What is a primary source? What questions can be used to analyze primary sources? How can students learn about the historical record from primary sources?
These are just a few of the questions we explored in a recent Using Primary Sources in the Classroom workshop with local teachers. State and national education standards require students to use and interpret primary sources. Archives, as the major type of repository for this material, play a key role in helping teachers and students meet these goals.
The workshop, led by Lois Hamill, University Archivist, and Anne Ryckbost, Manuscript Processor, engaged teachers in hands-on activities analyzing Civil War-era documents and photographs using inquiry-based methods. The teachers learned how to guide a primary document through the steps of observation, reflection, and questioning to examine historical themes, events, and people.
Throughout the workshop, the teachers enthusiastically shared ideas and strategies for incorporating primary sources into their curriculum. The room buzzed with excitement when the teachers looked at original materials including a letter from a Civil War soldier to his wife (Cyrus Reasoner Civil War collection link), a carte de visite of confederate general E. Kirby Smith, and general orders from Camp Dennison in Cincinnati.