Using primary sources in the classroom means using objects and artifacts from the time in history that you are studying. It means moving away from the text book and into journal entries and letters. In the past, children might see a picture of a tool in a history book with a caption underneath that told them how the tool was used. That tool would have been completely forgotten mere minutes after the child turned the page. By using primary sources, children are asked to look at a picture of a tool and guess how it was used. To do this they have to make observations and activate their prior knowledge of the time period. All of these leave a longer lasting memory than just looking at a picture in a history book.
Did you know that every single state includes the use of primary sources in their standards? Even states like Virginia and Florida that don't use the common core, included the use of primary sources in their standards. In Virginia, using primary sources is the very first standard under history and social sciences in kindergarten.
In the month of May, my online class is all about using primary sources. We are going to learn about ways of finding primary sources and the copyright rules that govern using those resources in class. I have some very interesting activities planned, and I think that everyone will find that using primary sources in the classroom can really engage students. I look forward to learning with all of you!
Kathryn Harrison has worked in several different educational settings, so she has a unique perspective on education.