someone say something untrue about us and then what it felt like when others believed it.  We used several cooperative learning structures like Think-Pair-Share to manage our reflection and sharing time.  My students quickly identified emotions like hurt, anger, embarrassment, and frustration as the most common reactions.  Everyone agreed that it is an extremely negative experience.  

    Next we discussed how hard it is to correct false information once it has become public and a certain amount of people believe it.  Finally we connected this to our work as researchers.  I asked them to tell me how easy or hard it would be for someone to present something that is untrue in various secondary source formats.  Again my students quickly came to the conclusion that all secondary sources have altered the information to differing degrees- given that they are presenting the information for their own purposes and that some formats lend themselves particularly well to sharing undocumented information.  

    Next I turned the discussion back to their personal experience and asked how they would have wanted someone who heard the untrue rumor about them to react.  Almost everyone said that they would have wanted that person to ask them if it was true.  That is when I introduced the idea of a primary source, because in that situation they were the primary source- those that repeated the rumor were merely perpetuating the interpretation of a secondary source.  The conversation also included that it would have taken more effort for their classmates to have asked them about the information and that it might have created uncomfortable situations with those people who believed the undocumented information.  At this point we turned back to ourselves as researchers and talked about how it is more time consuming to check our information carefully and can create controversy when we find inaccuracies in what many people believe about a given subject.  We closed the activity by discussing why it would be worth it to invest this extra effort.  In this case we were preparing for a project about modern Latin America and we talked about how the same hurt, frustration and anger that we felt would also extend to our research subjects even if we unknowingly spread false information.  Then we set up some rules about what information we would use and how (required number of primary versus secondary sources etc.)  I found that personalizing the process helped them understand how primary sources could help them get the most accurate information possible and why that should matter to them.   

  • Lesson 13

    Again, I will turn to my Holocaust Lit class. We read the two-volume novel Maus, by Art Spiegelman. We discuss metalepsis, and it can be somewhat of a challenge to explain, but with the help of Dr. Michael Schuldiner’s paper, and a primitive stick drawing graphic that I draw on the white board during discussion, we put together a useable definition. During the fall semester I plan to add the Cartoon Analysis Worksheet to help demonstrate a “metaleptic event.”

    I am also looking forward to adding American Lit to my teaching assignment this fall. I will start with a doc analysis “icebreaker” to the Early American Lit Unit by using the Poster Analysis Worksheet to examine the Seal of the United States. I started at DocsTeach “Finding American Symbols.” The activity was designed for 3-5th grade, but the lesson plan has a link to the article “Design of the Great Seal of the United States,” (1782), and a full document image, at ourdocuments.gov.

    I will be watching for how many students discover the first committee ever appointed by our first Continental Congress (only hours after establishing themselves), and the bureaucracy it took to finalize the design (June 4, 1776 thru June 20, 1782, and four committees). There's a contemporary connection here in Alaska as committees go...

    P.S. Students look at Wikipedia. Couldn't teaching them how and what to use at this sight be useful as a primary source search?

  • I recently got an IPad of my very own, and started going through some education Apps and I found one through the National Archives Apps that provides a document of the day. You can also scroll through different dates and find documents that relate to your class topic. I plan on using this app to begin my classes as a "bellringer" activity. The students will be able to work on the analysis skills while being involved with our topic from the start of class. I want to also use this as an incentive for my students as well. I will collect the bellringer notebooks at the end of each marking period and if all of them are in order and corrected the student will receive a "homework pass" or a extra credit score of some kind. 

    My students really like to play Bingo in class to review for quizzes and tests, in which i provide extra credit for, but I have never thought about using research skills as a possible game. I also use the clickers in class to do different games and quiz activities. As I get more into the IPad and apps I hope to really find more innovative ways to get to kids involved.

  • Here’s a couple activities that I think would work well with 6th graders social studies curriculum:

    This activity would be high interest and connect the Great Depression and WWII to the civics studies:


    Activity 1:  Kids love role playing and there are a lot of fun writing activities that could be attached to this: Reflections on how students felt about not understanding what is being written relating this to the feeling immigrants had on coming to America…which is another 6th grade unitJ

    Divide students into groups of three and provide each group with a copy of figure 1 (Navajo dictionary). Assign one student the role of a Marine Corps staff member and the other two the role of Navajo messengers. Ask students to practice sending messages within their group using the method described in item 2 of the featured document. Discuss with students the exercise and ask them to identify the benefits and liabilities of such a system of sending and translating messages during wartime.  The students would enjoy writing and translating each other’s work based on the dictionary.

    Activity 2:  High interest!

    I think this is a great one to use with the Motion Picture NARA analysis worksheet to understand civil right movement.



  • With teaching primary grades I spend much of my time explaining what Data Analysis is and what steps are involved to successfully gather information.  I explain that the two main steps are:

    1. Gathering data (or facts) on a particular subject.

    2. Presenting that data in a format that has a visual impact that offers an uncomplicated method of interpreting the facts.


    Then I go through the steps to take in the Data Analysis process.


    1. What information do you want to know?

    2. What questions do you need to ask?

    3. Ask the questions to get the answers.

    4. Decide on a method of displaying your results!

    Here are a few examples of things I have involved my students with.


    With the Halloween candy or Easter eggs:  

    Have students make a bar graph to display their information.

    Using their diagrams as prompts, you can ask students questions such as:

    How many different candies did you collect?

    How many different colored wrappers/eggs were there?

    How many different flavors were there?


    My class also does a daily survey.  One student goes around and asks everyone in the room a question (what color eyes do you have?) and records the data.  When finished they share the information with the class.

    Data Analysis and Probability is essential to understanding the world around us.
    What is data analysis and probability? What are the steps involved? Learn how Halloween candy gathering can be converted into a great project of lear…
  • Primary sources are what I base my entire curriculum on for American History, so I begin the year with an introduction to sources, which I've attached.  It's very important for students to understand what types of documents they should basing their research on (primary sources), but also how to help place those documents in context (secondary and tertiary sources).  I also use it to help explain why Wikipedia should not be used as a research source - not because it's open-source, but because it's a "pedia," which is not a type of document that provides any analysis.

    Because primary sources are such a major part of my curriculum, I tend to have students do analysis worksheets on them quite often, but I'd also like some suggestions for more interesting ways to analyze primary sources.  I do different sorts of things throughout the year (my favorite was creating a visual representing a Lewis and Clark primary source) but always seem to come back to NARA or NARA-based analysis worksheets.


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