Lesson Plan: Primary Sources

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Unit Goal

Identify and use primary sources to study historical events.

Unit Objective

The learner will interpret a primary source sample.

Background and Rationale

Students will analyze a primary source using a graphic organizer and two Thinking Routines.  This lesson is for students who are familiar with how to identify a primary source but need practice evaluating a source using perspective, historical context, and graphic evidence (visible evidence versus inferred evidence).  This particular lesson was used to demonstrate the role of perception at the beginning of the American Civil War and how that perception changed, especially with the new technology of photography.

Lesson Objectives


Bloom’s Verb

 The learner will analyze and interpret a primary source sample

        Analyzing and evaluating

Bloom’s Taxonomy

  • Analyzing and evaluating

Curriculum Standards


  • 5.1.spi.25. Identify information to support opinions, predictions, and conclusions.

Social Studies

  • 5.5.spi.7. Interpret a primary source sample.

Language Arts

  • SPI 0501.4.3 Complete a graphic organizer (e.g., chart, web) organizing material collected from text or technological sources.

  • SPI 0501.5.1 Locate information to support opinions, predictions, and conclusions.

  • SPI 0501.5.2 Identify stated or implied cause and effect relationships in text.

  • SPI 0501.5.6 Make inferences and draw appropriate conclusions.

  • SPI 0501.7.2 Determine the main idea in a visual image.

  • SPI 0501.7.3 Identify the mood created by a visual image.


Technology Integration (ISTE Standards)

Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information.

a. Plan strategies to guide inquiry

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

Learning and Innovation Skills (P21.org)

  • Interpret information and draw conclusions based on the best analysis.

Life and Career Skills (P21.org)

  • Use interpersonal and problem-solving skills to influence and guide others toward a goal.

  • Leverage strengths of others to accomplish a common goal.


  • Padlet App (one teacher Padlet account will work for this activity)

Thinking Routine

 See, Think, Wonder

Think, Pair, Share

Lesson Introduction

    • Review a primary source using the powerpoint created for this lesson (Slides 1-2).

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    Click on the image to access the Google Slides



      • Have students complete a simple See, Think, Wonder using slide 3.

      • Use the student handout

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      Click on the image to download the handout

      Lesson Procedures and Activities

        • Show the photograph “The Luncheon” ( Slide 7) to students.  Pass a copy of the photograph to each student.  Give students a copy of the primary source analysis document provided by the loc.gov website. Model how the primary source tool is an extension (higher level) of See, Think, Wonder.

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        Click on the image to enlarge


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        Click on the image to access the website for the analysis tool


        • Students will have 15 minutes to complete the Primary Source Analysis Tool.  The first 10 minutes will be independent.  The last 5 minutes will be collaborative.  Use Think, Pair, Share for this collaboration.

        • Students will now contribute to a whole group Primary Source Analysis (the next step of higher learning of a See, Think, Wonder).  The teacher will record answers on the SMARTboard using the Padlet App.


        Lesson Closure

        When the analysis of “The Luncheon” is completed, ask students to make a summary statement regarding how people felt before the Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) and after.  Use the two contrasting art prints (Slides 8 and 9) to illustrate this comparison.




        Students will be given a photograph to analyze independently.


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        Click on the image to enlarge the rubric

        Open PDF


        Author Profile:

        Jennifer Cordero


        Click on the image for the author’s profile









        Ritchhart, Ron, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison. “Routines for Introducing and Exploring Ideas.” Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2011. 55-63. Print.