T e a c h e r  C r e a t e d  L e s s o n

What are Primary and Secondary Sources?

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TDSB, Toronto, Ontario

How do we get information from long ago?
Imagine there is a car accident, but the police arrive on the scene after the accident has already occured. How can they find out what happened? They rely on eyewitnesses to help piece together what happened. Historians and history students do the same; they use eyewitnesses from the past to help them understand events from the past. How reliable are eyewitnesses? In groups of 2 or 3, try this game to help see how reliable YOUR memory is!
Test Your Memory!
The Time and Bias Rule!
M. Miller, Scarborough Historical Museum
© 2007, Scarborough Historical Museum. All Rights Reserved.
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Learning Object Collection: Making History Now
What's the Difference Between Primary and Secondary Sources?
What if there are no living eyewitnesses? If an event occured in 1800, how can you find out what happened? You will have to turn to eyewitness accounts in the form of letters, paintings, diaries, maps, statistics, newspapers, and other records of the time. Sometimes you can even use objects like clothing or tools to help you learn about past events. How can you tell the difference between a primary and secondary resource? In groups of 2 or 3, try this activity to help you identify the differences.
Primary and Secondary Sources
Primary and secondary sources defined.
M. Callaghan, M. Miller, E. Savva
© 2007, Scarborough Historical Museum. All Rights Reserved.
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Learning Object Collection: Making History Now
Using Primary Resources to Learn About the Past
Primary sources can tell us a lot about what happened in the past. We can use artifacts to learn more about the daily life of people at the time, and we can use documents to read about their experiences, occurences, and points of view about the events that occured the past.

For Part 1, read about what you can learn from a primary resource.
For Part 2, work in groups of 2 or 3.
Find 3 items in your classroom that could be used as a primary source. It could be an article of clothing, your journal, your agenda, a receipt, a school newsletter, your report card, or even a poster or advertisement. Meet with your group and pretend you are researchers from the future and you have just located these items in a school time capsule. "Read" the item. Look for things that would tell future researchers about the students and school history of 'the past'. Follow the directions for the assignment.
Primary Sources ~ Finding History in Everyday Documents
Primary Sources: Finding history in everyday documents.
M. Miller
© 2007, Scarborough Historical Museum. All Rights Reserved.
Play the Flash File

Learning Object Collection: Making History Now
Test Yourself!
Now that you are an expert on primary and secondary resources, take the test! Try this test to see if you know the difference!
QUIZ Primary and Secondary Sources
Identify primary and secondary sources in this short quiz
M. Miller, M. Callaghan, Scarborough Historical Museum
© 2007, Scarborough Historical Museum. All Rights Reserved.
Play the Flash File

Learning Object Collection: Making History Now
How Useful is the Internet? Finding Primary Sources Online
You can find primary sources in archives, museums, art galleries, and reference libraries. Archives keep many documents like diaries, school records, report cards, and photographs. You can often find diaries, letters, and newspapers that are kept available on microfilm, microfiche, or even CD at most reference libraries. Art museums display works of art that depict historical scenes and events. Museums display artifacts from a particular time period. Sometimes, you might not have access to primary sources for the topic you are studying. Can you use the internet to help you find primary sources?
Information Superhighway or Dead End ?
Using the Internet for Research
M. Miller
© 2007, Scarborough Historical Museum. All Rights Reserved.
Play the Flash File

Learning Object Collection: Making History Now
Assignment: Research YOUR local history!
Now that you know how to find out more about the past using primary sources, try it yourself. Do some research about your local history! As a class, gather information about the history of your community. Visit your local archives and museum to learn more from the primary resources available. Check at local libraries for some more documents to expand your knowledge about your community. Try checking for books that are written about your community - sometimes they have references to some primary sources as well!

Create a presentation about your community. This could be a bulletin board in your school, a link on your school website, or even a multimedia presentation. Share your presentation with the school and community during a school event like curriculum night, education week or literacy night. Don't forget to mention it in your school newsletter!

Learning Objectives

Grade 7 History

In this lesson, students will:
- identify what makes something a primary or secondary resource
- identify the difference between a primary and secondary source
- identify what information we can learn from primary sources
- practice 'reading' primary sources
- put their new skills to practice by doing some research on their own community's history

Curriculum Expectations
-use a variety of primary and secondary sources to locate relevant information about how early settlers met the challenges of the new land (e.g., primary sources: artifacts, journals, letters, statistics, field trips, interviews, period documents and maps; secondary sources: maps, illustrations, print materials, videos, CD-ROMs, Internet sites);
- communicate the results of inquiries for specific purposes and audiences, using media works, oral presentations, written notes and reports, drawings, tables, charts, and graphs
- illustrate the historical development of their local community (e.g., its origins, key personalities, and the contributions of various cultural groups), using a variety of formats (e.g., a heritage display, posters, a drama skit or role play, a brochure, a Web page);