I was having a conversation with my two twenty-something children a few weeks ago and referenced an old Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercial. You know the one.
The one where two people, one eating peanut butter and the other chocolate, bump into each other? The one where they’re both heading headphones, listening to their Sony Walkmans, and don’t see each other until it’s too late.
“Hey! You got peanut butter on my chocolate.” “Hey! You got chocolate in my peanut butter.”
Yeah. My kids obviously didn’t remember either. It’s an ancient ad but I think of it often when we’re talking about app mashups and tweaking tech tools to do things they’re not really designed to do. Cause chocolate and peanut butter is as delicious together as is iMovie and Tellagami.
I shared the Reece’s reference with my kids because earlier in the day I had spent some time talking Google tools with a group of tech integration coaches. Part of that time was spent exploring the possibilities of mashing up Google My Maps and Forms. And over the last few days, my brain has been going back to different things that we could be doing with Google Forms.
I love document based questions. I love the Stanford History Education Group’s Beyond the Bubble mini-assessment tool. And we know that I love the Google.
There’s a cool buzz running through the history education world.
Primary sources. Documents. Using evidence. Solving problems. Historical thinking. And that’s a good thing. But I know that it can be difficult sometimes trying to figure out how to use primary sources.
First piece of advice?
Don’t worry so much about primary vs. secondary sources. Start thinking about evidence, about data, instead of focusing just on one sort of document over another. Because if we’re asking great questions, kids will be using all sorts of documents and sources to solve the problem.
Second piece of advice?
Don’t re-invent the wheel. Have kids use the different tools already out there as they work to make sense of documents. As we train our kids to think historically, these sorts of analysis worksheets can be great scaffolding tools, especially with elementary and middle school students.
If you’re a US or World history teacher and are looking for great primary sources, you only have to go as far as the Library of Congress Teacher page. The LOC has so much great stuff, it’s sometimes hard to get out of there.
But I especially love the work the LOC staff has done to create what they call Primary Source Sets. Primary Source Sets are collections of goodies that focus on a particular theme or topic. I’ve added information below for 25 of my favorite sets but be sure to check out the entire list. You also can search the sets by specific state standards.
For each set, you get a downloadable Teacher’s Guide with historical context, instructional suggestions and links to more online resources. This is exactly the sort of stuff that the newly approved Kansas state standards are asking us to use with our kids. You also get a ton of primary sources and analysis worksheets. It’s a very cool place to find stuff that can engage our students in content and historical thinking.