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Seeking History

Teaching with Primary Sources in Grades 4-6

By Monica Edinger

Primary sources are real stuff and real stuff is powerful stuff. Civil War photographs. E.B. White’s drafts for Charlotte’s Web. An heirloom quilt. Birth certificates. All evoke actual past times and events. And no matter how well written, no textbook can provide the same sense of being there, of the realness that primary sources provide. They help us as nothing else does to begin to understand the past.

Seeking History is one of the first books about using primary sources in elementary and middle school classrooms to enhance and deepen students’ grapplings with history. You’ll...

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Primary sources are real stuff and real stuff is powerful stuff. Civil War photographs. E.B. White’s drafts for Charlotte’s Web. An heirloom quilt. Birth certificates. All evoke actual past times and events. And no matter how well written, no textbook can provide the same sense of being there, of the realness that primary sources provide. They help us as nothing else does to begin to understand the past.

Seeking History is one of the first books about using primary sources in elementary and middle school classrooms to enhance and deepen students’ grapplings with history. You’ll read about students working as scholars as they tussle with old language and spelling in a three-hundred-year-old journal . . . compare their own photographs of a local street with others taken in 1904 and 1975 . . . view an early film to see what it can tell them about early twentieth-century immigrants . . . examine household objects to determine what life was like long ago. And they do even more, taking what they’ve discovered to create interpretations of their own. These students use primary sources as historians, literary scholars, artists, writers, and more. Primary sources enrich every facet of their learning.

Best of all, Monica Edinger offers lots of ideas and resources you can put to immediate use: types of primary sources; tips on finding and preparing primary sources for student use; personal, local, and remote history activities; detailed descriptions of immigration, Constitution, and Africa projects; guidelines for using primary sources to teach literature, writing, and art; and teaching strategies for interpreting text, images, and objects. A companion CD, packaged with the book, offers even more support with links to websites, reproducible handouts, and sample student work.

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