Monday, December 8, 2014

Techniques for Analyzing Primary Sources (aligned to Common Core)

TPS-Barat (Primary Source Nexus Teaching Resource Blog) has great stuff--including a "Thinking Triangle" Graphic Organizer that I often use for photo analysis. 

Here are two articles they published that I thought were particularly interesting and could be widely adapted.

For Middle School and High School Students

In "Determining the Main Idea of a Text," high school teacher Glen Jensen, outlines his technique for having students analyze complex primary sources (in his case, President Franklin Roosevelt’s first inauguration speech).  It's worth reading his description, but here's a summary:

  • I gave them time to re-read the text and underline the five most important words. (If students are having a hard time selecting five words, you may suggest that they look for words that will answer the five Ws.)
  • Through class discussion, they chose the best five words. 
  • Then students write a sentence that tells the main idea of the passage using the five words they chose or the five circled words the class agreed were best.
  • As a class, they chose the best sentence. 
  • Then students rewrite that sentence using informal or street language. Creating these slang sentences allow students to relate historical texts to contemporary times while requiring them to climb to the top of the cognitive thinking ladder. The students also find this activity to be engaging and fun. 

For Elementary Students

In Analyzing Primary Sources: Sensory Exploration, TPS-Barat introduces its Sensory Exploration Graphic Organizer

"The sensory exploration graphic organizer is a great way to introduce students, especially younger ones, to primary source analysis. It also helps with vocabulary development. Encourage students to write to fill in each column for each sense. After, you may have students create a poem of their choice using the words they brainstormed; they may choose to write the poem from the point of view of someone outside the image or from a person, animal, or thing inside the image. If students drew images, have them combine their images into a pictograph to which they will add spoken word."

For National History Day

TPS-Barat has also created a number of really useful posts on National History Day, including several that provide primary source sets relating to specific topics that fit this year's theme (Leadership and Legacy in History); one that details the difference between primary, secondary, and tertiary sources; and one that reviews tech tools for creating citations. Find them all here

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