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GPS (Getting to Primary Sources): Navigating Online Research: Using Primary Sources in the Classoom

This guide provides tools and strategies for finding, evaluating, and using primary resources in the classroom.

What's the Point?

This exercise helps students with:

  • Identifying different types of primary sources
  • Developing critical thinking skills
  • Exploring multiple sides of an event
  • Understanding bias—in history and within ourselves
  • Analyzing how relevant the past is to the present

...and is also ideal for different learning styles!

Worksheet: Understanding Events Using Primary Sources


  1. Teachers will find and print out multiple primary sources on an event or topic. Primary sources should each be of differing types and from different perspectives. Primary sources can be text-based or visual, depending on the needs of the class.
  2. Students will break into small groups; each group will choose (or be assigned, depending on students’ learning needs) one primary source to analyze.
  3. Students will choose a recorder and a speaker, then discuss the primary source in their small groups, noting their reactions and feelings about the source; recorder will write down the group’s answers to the worksheet questions.
  4. The class will come back together and each group’s speaker will read the answers about their group’s primary source.
  5. The class, as a whole, will then compare the primary sources and their reactions, and discuss how these combine to give a clearer, fuller picture of the event or topic.

Tips for Success

Look for NC primary sources on US & global events

  • find North Carolinians' reactions to the world around them in:
    • local or college newspapers
    • letters
    • diaries

Trouble finding primary sources from multiple points of view?

  • look for secondary sources from differing viewpoints
    • analyze using questions similar to those for primary sources
    • have students create "primary sources" from alternate perspectives