Teaching with Primary Sources Inquiry Kits are designed with teachers and students in mind. Primary source analysis has become more and more important as students are tested on their ability to close read non-fiction texts. It can be hard to work with primary sources in many classrooms, though. Many sources are not accessible, whether because of illegible text, high reading level, or simply a lack of interest on the part of students.
Inquiry Kits are organized to correspond with units in United States History and World History classes. Each topic is relevant to the curriculum, yet also appealing to students. An Inquiry Kit has five primary sources, mostly from the Library of Congress, and one secondary source. Many of the primary sources are images, maps, audio, or video to support accessibility by students of any reading level. When available, text-based sources have transcriptions, translations, or read-aloud functions to eliminate as many barriers to comprehension as possible. Once students learn the process of document analysis, teachers can provide scaffolding that helps them analyze increasingly challenging documents.
Each kit includes three thinking questions to help guide students as they analyze the documents. Ideally, students will use the kits are a starting point for project based learning. With a curated selection of documents to work with, students can create exhibits, performances, documentaries, websites, or papers. Many students may use the kits as a starting point for further research.
Teachers might choose to simply use one document and one question as a warm up at the beginning of class. You could also use all five sources as primary sources set, and even arrange them into a gallery walk.
Many teachers have students at a variety of reading levels in their classroom. This can pose a problem when presenting primary documents. For every United States Inquiry Kit Unit, ESOL specialist Ann Morgan has provided paraphrased text for one primary document. The paraphrased text is presented at four different reading levels, each with appropriate questions. This allows every student in the class to have a meaningful experience with a primary source, but at their own pace. Teachers should present the paraphrased text alongside a copy of the original document, accessible through a link on each page.
Students who create projects based on Inquiry Kit documents are invited to enter them in local History Day contests. Click the link below to find National History Day local program contact information.
National History Day Affiliates (opens in new window)
Please help us improve the Inquiry Kit website by filling out our teacher survey. Click the link below to access the survey.
Teaching With Primary Sources: Inquiry Kits Teacher Survey (opens in new window)
The Inquiry Kits website contains Research Learning Modules to teach document analysis and research skills. Students can work through the eight interactive lessons on their own or as a class.
The following list includes many more resources available to teachers using document analysis and project-based learning in their classroom.