Teaching with Primary Sources

Teaching with Primary Sources (PDF)

Resources for Thinking about Teaching with Primary Sources

Erik Anderson, San Antonio College:

  1. The work of the Stanford History Education Group on online information literacy has some important insights for getting students to think critically about information online search including digitized primary sources. More broadly anything from the Stanford History Education Group such as their Reading List a Historian project is very useful.
  2. Wineburg, Sam and McGrew, Sarah and Breakstone, Joel and Ortega, Teresa. (2016). Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning. Stanford Digital Repository. Available at: http://purl.stanford.edu/fv751yt5934 and https://sheg.stanford.edu/list-reading-historian-lessons
  3. Sharon Musher’s article on the editing of WPA Slave Narratives is very helping for thinking about and teaching the biases that raise in the process of creating and and preserving primary source materials.   Musher, Sharon Ann. "Contesting "The Way the Almighty Wants It": Crafting Memories of Ex-Slaves in the Slave Narrative Collection." American Quarterly53, no. 1 (2001): 1-31. http://www.jstor.org/stable/30041871
  4. KoDavid Korbin's Beyond the Textbook is a good short introduce to teaching with primary sources. 
  5. David Kobrin, Beyond the Textbook: Teaching History Using Documents and Primary Sources, (Heinemann, 1996). 

Gene Preuss, University of Houston Downtown:

  1. “What Does it Mean to Think Historically,” (https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/january-2007/what-does-it-mean-to-think-historically) A classic and accessible article to come back to, and good to use with students.
  2. John Gaddis, The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002). Very short and to-the-point.

Favorite Primary-Source Resources

Erik Anderson, San Antonio College:

  1. One of my go-to sites for lesson plans and project idea, most of which revolve around primary sources is  https://edsitement.neh.gov/subject/history-social-studies. For example Mapping Colonial New Land has student explore the changing political of colonial New England through historic maps. https://edsitement.neh.gov/lesson-plan/mapping-colonial-new-england-looking-landscape-new-england
  1. I have been trying to develop activities that would allow students to do original archival research in a community college setting. One I project that I have been doing with my classes is locating and mapping racially restrictive housing covenants and comparing them to HOLC maps. You can find many of those HOLC maps here  https://dsl.richmond.edu/panorama/redlining/#loc=4/36.71/-96.93&opacity=0.8 but some like those for San Antonio need to be found in more local collections like this http://digital.utsa.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/p16018coll12/ To find restrictive covenants you can use county record which are generally digitized in large counties here in Texas for example:  https://bexar.tx.publicsearch.us/ or http://www.tccsearch.org/RealEstate/SearchEntry.aspx Most of these county records allow you to limit search to Restrictions which should bring up racially restrictive covenants from before or in some cases even after they become non-enforceable in 1948.
  1. From my colleague Dr. Marianne Buneo: The first thought I have when thinking about teaching with primary sources (depending on how one thinks about oral histories) is the Voces Oral History Project out of UT Austin: https://voces.lib.utexas.edu/ The project started out collecting oral histories of World War II-era Mexican Americans, and has grown to collect oral histories of Latinos and the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam Conflict, and now   social and political activism more broadly defined. At one point the website provided a transcript of the interview, a written synopsis, as well as images of pics, diaries, maps, etc. I've used their materials to teach oral history as a methodology.
  1. The Voyage of the Slave Ship Sally is a detailed account of one American Slave trading voyage with all the documents such as manifests and log books the record the details of the voyage. http://cds.library.brown.edu/projects/sally/timeline.html
  1. The Website Musical Passage explores African music performed for a British visitor in 1688 http://www.musicalpassage.org/#home It contains images of the original text which recorded the music, and contemporary performances of the music.
  1. For those interested in ways of using primary sources along with accessible secondary sources you can find some exercises call “Thinking Like a Historian” I developed for the David Shi textbook America: the essential learning edition, (W.W. Norton, 2018). These exercises ask students to evaluate short historical argument using primary sources materials. 

Gene Preuss, University of Houston Downtown:

  1. Stanford History Education Group’s Historical Assessments of Thinking (HATs), although I usually find myself adapting them somewhat for a university audience, and for Texas history:  https://sheg.stanford.edu/history-assessments
  2. Carl Becker’s 1931 AHA Presidential Address “Everyman His Own Historian.” I think it’s a great resource I’m going to make my students read because it really speaks to the critical thinking aspect, and that history is interpretation bounded by the facts we have access to:  https://www.historians.org/about-aha-and-membership/aha-history-and-archives/presidential-addresses/carl-l-becker

For sources, since I teach quite a bit of Texas history, I use:

  1. The Portal to Texas History (https://texashistory.unt.edu/),
  2. The Dallas Morning News Historical Database,
  3. The National Archives (https://www.archives.gov/) especially their document analysis worksheets (https://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/worksheets), and 
  4. the Library of Congress (https://www.loc.gov/). 
  5. For Great Britain, I like (https://www.parliament.uk/) which has many primary sources, including Hansard’s transcripts of parliament.
  1. Texas State Library and Archives Commission, especially the Online Collections and Online Exhibits links found on this page  https://www.tsl.texas.gov/arc/htmland at https://www.tsl.texas.gov/treasures/index.html
  2. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History has a digital collection and online exhibits.  https://www.cah.utexas.edu/php
  3. The Texas Archive of the Moving Image has historic films and images   https://www.texasarchive.org/library/index.php/Main_Page
  4. The UTSA Digital Collection http://digital.utsa.edu/
  5. K-12 Educator Resources at the Institute of Texan Cultures http://www.texancultures.com/resources/
  6. The Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library at Texas Tech University’s SWC Digital Collections  https://swco-ir.tdl.org/
  7. The Texas Historical Commission https://www.thc.texas.gov/
  8. The THC YouTube Channel has many well-produced short instructional videos https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAF3XhlGKUdZHAMlICCH7pQ