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Finding Primary Sources

Webpage last updated: May 03, 2023

Archives, libraries, and other repositories around the world have posted online collections of primary materials. Many of these websites also include lesson plans and worksheets to help students learn how to analyze and interpret the sources.

Lesson Plans and Activity Ideas

Numerous web sites present lesson plans and classroom ideas that use primary sources as a central element of the activity.

American Memory Learning Page—Library of Congress 
This website provides lesson plans, primary source sets, activities, and themes resources.

EDSITEment—National Endowment for the Humanities
Drawing on humanities resources from some of the world's great museums, libraries, cultural institutions, and universities, EDSITEment offers lesson plans relating to art and culture, literature and language arts, foreign language, and history and social studies.

School Programs for Students and Teachers—Maryland Historical Society
A set of nine worksheets teach students how to distinguish between primary and secondary sources, interpret different types of sources (broadsides/ads, documents, maps, pictures, objects, and oral histories), and turn an idea into a research project.

Smithsonian Education—Smithsonian Institution
Primary source-based lesson plans on a variety of topics, as well as information about publications, field trips, and professional development opportunities, are presented on the Web site of the nation's premier museum complex.

The Digital Classroom—National Archives and Records Administration
More than sixty lesson plans and activity ideas explore topics in American history, organized by eras. Reproducible copies of primary documents from the National Archives holdings and analysis worksheets for seven primary source types are provided.