Resources for Teaching History in California

Introduction to Primary Source Documents

Introductory Activity:

  1. This evening, with the help of a family member or an adult who is close to you, look through the souvenirs of your life that have been saved as you have grown. For example, these might include a photograph, a letter, a diary, a newspaper clipping, a birth certificate, a report card, or a library or social security card. Select one item that you are willing to share with your classmates and teacher, and bring it to class.

  2. During your turn in class, present your document providing the following information:
    • What type of document is this?
    • What is the date of the document?
    • Who created the document?
    • How does the document relate to you?

  3. Consider, for your document and the documents of your classmates, responses to the following questions:
    • What does the existence of this document say about whoever created it?
    • What does the existence of this document say about whoever saved it?
    • What does the existence of this document say about American life in this era?
(This activity was created by NARA's Education Staff)

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