Lesson Plan

In the Beginning; Analyzing and Documenting Primary Sources

Students will research historical records, practicing for a future project.
Lisa B.
Classroom teacher
Miton Middle School
Milton, WV
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My Grades 7
My Subjects English Language Arts

Students will be able to...

  • Navigate websites containing historical records and documents.
  • Record their findings on a graphic organizer.
  • Analyze and interpret their findings.
  • Create two MLA citations from information found


English Language Arts
Social Studies
Grades 5 - 9
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Hook

Museum Box
Free, Paid

Students will view a collection of artifacts and documents. Examples: 1800s eye glasses, a Revolutionary War pay record, an original letter, and a family picture, etc. Ask students what these objects and documents have in common? Ask them to think about similar objects and/or documents they have seen in their own homes.

2 Direct Instruction

Present and discuss examples of primary and secondary sources. After viewing a short video clip, in small groups have students brainstorm other examples of primary and secondary sources. Share with whole class. 

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcRBXz5MPPQ&safe=active


Primary Source

Secondary Source



Guiding questions:

What makes something a primary source?

What are clues that something is a secondary source?

How can I analyze a primary source?

3 Guided Practice

Activity: Investigating

With guidance from the teacher, students will navigate historical records on http://www.christchurchphila.org/.They will use a graphic organizer in the form of a scavenger hunt to find and record answers. Share and pair to compare findings. Whole class discussion. 


4 Independent Practice

Independently, completing a second scavenger hunt, students will research the Mayflower Compact through a link on the The National Archives. They will search a digital copy of this primary document guided by questions on the graphic organizer. Subsequently, they will share and discuss their findings with another student. 

Items needed:

  • scavenger hunt
  • computer/tablet

5 Wrap-Up

Free, Paid

Drawing on a previous lesson where students learned to cite sources, students will now create a minimum of two MLA style citations using the information found during their scavenger hunts. This lesson will be used as an introductory lesson in a multi-week ancestry unit. 



Students will take home a map of Early Augusta County Virginia. They will analyze the map, answering provided questions. In addition, drawing on prior knowledge, they will create an MLA citation for this document. 

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