BY CHRISTOPHER PANNA

No social studies classroom is complete without a healthy dose of primary sources. Primary sources develop essential skills for understanding both past and present, like putting information in context and understanding conflicting points of view. Just imagine an entire curriculum designed around these skills. If you teach U.S. history, you have to check out Reading Like a Historian.

The breadth of this project is impressive. Seventy-five lessons span the whole of history of the United States, and though these lessons were designed as a single program, each can easily stand alone. The activities focus on analyzing sources and drawing conclusions about a central historical issue. In some lessons, students explore documents designed to “challenge or expand the textbook’s account.” In others, they use sources to take sides on an issue and then later must reconcile their differences. The quality of the curriculum reflects the talent of the Stanford PhD’s and graduate students that developed it.

The journey is just as important as the destination here. Reading Like a Historian will help your class investigate a topic in more depth while developing essential critical thinking skills. I don’t know anyone who has implemented the entire curriculum, but the abundance of lessons means you’re never far from an opportunity to try one. And since the planning is already done for you, there’s little reason not to use this excellent resource.

Reading Like a Historian

Related stuff

Follow Civil War “news” on the Disunion blog

Create and share primary-source activities at DocsTeach

Read milestone documents from American history at Our Documents