Sunday, September 12, 2004

Using Primary Sources in the Primary Grades. This is a good essay about teaching research skills to elementary school students. The focus is on teaching using primary sources. I think most school librarians would find this valuable.

From the site:

What do a stamped Christmas postcard dated 1910, a Confederate one hundred dollar bill, soda pop bottles from Egypt, ice tongs, a rug beater, and a woven prayer rug from the Middle East with a picture of the Kaaba at Mecca all have in common? These and many other artifacts can become primary sources, the very real "stuff" of the social studies that can so effectively engage the young learner in active learning. The use of primary sources in the classroom is a way for students to develop the intellectual curiosity that leads to further research and increased awareness of the world around them.

WHAT ARE PRIMARY SOURCES?

The definition of "primary sources" varies. Danzer and Newman (1996, 22) examine this conceptual problem by discussing several definitions recognized by historians. They tend to agree with Henry Johnson's expansive concept that "primary sources include all the traces left by the human past -- present ideals, present social customs and institutions, language, literature, material products of human industry, physical man himself, and the physical remains of men."

Johnson's broad definition of primary sources leads to great flexibility for classroom use, especially for beginning readers of the primary grades. The HISTORY-SOCIAL SCIENCE FRAMEWORK FOR CALIFORNIA PUBLIC SCHOOLS, KINDERGARTEN THROUGH GRADE TWELVE (1997, 147) explains that "documents make up most, but not all, of the primary source materials used by historians." Historians may use documents but teachers of early grades will frequently use realia or "ephemera" (Danzer and Newman 1996, 24) of the material culture.

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