Inspiration Lesson Plan: Analyzing Primary Source Documents


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Analyzing Primary Source Documents

Subject: Social Studies

Grades: 6-12
Ages: 11-18

Lesson Objective

Primary source documents can be used in countless ways in the classroom. For example, they can stimulate interest in a new area of study as part of an anticipatory set, reinforce concepts being taught in a lesson or be used at the close of a lesson for review and to assess understanding. The Inspiration Primary Source Organizer template can be integrated into virtually any lesson involving primary source documents.

Teacher Instructions


  1. Students need access to primary sources that relate to the curriculum. Make paper copies available or provide links in the template to the resources online. There are many high-quality sources on the Internet, such as the following:
  1. Explain to students that they will be analyzing primary sources, talking them through the Written Primary Source Document Analysis Organizer, Primary Source, found here: Inspiration Starter>Templates>Social Studies. Point out that certain Symbols on the template (the title and physical characteristics) have Notes with additional information. The template is based on a worksheet developed by the Education Staff at the National Archives and Records Administration. The original worksheet is available online and may provide some additional information if there are questions about the different categories of information:
  2. To demonstrate what is expected, show a completed example by going to Inspiration Starter>Learn to Use> Examples>Social Studies opening Primary Source Docs.isf.
  3. Have students review the document(s) and complete the organizer.
  4. Lead a class discussion about the students’ findings. Be sure to include a discussion of what may have been biased in the documents. What other perspectives might there have been on the topics?



  • Students can be assessed on completing the organizer successfully, as well as demonstrating their knowledge of the content area by including accurate, well-documented information.
  • If the students will be printing the document, the Outline view will most likely be the best choice because all the information will be visible.


Lesson Adaptations

  • Graphics or multimedia files can be added or changed to help illustrate points.
  • Students can add additional details and commentary in Outline view and/or use the Transfer tool to move the document to the word processor to complete a paragraph or paper of their analysis.
  • Students can make presentations to the class about their document(s) using either the Diagram view or Outline view. Subtopics can be hidden or viewed using the Subtopic Quick Control  in the upper-right corner of Symbols with subtopics (or  in the left margin in Outline view).