Introducing Primary Sources to Students is a two-part series at my latest Education Week column.


I’m not sure that the resources on this list are really the “Best,” but they are the ones that I’ve shared in the past related to using primary sources in lessons. Feel free to share additional suggestions. I just thought it would be useful to me, and to others, to bring them all together in one place:

The Best Sites For Learning About The Constitution Of The United States

The Best Resources For “Bill Of Rights Day”

The Best Sites For Learning About Historic Maps

The Best Historical Photo + Video Map-Based Sites

The Best Displays Of Just-Released New York City Historical Photos

The Best Resources For Teaching “What If?” History Lessons

Primary Source Sets come from the Digital Public Library of America. Here’s how they describe them:

Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) Primary Source Sets are designed to help students develop critical thinking skills by exploring topics in history, literature, and culture through primary sources. Drawing online materials from libraries, archives, and museums across the United States, the sets use letters, photographs, posters, oral histories, video clips, sheet music, and more. Each set includes a topic overview, ten to fifteen primary sources, links to related resources, and a teaching guide.

Primary Sources, the Library of Congress and English Learners is from Colorin Colorado.

I’ve previously written a lot about how much I like SAS Curriculum Pathways, a free site with tons of interactive lessons that students can complete and then email to their teacher. It’s recently gotten even better….They unveiled a big upgrade to the design of their site, and it looks great. Secondly, they have a nice new feature called Explore Primary Sources, which provides lots of creative lessons for students to access…primary sources.

Here’s an interactive tutorial for AP History teachers on using close reading with primary sources.

Helping Students Grapple with Primary Sources is from Middleweb.

Reading Like A Historian is an impressive collection of almost ninety U.S. and World History lessons from The Stanford History Education Group. Here’s how they describe the lessons:

The Reading Like a Historian curriculum engages students in historical inquiry. Each lesson revolves around a central historical question and features sets of primary documents designed for groups of students with diverse reading skills and abilities.

This curriculum teaches students how to investigate historical questions by employing reading strategies such as sourcing, contextualizing, corroborating, and close reading. Instead of memorizing historical facts, students evaluate the trustworthiness of multiple perspectives on historical issues. They learn to make historical claims backed by documentary evidence.

They look good to me. You have to register to gain access to them (though you can get a “quick view” of them without registering), but registering is a pretty painless process. The same organization also sponsors Beyond The Bubble, a history assessment site that I havepreviously posted about

The Victorians: Learn to work like a historian is a site from The National Archives of the United Kingdom. With a very accessible video guide, you….work like a historian investigating multiple artifacts and take notes in an online notebook. You can then save or print-out your notes.  I was particularly impress by its simple, yet sophisticated, instructional guidelines, which can be easily used away from the site on just about any photo or artifact — historical or not — as a tool for higher-order thinking.  The site uses the acronym “LACE”:





In other words, it goes something like this:

Look: Describe what you see

Ask: What questions do you need to ask, and answer to make sense of what you have seen?

Conclude: What do the things you have discovered from this source tell about what it was like to be…….

Expand: What more would you like to know? How can you find out?

Docs Teach from the U.S. National Archives lets you easily create online activities using primary sources. Plus, you can access the interactives that others have created, too. It’s super-easy to register. Creating the interactives is not as intuitive as I would like, but it’s still pretty easy.

Analyzing Primary Sources: Learning from Images is from The Barat Education Foundation. I’m adding it to The Best Ways To Use Photos In Lessons.

Blogging History: Interpreting Civil War-Era Primary Sources is from The New York Times Learning Network.

Historical Scene Investigation

Check out Zoom-In — you can read my post about it.

Should Students Learn About Black Lives Matter in School? is from The Atlantic.

iCivics Steps Up Its Game Big Time With Free Virtual Classrooms & Primary Source Interactive

Newsela Unveils Exceptional Library Of Primary Sources Edited For Different “Levels”

Famous NYC Tenement Museum Expands Physical Facility & Online Site

Teaching the Vietnam War With Primary Sources From The New York Times is from The New York Times Learning Network.

Teaching with Primary Sources is from Thinkport.

Engaging Students With Primary Sources is from The Smithsonian.

Teacher’s Guides and Analysis Tool for primary sources is from The Library of Congress.

Jackpot! Great Interactives To Support Teaching & Learning With Primary Sources

Teaching Hard History With Primary Sources is from Teaching Tolerance.

The DBQ Project provides Social Studies lessons and lets students create virtual classrooms. It looks pretty interesting, and I learned about it from Ken Halla.

DBQ Quest is from iCivics.

America In Class has an impressive collection of primary sources and related lesson ideas.

How Do We Teach With Primary Sources When So Many Voices Are Missing? is from Ed Week.

Kid Citizen is a free site designed for students to learn with primary sources. It says its focus is K-5, but I think it could be useful with older students, too, – particularly English Language Learners. It’s filled with interactive videos and, on top of that, teachers can also create their own interactives, share them with students, and monitor student progress through a sort of virtual classroom.

The National Archives has a collection of eighteen different sheets that can be used by students for analyzing primary sources, including versions specifically made for use with ELLs.



5 Ways to Teach With Primary Sources is from Facing History.

The Smithsonian Learning Lab has a number of useful resources for teaching about and with primary sources.