top of page
Using Primary Sources in the Classroom

Primary sources can enrich curriculum and engage students if used properly.  However, introducing students to using primary sources can be a daunting task. Use the lesson in this unit to introduce students to primary and secondary sources, to introduce the idea of multiple historical perspectives and to build skills for historical analysis.

Big Ideas

Historical Context

Perspective on Events

Essential Questions

  • How has social disagreement and collaboration been beneficial to American society?

  • What role do multiple causations play in describing a historic event?


  • Social disagreement and multiple historical perspectives can be examined through primary sources. Examining multiple perspectives can shape our understanding of an historical event  and its role in history.

  • Historic events with multiple causes may be perceived differently by different groups or people. Primary sources are a valuable tool in examining these perceptions.


  • Analyze primary sources.

  • Contrast multiple perspectives of historical events or time periods through the use of primary sources.

  • Reflect on how one's own understanding and perception of a historical event or time period has changed by examining multiple perspectives.

End of Unit Assessment

Students can summarize their learning by using their "I used to think..., now I think..." exit tickets to expand on how their own perception of an historical event or time period changed by examining primary sources.  Have students write a reflection on their learning, using observations and details from the "See-Think-Wonder" exercise to support their reasons for changing their opinion. Then have students pick one of the sources they worked with in class and ask them: 1. Describe the item. 2. Explain why you think the item is either a primary or secondary source. 3. Do you believe that the item has some kind of bias?  Why or why not


Plans in this Unit

Examining Multiple Historical Perspectives Through Primary Sources

Grade Level

Middle School

High School

Standards/Eligible Content





PA Core Standards




Beneficial Bank generously supports the Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s involvement in National History Day, including support for a summer Beneficial NHD Teacher Fellow.

About the Author

This lesson was created by Claire Frosch, the 2012 Beneficial National History Day Fellow and teacher in the School District of Philadelphia.


Blog Post

New Unit Plan Just Added

Attention Teachers!

Let us know how you used this plan and be featured on our site! Submit your story here.

bottom of page