Using Primary Resources to Connect to the Past

Contributor: Danielle Childers. Lesson ID: 10399

What does history say about you and the world today? You'll study an important event, via video and research, and create a presentation showcasing what occurred and its impact on the past and today.


United States

learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • Have you ever heard history called his-story?

This refers to the fact that history is the story of "him" or of humans.  History is not just something from the past; it is the story of us, or of how we grew to be the world as we know it now. History shows how we are all connected to the story of this earth.

Take a look at this image of a woman's face courtesy of Pepperdine Graduate School of Education & Psychology. 

  • What do you think this picture is trying to say about history?

Often when people think about learning history, they think that reading textbook will teach them everything they need to know about the past. That is not the case at all!  

Textbooks have their place, but learning about history can be about investigating, and interacting. It is also a great chance to learn more about YOU! Do you think you can learn more about yourself through learning history? Why or why not? Share your thoughts with your teacher.   

Throughout history, humans have been learning and evolving to create the world that we live in now. 

Can you imagine a time when there were no gaming systems, electricity, or even fire?  Through imagination, humans created inventions that make our life what it is today

Can you imagine your life without the foods you love and the holidays you celebrate?  Your life and who you are would not be the same if the humans before you had not created their own ideas on how to live. This collection of ideas is our culture.  

Learning about history will help you understand yourself better. It will also help you make better choices for yourself and this world!  A United States president named Theodore Roosevelt said, “The more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future.”   

Today, you are going to learn about the past by investigating primary resources.  To learn more about primary resources refer to the lesson titled Primary and Secondary Resources." 

To review, primary resources are sources of information that are made first-hand. This means that the person creating the source was at the event.  Primary resources can include: journals, photographs, original documents, letters and news reports from the people involved.  Historians, the people who study history, use these primary sources to solve the mystery of what went on in the past. 

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When examining primary resources, historians follow these 3 steps: 
  1. Observe 
  2. Interpret or Think about the Observations 
  3. Ask Questions 

You will be referring back to these 3 steps, so write them in a special place like a white board, chart paper, journal, or notes.   

What does it mean to observe something?  To observe means to look for important details and things of significance.     

To interpret means to explain the meaning of your observation. What you observe could be information, words, or actions. 

Asking questions can lead to better understanding and making important connections to solve the mystery of what went on in the past.

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