What process will students use to closely read and investigate primary sources? What skills will you need to work on for them to be successful? How do students connect the primary source to the background text? In his article on Barriers to Historical Thinking, Jeffrey Nokes outlines barriers for students and proposes a variety of instructional supports. Below are some links to instructional supports connected to identified barriers.
|Barriers for Students||Instructional Support|
|High demands on student cognitive resources
Basic comprehension; Challenge of synthesizing multiple texts
|Transcriptions or transcribing; adapt texts; handwriting|
|Limited or misapplied background knowledge||Detail-rich historical fiction; texts that confront assumptions|
|Simplistic views of the world|
|False sense of the discipline of history
View history as transmitted rather than actively constructed; accept official textbook
|Conduct inquiry with one source
Use many types of both primary and secondary sources
Here are three different ways to approach primary source analysis with students:
The process for approaching a primary source is similar to the close read of any informational text. In the case of handwritten historical documents, transcription and translation are also needed.
Scaffolded questioning leads students through the historian’s process of sourcing the document, interpreting it, placing it into historical context, and asking further questions.
A facilitated discussion process for finding meaning in imagery such as historical photographs, paintings, or cartoons.
Video of a 7th grade class analyzing a political cartoon with visual thinking strategies and inference.