4 Step Reading Process for Middle Level Students and Primary Documents

A recent post to teachinghistory offers a four step process for teachers to use with middle school students in their analysis of primary documents. It offers an approach that highlights the more complex historical thinking skills found at the middle school level.

In the illustration provided, students analyze the texts of four speeches given by President Jackson around the time of the Indian Removal Act. Each text, along with its accompanying key questions, is included.

Students begin by focusing only on the top and bottom sections of the document and the source information that appears there to establish perspective and setting. During the second read, students focus on the main body of the text to identify the main idea and underline the phrase that best supports that idea. The third read involves students identifying supporting details (assertions, evidence, or examples) for the main argument. As students read the fourth time, they refer back to the sourcing information that they identified in the first step and write responses to the key questions in the document margins.

The process can be applied as students investigate various topics and primary documents during the school year, giving them opportunities to practice and build on historical thinking skills.

Struggling with primary sources?

Thinkfinity has posted a very thorough piece on “Engaging Students with Primary Sources”. From the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and the Kenneth E. Behring Center, this 64 page document provides a very thorough look at the use of primary sources in the classroom. I believe it will prove useful for social studies teachers at all grade levels.

Here you can find information about learning styles and multiple Intelligences, strengths and limitations of documents, photographs, advertisements, oral histories and objects, tips for analyzing the sources, suggestions on where to find them and exemplar activities. Engaging Students with Primary Sources is available for download ahttp://historyexplorer.si.edu/PrimarySources.pdf

Thinkfinity  has recently combined their community and main site: Visit http://thinkfinity.org/welcome. Access is free, but you will need to register. Thinkfinity offers a plethora of resources for teachers, including discussion groups, online professional development, lesson plans and resources.