Active Strategies with Primary Sources


Session description

Students in social studies are being required more than ever to demonstrate their knowledge of history and not just show basic recall. The primary tool with which students are being asked to work are primary sources. From documents to artifacts and cartoons to images, teachers are needing to find ways to help their students "show what they know". In this session teachers will see how to get their classes active by making students interact with sources.


  • Primary Source analysis (BOTH)
    • Interactive Notebooks (April)
    • SOAPSTone (Ryan)
    • HIPP (April) CATCH
  • Visual literacy - Divided Image (Both)
  • Political Cartoons (Ryan)
  • The DBQ (April)
    • How do you scaffold this
    • Template | Dictator example
    • CLEAR paragraphs
  • Breaking Up with Lectures (Ryan)
    • Don’t just read your slides and have PS up on the screen
  • GSlides templates (Ryan)
  • Podcast walkabout (April)
    • Podcasts
    • Podcast Reflection
  • QR Code your campus (April)
    • Link Here

Stress how Vertical Alignment helps so students (Interactive notebook)

Silk Road QR

Ryan O’Donnell April Kenitzer

  • Football Coach
  • Social Studies: AP World
  • TOSA
  • Video Production
  • Football Coach
  • Social Studies: AP World
  • TOSA
  • Video Production


California Council for Social Studies

Why Use Primary Sources?

You teach social studies? You really need to know the why?

Primary sources tell us the stories of the past, taking into account various factors:

historical context

multiple perspectives

Students must BECOME a detective…

Inquiry around the 5 W’s

Written Primary Sources

Subject & Source—What and Who?

Occasion—Context: What caused this?

Audience—Who is this directed toward?

Purpose—What was the intent?

Significance—What effect did this have?

Tone - The meaning, feeling, or intonation

Patrick Henry - Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death
A speech at the. Virginia Ratifying Convention on June 5th, 1778.

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance, by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak, if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat, but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable - and let it come! I repeat, sir, let it come!

CATCH Annotations

C-Circle unfamiliar words

A-Ask questions ?

T-Talk to the text -This article is awesome!

C-Capture the main idea #histroyrules

H-Highlight the significant details History is awesome!


  • HIPP Document Analysis

Writing Scaffolding/DBQ’s

  • DBQ Template
  • CLEAR Paragraphs

Visual Primary Sources

Cartoons are HARD!!!

Hard to understand
Hard to grasp the point
Hard to understand prior knowledge
Hard to get any attempt at humor
REALLY hard to draw your own

Political Cartoons


Strategies for using cartoons

  • Cartoon Checklist
  • Creating captions
  • What came next?

#1) Cartoon Checklist

#2) Create Captions

Demo how to do captions - use color wheel to match color.

Show how to screen shot and put this a test

Use this with paitnings

Or with photos

And try other shapes too

Shouldn’t I just have them CREATE a cartoon themselves?

#3) What Came Next

  • Have them create an image and/or text about what comes after, or even before your image
  • “In short, political cartoons employ complex visual strategies to make a point quickly in a confined space. Teachers must help students master the language of cartoons if they are to benefit from these fascinating sources of insight into our past”
  • So, SCAFFOLD the creativity

Title: _________________

By: Ryan O’Donnell


Paintings and Photographs

  • Observe: Have students identify and note details
    • What do you notice first?
    • Find something small but interesting
    • What do you notice that you didn't expect?
    • What do you notice that you can't explain?
    • What do you notice now that you didn't earlier?
  • Reflect: Encourage students to generate and test hypotheses about the source.
    • Where do you think this came from?
    • Why do you think somebody made this?
    • What do you think was happening when this was made?
    • Who do you think was the audience for this item?
    • What tool was used to create this?
    • Why do you think this item is important?
    • If someone made this today, what would be different?
    • What can you learn from examining this?
  • Question: Have students ask questions to lead to more observations and reflections.
    • What do you wonder about ...
    • Who?
    • What?
    • When?
    • Where?
    • Why?
    • How?

The Strike – Robert Kohler

divided image

  • Find the perfect image
    • Has multiple elements
  • Know your image!
    • Be the expert
  • Don’t give answers…. Bread crumbs
    • It's not about having them remember the image, it’s the SKILL in which they got to their analysis


Try using this painting titled “Manifest Destiny” to try this on your own.

Step 1: (I’ve done this for you already) Draw a rectangle covering the bottom right quadrant of the painting and make the color black

Step 2: Add an animation -> Fadeout, On Click

Step 3: Repeat this for the other quadrants, leaving the space with the woman uncovered

Step 4: Do one more shape covering her

Active Listeners

Go back to this?

So… what do we do instead?

Bring double the passion, and half the content.

Tony Hsieh
CEO Zappos

Ignite discussion, don’t replace it

Start at 12:30: Passion

Here’s what happened to me!


  • Arms Race
  • Bigger and better weapons lead to a contest between nations to see who could have the upper hand
  • British naval superiority was one major area where Germany wanted to challenge their supremacy
  • Plans for a war had been made years before:
    • Schlieflen Plan



  • Created by Germany
  • The major European countries were organized into two alliances: the triple alliance (Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy) and the triple entente (Britain, France, and Russia).
  • The military alliance system was accompanied by inflexible mobilization plans that depended on railroads to move troops according to precise schedules
  • When Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on July 28, 1914, diplomats, statesmen, and monarchs quickly lost control of events.
  • The alliance system in combination with the rigidly scheduled mobilization plans meant that war was automatic



  • Britain and Germany primarily in conflict over existing and new colonies
  • Industrialization increased the need for resources and overseas colonies satisfied that need. Industrialization also improved technology, which made imperialism easier


Notice the HEAVY use of IMAGES - Transition to VISUALS

Active Lectures

GSlides Templates

digital magazines

Interactive Notebooks: Constantly working with your work

Podcast Walkabout


Active Strategies with Primary Sources - Google Slides