Examining primary sources gives students a powerful sense of history and the complexity of the past. Helping students analyze primary sources can also guide them toward higher-order thinking and better critical thinking and analysis skills.
Promote student inquiry and assess how students apply critical thinking and analysis skills to primary sources.
  • What was happening during this time period?
  • What was the creator’s purpose in making this primary source?
  • What does the creator do to get his or her point across?
  • What was this primary source’s audience?
  • What biases or stereotypes do you see?
  • Ask for reasons and specific evidence to support conclusions.
  • Identify questions for further investigation.
  • Develop strategies for answering questions.
Library of Congress


How will primary source materials help students develop good research skills and habits?


How will I incorporate primary source materials to help students develop good research skills and habits?


primary source, secondary sources, karpeles, document literacy, SAS, LOC

Activating Strategy

Think - Pair - Share

Ideas for using Primary Source materials? Writing Prompts, data sites, history of sports equipment,

Teaching Strategy


Standards Aligned System
Search Materials and Resources for Karpeles to access many primary source documents. There is a text overlay that converts the digital ink to readable fonts!
Library of Congress
Ready-to-use materials that bring the Library’s primary sources into the classroom. The Library of Congress has classroom sets, themed resources, lesson plans, collections, presentations and activities.
Thinkfinity offers comprehensive K-12 teaching and learning resources that are grade specific and aligned to state standards. Search Primary Sources and click Go!
Very Useful Site


For each primary source, employ higher order thinking questions with students to get them thinking about connections. Have them observe the resource, reflect on the importance and pose questions of their own. The Library of Congress has analysis guides here. Document Analysis Worksheets from the National Archives here.


A key skill of a good researcher is the ability to keep resources organized. As students learn about primary sources and begin to use them as support for research, it is a good idea to help them establish a system of organization. Folders on a thumb drive that hold primary sources materials is one way. Another way would be to use PowerPoint to organize. Drag/Import files to a PowerPoint slide and enter notes in the Notes box below the slide.

Online Activities

Digital Vaults from the National Archives Experience.

Primary Access PrimaryAccess is a suite of free online tools that allows students and teachers to use primary source documents to complete meaningful and compelling learning activities with digital movies, storyboards, rebus stories and other online tools.

Eyewitness to History A ringside seat to history - from the Ancient World to the present. History through the eyes of those who lived it.

National Archives Teaching With Documents: Lesson Plans

Extended Thinking

For an EATES lesson plan, students would have to compare/contrast, classify, analyze perspective, construct support etc. Consider this as you plan and/or draft student directions for a primary source activity.


Share your ideas for primary source document activities on the wallwisher.

Primary Source Resource Links

primarysources on Diigo


Primary Sources