Library Digital Content Access

Introduction of Primary Sources

Created By: Debbie Hohulin, Gibson City Melvin Sibley Elementary School (Gibson City, IL)
Grade Level: 1st
Content Area: Social Studies, Language Arts, Fine Arts, Technology
Database Integration: Students will learn about the TDC database, and use it for a final project.

Illinois Learning Standards Achieved

Standard Achieved

Activity that Meets this Standard

STATE GOAL 27: Understand the role of the arts in civilizations, past and present.
B. Understand how the arts shape and reflect history, society and everyday life.
27.B1 Know how images, sounds and movement convey stories about people, places and times.
STATE GOAL 16: Understand events, trends, individuals and movements shaping the history of Illinois, the United States and other nations.
A. Apply the skills of historical analysis and interpretation.
16.A.1a Explain the difference between past, present and future time: place themselves in time.
16.A.1b Ask historical questions and seek out answers from historical sources (photographs, artwork, artifacts from TDC database).
STATE GOAL 5: Use language arts to acquire, assess and communicate information.
5.C Apply acquired information, concepts, and ideas to communicate in a variety of formats.
5.C.1a Write reports/stories based on acquired information.
5.C.1b Use print, nonprint, human and technological resources to acquire and use information.
STATE GOAL 4: Listen and speak effectively in a variety of situations.
A. Listen effectively in formal and informal situations.
B. Speak effectively using language appropriate to the situation and audience.
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 auditory based media.
4.B.1a Present brief oral reports, using language and vocabulary appropriate to the message and audience.
4B.1b participate in discussions around a common topic.

Background information for the teacher:

A primary source is first-hand information from a person who witnessed or participated in an event. It may also be scientific data, statistics, or an official transcript of a government proceeding. A secondary source is a description by a person usually not present at the event and relying on primary source documents for information. Secondary sources usually analyze and interpret.

The distinctions between primary and secondary sources can be ambiguous. An individual document may be a primary source in one context and a secondary source in another. Time is a defining element. For example, a recent newspaper article is not usually a primary source; but a newspaper article from the 1860's may be a primary source for civil war research.

Taken from

Examples of primary sources:

Considerations while searching for and using primary sources:

*Does the use of primary sources meet state goals? Is it going to be used as the main teaching point or will it be a support? Is the topic age appropriate?
*What is your teaching objective? What is it you want them to know at the end of the lesson?
*Use open ended questions…encourage critical thinking.
For example: When looking at a photograph: consider…Was it posed? What is included, excluded? What was the purpose? Who is the audience?

More questions:

When was this written (made, taken)?, What was the position of the author?
*Be passionate! Whatever your grade level, whatever your topic. Be excited about it! Your enthusiasm will rub off on your classroom!

Taken from:

History and Digital Sources, TDC workshop, August 1, 2001 by Dr. Brenda Trofanenko.

Lesson Plans:


Listed with each individual lesson plan.


Listed with each individual lesson plan.


Students will be assessed throughout the unit by a teacher-created rubric specific to each lesson plan.