Thursday, December 19, 2013

Using Primary Sources in Primary Grades...Crazy? Or Awesome?

This is more of a try it out and see...when I was at ISLMA's conference, I saw a great lesson using primary sources!

I'm going to try it out with 2nd grade. I am going to use the Primary Source Analysis Tool (find it here: and have students look at pictures. Since it is January, I was thinking about using a picture of Martin Luther King Jr.'s Office. I will make copies (and laminate if possible!) and then introduce one piece of the Analysis Tool each week. So each week the center will be Observe, Reflect, Question, and Investigate.

Week of January 6:
They will simply observe the photo. They will use these questions to help them guide their observations:
  • What do you notice first?
  • Find something small but interesting.
  • What do you notice that you didn’t expect?
  • What do you notice that you can’t explain?
  • What do you notice now that you didn’t earlier?

Week of January 13:
They will reflect. They will look at the picture, and read over their observations. Then they will use these questions to help them guide their reflections:

  • Where do you think this came from?
  • Why do you think somebody made this? 
  • What do you think was happening when this was made? 
  • Who do you think was the audience for this item? 
  • What tool was used to create this?
  • Why do you think this item is important? 
  • If someone made this today, what would be different?
  • What can you learn from examining this?

We will also watch this video: MLK - The King and His Dream

Week of January 20:
They will question. They will look at the picture, and read over their observations and reflections. Then they will use these questions to help them guide their questioning.
What do you wonder about...
  • who?
  • what?
  • when?
  • where?
  • why?
  • how?

Week of January 27:
They can think about further investigations. They will use their notes and the photo, then use the following questions to guide further investigations. 
  • What more do you want to know?
  • How can you find out?
I made a quick PPT to show the students the guiding questions and to help me remember the questions. 

As I think this over, I may have to do this as a whole group lesson to model how to observe, reflect, question, and further investigate. OR I may have them do the observe and reflect in small groups, but do the question and further investigation with me. 
This may be really hard, but I think I'm going to try it out with one 2nd grade and one 1st grade class. Then after the "pilot" I will try it out in February with a new topic with all the 2nd graders. Then another topic for all the 1st graders in March. We'll see how it goes!


  1. Sounds like a great idea! I may try a spin-off on it. Good luck!

    1. Thanks Laurie! Please try it out and let me know how it goes! :)

  2. Neha,
    You are very ambitious - thanks for sharing your detailed plans!
    I'm struggling with getting whole groups coming to the library for instruction. The Literacy teachers have "lost" approx 30min of instructional time with their classes due to our new instructional structure.

    1. Thanks Barbara! That's terrible that so much of your time has been lost, this would be a great time to collaborate with your teacher teams...which could turn into one of your goals (I can't remember what you decided on with your admin!). Good luck!

  3. I was just thinking about doing a Primary Source lesson/observation with our 4th 5th graders. Do you think this lesson could be done in a 50 min period?

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    2. I think you could, as a whole class activity. I would probably talk to the teachers and plan it together so you can have them do some of it in the classroom just to maximize your time. Good luck! Let me know how it goes! :)

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