Overview of the Scaffolded Questioning Process

    as developed by the Flow of History

  • 1. Connect to background knowledge through recall, discussion, or a close-read of a background text
  • 2. Teacher previews the primary source or reads it out loud as the students follow along
  • 3. Teacher presents the worksheet and previews it
    • Students can easily get bogged down in the descriptive questions. The descriptive part should become automatic so students actually get to the analysis piece. Think about ways to get students beyond the identification process to the making of meaning.
  • 4. Teacher guides discussion, ensuring that students get to analysis.

Creating the Scaffolded Question Worksheet for Primary Source Analysis

Primary source analysis worksheets move students from lower- to higher-level critical thinking skills.  These three levels move from description, to summarization, to analysis and creating historical context.

Level 1: Gathering Evidence

Descriptive questions fall under the “Gathering Evidence” portion of the worksheet. These help them to identify the source. They should use good reading or visual strategies in their descriptive work by referring directly to the photograph or document.

  • What is this? (photograph, painting, letter, gravestone, poster, census page)
  • When was this document written/created?
  • Where was the information gathered?
  • Who gathered the information?
  • What categories of information were gathered?
  • Choose a household and describe it.
  • Describe what you see/hear/smell in this photograph
  • Describe the occupations found in this community:

Level 2: Summarizing

In summarizing, students clearly state what the document is about. They need to figure out what is the most essential information being conveyed by the document. Each answer should begin with a topic sentence and have at least 2 pieces of evidence from the document (quotes or descriptive words).

  • List 3 things you think are important. Why are they important?
  • What can you say about early settlement/westward expansion/etc. in this community?
  • What can you say about work/family life/the community’s organization/etc. in this community

Level 3: Creating Context and Asking Questions:
Asking bigger questions than in the “Gathering Evidence” section is a way for students to begin to think about historical context. Students can ask themselves what they already know about the topic of the primary source, why something might have happened, or what another perspective might be. They can also generate new questions for further research.

  • Where would you look in your textbook to help you put this into historical context?
  • Think of at least two questions to ask about this family or community.
  • Where could you find answers to those questions?

Scaffolded Analysis Worksheet

Primary Source Analysis Worksheet

VIDEO: Example of Scaffolded Questioning of Primary Sources (6th Grade)


VIDEO: Example of Scaffolded Questioning of Primary Sources (High School)