Primary Sources in the History Classroom… and Beyond!

There are so many advantages to using technology in the history classroom, one of the most notable of which is the easy access to primary source documents. When students are given access to primary source documents, history takes on a whole new meaning as they become investigators, detectives, and analysts as they seek to create meaning from authentic documents and images from the past.  In turn, engagement will increase and students will gain a greater appreciation for and understanding of the events of history as they interact with the primary sources and create their own meaning instead of studying someone else’s interpretations. The Library of Congress offers a multitude of free primary sources for teachers and students, and also describes the advantage of using them in education: “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.”

The use of primary sources is not limited only to the history classroom; primary sources lend themselves beautifully to cross-curricular lessons by stimulating inferencing skills, inspiring written and oral communication, and other language arts skills.  Teaching students to be critical thinkers by examining primary sources also meets one of the foundational requirements (the 4 C’s – communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking) of the Common Core State Standards. There are many places on the internet to find primary sources, but before jumping in, it might be wise to read this blog that offers several supporting sites and technologies to help maximize the effectiveness of the use of primary sources in your classroom.


Byrne, Richard. (2013, April 22). Getting kids engaged with primary sources.  [Blog entry]. Retrieved from

The Library of Congress Website. Using primary sources.  Retrieved from


3 thoughts on “Primary Sources in the History Classroom… and Beyond!

  1. sarawhite92 says:

    I like your post about primary sources. I feel that so many of my students research something on the internet and believe the first things they read. They find it difficult to believe that not everything is true on the web!


  2. Nick Boyce (KR Engineering) says:

    On a related note to “primary sources”, I feel like there’s a huge potential to connect History to Current Events. When I was a K12 student, social studies was all about memorizing names, dates, and locations from the past, without ever trying to apply “history’s lessons” to today’s world. But then in college social studies was all about taking a critical look at today’s events, cultures, economies, and all of a sudden it was way more important and engaging. So now kids could be researching a plague, a war, a king, an Iron age, etc….and not only get media-rich resources on those, but the internet gives us the ability to look at current events in the world, and compare/contrast those historical moments to today’s.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s