Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Web resources on primary sources in ELA classrooms

I've been researching incorporating primary sources and history into ELA classrooms. The "interactive learning activities" on the National Archives Docs Teach site are cool, and I think I could spend a lot longer exploring this site.

I also came upon Awesome Stories via this page of ELA Common Core resources. However, it strikes me as very un-Common Core. When given a summary, how many students are going to click through to the primary source? I found myself uninterested in following the links. And isn't there some smoother, more dynamic way to present the primary source than via an embedded hyperlink?

The concept seems like the nonfiction version of this blogger's description of how her pre-reading activities "took all the joy out of reading from my students" because she "unlocked all the secrets of The Butter Battle Book for them and did all the work of dissecting the piece as part of my lesson planning" ("Defining 'Deep Reading' and 'Text-Dependent Questions,'" Turn on Your Brain). What I feel like has been drummed into my head for Common Core is to stick with the text, start with the text, return to the text. Shouldn't this mean presenting students with primary sources first, and guiding them to interpret the sources to learn about history?

Unlike Awesome Stories, this example activity on Docs Teach (and similar activities I've seen that use historical photographs) has students look first only at a photograph (or part of a photograph), and make inferences and zoom out from there.


  1. Here's my comment on a related blog post http://dangerouslyirrelevant.org/2013/09/will-an-emphasis-on-close-reading-kill-the-joy-of-reading.html
    I actually commented on his facebook post but, anyway.

    "Should you ever close read a book the first time through?"

    1. Thanks for sharing, Brendan! I really loved this blog about close reading and personal experience, too: