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Analyzing Primary Sources

What process will students use to closely read and investigate primary sources? What skills will you need to work on for them to be successful? How do students connect the primary source to the background text?

Here are four different ways to approach primary source analysis with students.

1. Close Read, Transcription, and Translation

The process for approaching a primary source is similar to the close read of any informational text. In the case of handwritten historical documents, transcription and translation are also needed.

2. Scaffolded Questioning

Scaffolded questioning leads students through the historian’s process of sourcing the document, interpreting it, placing it into historical context, and asking further questions.

3. Four Reads

A guided four-step reading process for primary documents that trains students to read a primary document like a historian.

4. Visual Thinking Strategies

A facilitated discussion process for finding meaning in imagery such as historical photographs, paintings, or cartoons.

Video of a 7th grade class analyzing a political cartoon with visual thinking strategies and inference.