Teaching with Primary Sources

Teaching Reading Strategies Using Primary Sources

Instructional Design

For Teachers

This inquiry unit is designed for kindergarten and first grade students and will take one week to complete.

Author:Susan Brady

Subject(s) and Grade Level(s):Reading Strategies for Kindergarten and First Grade

Time Required:This inquiry unit is designed for kindergarten and first grade students and should last one week.

Lesson Overview: Through this lesson students will be introduced to a variety of pictures from elementary classrooms from the past and analyze the photos. Through verbal discussions with the teacher and partners students will make inferences and then compare and contrast the photos to their own classrooms.

Goal of the Lesson: The goal of this lesson is to make students aware of the similarities and differences of modern classrooms and the classrooms of yesterday.

Objectives:As a result of participating in this activity students will be able to make at least one inference about a photograph and orally complete a Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting primary sources with their own classrooms.

Investigative Question(s):
After students choose the picture that they will make inferences about the following questions may be asked:
1. How are the students in the picture like the students in your classroom? How can you prove it?
2. How are the students in the picture different than the students in your classroom? How can you prove it?
3. What part/time of the day is it? How can you tell? What are the clues?
4. Would you like to learn/be in the classroom shown in your picture? Why or why not?
5. Are any of the students in the pictures like you? How?
6. Why do you think the students are ...playing with blocks, marching around the room, sleeping at their desk, reading in a group, drawing shapes, pointing at the board?
7. What are some sounds that you would hear in this classroom?
8. Would you like to go to school in the classroom pictured in your photograph? Why or why not?

Primary Source Learning Practices:
1. Students must use prior knowledge while viewing and analyzing photographs from the Library of Congress web site. This will help students develop critical thinking skills.
2. The teacher will guide the students to analyze the photographs by asking questions and encourage them to ask their own questions during the lessons.
3. Students will be introduced to teacher-selected photographs but some of the lesson should be based upon questions that the students come up with during exploration and discussions.

Alignment with Standards:
STATE GOAL 1:  Read with understanding and fluency.
A.  Apply word analysis and vocabulary skills to comprehend selections.
1.A.1b  Comprehend unfamiliar words using context clues and prior knowledge; verify meanings with resource materials.
B.  Apply reading strategies to improve understanding and fluency.
1.B.1a  Establish purposes for reading, make predictions, connect important ideas, and link text to previous experiences and knowledge.

STATE GOAL 3:  Write to communicate for a variety of purposes.
B.  Compose well-organized and coherent writing for specific purposes and audiences.
C.  Communicate ideas in writing to accomplish a variety of purposes.
3.C.1b  Create media compositions or pro­duct­ions which convey meaning visually for a variety of purposes.

STATE GOAL 4:  Listen and speak effectively in a variety of situations.
A.  Listen effectively in formal and informal situations.
4.A.1a  Listen attentively by facing the speaker, making eye contact and paraphrasing what is said.
4.A.1b  Ask questions and respond to questions from the teacher and from group members to improve comprehension.
4.A.1c  Follow oral instructions accurately.
4.A.1d  Use visually oriented and auditorily based media.
B.  Speak effectively using language appropriate to the situation and audience.
4.B.1b  Participate in discussions around a common topic.

STATE GOAL 5:  Use the language arts to acquire, assess and communicate information.
A.  Locate, organize, and use information from various sources to answer questions, solve problems and communicate ideas.
5.A.1a  Identify questions and gather information.
5.A.1b  Locate information using a variety of resources.
B.  Analyze and evaluate information acquired from various sources.
5.B.1a  Select and organize information from various sources for a specific purpose.
5.B.1b  Cite sources used.

The ISTE National Educational Technology Standards (NETS•S) and Performance Indicators for Students
1. Creativity and Innovation
Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes
using technology. Students:
a. apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products, or processes.
b. create original works as a means of personal or group expression.
2. Communication and Collaboration
Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others. Students:
b. communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats.
3. Research and Information Fluency
Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information. Students:
b. locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media.
c. evaluate and select information sources and digital tools based on the appropriateness to specific tasks.
d. process data and report results.

  • Day 1--Students will discuss a typical day in kindergarten/first grade and the teacher will list their ideas on a chart. Ideas may include activities, lessons, routines and whatever else the students come up with. The chart will be posted for further additions and review.
  • Day 2--The chart from Day 1 will be reviewed and the teacher will show a photograph chosen from the Primary Source page and display it on the Smart Board or an overhead. The teacher will choose questions from the investigative questions on this page and guide the students to make inferences and discuss similarities and differences between the photograph and their own classroom. The teacher will write their ideas on another chart to display next to the first one.
  • Day 3--The teacher will choose student partners and let each team choose from photographs printed from the Primary Source page. Partners will discuss the photographs making inferences and comparing and contrasting their chosen photograph to their own classroom.
  • Day 4--Each student will choose their own photograph (not the one they used the previous day) and make inferences and compare and contrast the new photograph with their own classroom.
  • Day 5--In a large group format the teacher will choose a photograph and have the students discuss the photograph and fill in a Venn Diagram. Students will dictate their answers and tell the teacher what section of the Venn Diagram their observation goes in. The photograph should be one that the students have not used during the first four days of this lesson.

Assessment:During partner discussions, the teacher will need to talk to each group and keep track that each child contributes one inference about the photograph. The students will draw pictures of what is the same and different between their photograph and their own classroom on Day 3. Students will also draw pictures on Day 4 after they choose, analyze and discuss their individual photograph. The following recording sheet will be used.
Recording Sheet

  • The students will each need to come up with at least one idea to put into the Venn Diagram. See the Resource Page for a Venn Diagram if needed.
  • When working with a partner, both children will participate in discussions.
  • Students will produce a drawing of the similarities and differences between their own classroom and classrooms of the past. Students must include one similarity and one difference.
  • Students will also participate in discussions relating to differences and similarities and help fill in a Venn Diagram. Each student should contribute one idea to the Venn Diagram and be able to tell which section of the diagram that the idea goes into.

Evaluation: The teacher will have a list of student names and keep track of who contributes to discussions, guided students as needed. The teacher will also collect drawings and check to make sure that each child fills in both sections. Some students may want to fill in more than one recording sheet.

Materials Used: The materials used are chart paper, markers, pictures printed from the Primary Sources page (teachers may choose some of their own from the Library of Congress web site), the recording sheet and a large Venn Diagram drawn on chart paper. Click on the following word Resources for a Venn Diagram if desired.

Extensions: If you click on the word Resources above you will find a site with a Smart Board activity relating to making inferences and predicting. That could be an added extension. The same site has a recording sheet relating to that lesson.
You may choose to run off some copies of the Venn Diagram found on the Resources page and put those into your Discovery Center along with the Primary Sources and let students analyze other photographs at free choice time.

Student management: Students will participate in large group activities, partner activities and an individual activity. Of course, a teacher may change any part of this lesson to fit his/her needs at the time.



Governors State University - Teaching with Primary Sources Partner
Sue Brady
Nathan Hale School
Last Updated on February 21, 2009