In this third part of this series, we will be looking at primary and secondary sources, including identifying and evaluating them.
|from Hands-On History: Old Photographs|
The first thing your student should note when evaluating resources is to whether they are primary or secondary sources. I usually like my students to do some activities that give them some experience with primary sources documenting by having them collect oral interviews, analyze photographs and do some research at a cemetery. They will easily begin to realize the importance of primary documents. This will also help them to see that all documents are subject to human viewpoint. This leads naturally into the concept that other evidence which reports the same information strengthens an argument.
Taking of Mary Jemison
Painting / Robert Griffing
Comparing Primary and Secondary Source Documents
We then look at primary source documents written by other people. I like to use Captured By Indians: Mary Jemison Becomes an Indian by Mary Jemison. We also read Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison by Lois Lenski so that we can compare the primary and secondary sources. Students can also evaluate the painting, Taking of Mary Jemison by Robert Griffing.
|from Hands-On History: Cemeteries|
Reliability of the Information
This leads to a discussion about how the reason why the person gave the statement of evidence plays a part in how we can evaluate it. Was it meant to be a public or private statement? A private statement said in confidence is more likely to reflect the speaker's true observations or feelings. How soon after the event the statement was made also colors the statement.
|from Hands-On History:Oral History Interviews|
What is the difference between middle school level and high school level learning?Middle school students can begin to learn about primary and secondary sources, but by high school, students should be skilled in knowing the difference between the two and be able to begin evaluating sources.
In the next post, we will begin looking at the different types of reasoning and their fallacies.