Collaborative Learning with Primary Sources
Looking for easy ways to create a classroom environment that encourages inquiry-based, interactive use of primary sources from the Library of Congress? Here are some ideas from teachers and librarians across the United States.
- Bookmark the interactive Primary Source Analysis Tool on your classroom computers or iPads.
- Assemble a box of tools for primary source analysis – students can help:
Have students do an analysis of an old photo that just happens to be of you as a child.
Have each student bring in five primary sources from home. Create a mini-museum.
Post the following prominently: “I think____________ because __________” to help students get in the habit of supporting their ideas when examining primary sources.
Try asking, “What makes you say that?” to help students think about their thinking.
Allow more wait time and “trust the silence.” Give students time to form their ideas.
- A class set of papers with a quadrant cut away to focus observations on 1/4 of the source at a time. For K-1, cut out a “window” instead.
- A few magnifying glasses.
- A stack of blank Primary Source Analysis Tools.
Have young students put together pieces of a primary source image to practice working together while exploring an item. Print an item and cut it up, or print a map that’s already in pieces.
Try moving desks out of rows and into groups, for more collaborative work with primary and secondary sources. Try small groups and “think/pair/share.”
Have students deepen observation skills by looking at the “background” in a primary source, as well as the foreground.
Students Assemble a Map from Sir Francis Drake's West Indian Voyage
If you have a beginning-of-the-year tip, please take a moment to share it in the comments below.