Since I have typically have the same students for 2-4 years, one way I’ve had to challenge myself is by coming up with different ways for my kids to work with primary sources. The activity at the core of this post is pretty flexible and I’ve used it with 7th, 8th, 10th, and 11th graders. I only do it with short-ish sources such as FDR’s Day of Infamy speech, Eisenhower’s Order of the Day address, or the Alamo Victory or Death letter.
This is similar to my putting historical images back together post, but for text sources. Essentially, I group students up, give them the source cut into strips, and they work together to put it back into a complete document. The specific way I implement this activity depends on the length of the text itself, how many kids are in class, and whether they’ve done this with me before (case in point, my first group of 7th graders I also had as 8th, 10th, and 11th graders).
Each method involves the students reading and re-reading small parts of the primary source, then reading and re-reading longer sections of it, putting more of it together, re-reading it again, then by the time they have the document put back together they have a pretty solid grasp of it to move forward in analyzing it either with traditional questions or by any of the methods detailed in my extension tasks resource. They won’t always get it in the correct order the first time, and that’s ok because it leads to a discussion among the students as to what changes should be made and why (and therefore they’re still working with the text and coming to a better understanding of it).
1. each student gets a line from the document and as a class they put it back together (this is typically the longest method
and I only do this with smaller class sizes and smaller documents)
2. each student gets two consecutive lines and as a class they figure out which order the lines go to put it back together
3. you can divide your students into groups and each group has whole document (but cut into one or two line strips)…they work together to read the statements and reconstruct the document
4. the class is divided up and each group only has a paragraph of the text cut into strips…each group reconstructs their paragraph then the groups come together as a class to put each paragraph in the correct order to make the document whole again
Regardless of the method chosen, as your kids work through it line by line, reading and re-reading it, they gain a better understanding of the text and can more easily participate in class discussions and analyze the document with whichever approach we’re using that particular day. If you get the chance to try this out, I’d love to hear how it goes for you, leave your feedback in the comments below 🙂