Teaching Now: Thinking Deeper with Primary Sources

Thinking deeper with the primary source thinking triangle.

This is a guest post from Ruth Ferris, an elementary school librarian from Billings, Montana, and a grantee in the TPS Regional Grant Program.

I originally learned about the TPS-Barat Primary Source Thinking Triangle through Martha Kohl of the Montana Historical Society. I loved it! I work with K-6 students and many of them struggle academically so I am always looking for new ways to scaffold their learning. My students used the thinking triangle to think deeper about a primary source and to summarize their ideas and they really enjoyed it. The activity was not overwhelming and it helped my students develop their critical thinking skills.

Our grant, “Teaching With Primary Sources – Seeing Things With a Different Perspective”,  was a professional development opportunity for participants to learn more about using primary sources in the classroom. One of the analysis tools that the Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) program at MSU Denver team modeled was the interactive Library of Congress Primary Source Analysis Tool. Having the ability to fill out the tool while projecting it made it very versatile. Students were able to contribute to the class activity before working independently.

This interactive tool got me to thinking about the primary source activities from the TPS-Barat Primary Source Nexus teaching resource blog. I wanted an interactive thinking triangle! I wrote to the TPS-Barat team and although they didn’t have one, they said they would put it in the “pipeline”. Fast forward one month and imagine my delight when I opened an email from them and saw there, before my eyes, the Interactive Thinking Triangle. They really did design one! It was everything I asked for.

Why use an interactive thinking triangle? I wanted to be able to project it on the screen so my whole class could follow along and practice analyzing a photo. Working with primary sources at the elementary level requires scaffolding of skills. Students need to be successful as they gain confidence while learning how to interrogate photos and documents. Having an interactive analysis tool allows students to visually see where to write their ideas and provides a way for them to be validated as they contribute ideas. Students who experience success will be more confident as they take on more responsibility for their own learning. I think having an interactive version of the primary source thinking triangle makes a great addition to my toolbox. Just remember to make sure you are in edit mode when you use it.

Ruth Ferris using the interactive thinking triangle with students.

Primary Source Thinking Triangle

Interactive Thinking Triangle

Filling out the TPS-Barat thinking triangle

How do you teach with primary sources? What are you doing with the teaching tools, learning activities and Library primary sources that you find on the TPS-Barat Primary Source Nexus? Let us know!

Learn more about the no-cost TPS-Barat professional development programs and the programs from more Teaching with Primary Sources consortium members across the United States.