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, United States
Show More
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. 

Previous Lesson: