Analyzing Primary Sources: Shake & Source Newspaper Game

Shake & Source Newspaper Game Sheet

This is a guest post by Ruth Ferris, an elementary school librarian from Billings, Montana, and a grantee in the TPS Regional Grant Program. Ruth is sharing the Shake and Source Newspaper Game procedure, instructions, and materials under a Creative Commons CC BY-NC 4.0 license.

I developed the Shake and Source  when I created the lesson “Montana’s State Flower:  A Lesson in Civic Engagement” as an Educator Resource for the Montana Historical Society and recently adapted the game for more general use.  This game helps students become familiar with the process of “sourcing” a document; develop vocabulary; and make inferences as they learn to analyze historic newspapers.

Lesson preparation

  • Collect several newspaper articles related to your chosen topic (see Chronicling America). The articles should represent different angles or viewpoints as much as possible.
  • Create two or three focus questions that students will think deeply about as they analyze the articles.
  • Print out and laminate large-format newspaper pages from the provided links, one per student pair. (See viewing and saving results from the Finding Resources: Chronicling America Historic Newspapers Advanced Search Tips post). If your district does not have a large-format printer, the following businesses often do: printers/copy shops, funeral homes, architects, building contractors. Alternatively, you may print out the page in sections and put these into clear page protectors or use clear contact paper to cover them; you may also consider having students highlight digital .pdf copies of the newspaper.
  • Print Game Sheet, one per student pair.
  • Print Game Graphic Organizer, one per student pair.
  • Print Game Instructions, one per student pair.
  • Gather additional materials: dice, magnifying glasses (optional), and dry erase markers (black recommended) and erasers (if using), one each per student pair.


  1. Display the focus questions and the game instructions
  2. Hand out the newspapers, game sheets, graphic organizers, instructions and additional materials.
  3. Explain that instead of just reading the newspapers, student will be analyzing these pages by playing the Shake and Source Newspaper Game.
  4. Model how to play the Shake and Source Newspaper Game by choosing a student as your partner; have the other students surround you and your playing partner in an outside circle.
  5. Play one round.
  6. Discuss the types of information found in the newspaper.
  7. Next, introduce the word “sourcing.” To source the document you need to answer three questions:
    • Who wrote it?
    • When?
    • For what purpose?
  8. Discuss why “sourcing” is important. Sourcing helps historians in several ways.
    • Evaluate how accurate a source is. Was the document created at the time of an event or long afterward? Which do you think would be more accurate?
    • Uncover bias. Does the author have a strong point of view? How does that perspective shape the document?
    • Recognize the type of information that was included and consider what information might have been left out.
  9. Explain that authors include different information depending on their audience and purpose. For example, a baseball coach (author and audience) will write down how well every player on her baseball team batted (information) so she can set the lineup for the next game (purpose). In a letter to your grandma (audience), your mom (author) will only talk about how well you played (information) because your grandma loves you and wants to know all about your life (purpose).
  10. Tell each pair of students that they will be responsible for analyzing at least one newspaper by playing the Shake and Source Newspaper Game. Read the Game Directions aloud and answer any questions students might have.
  11. Tell students that they will have approximately five minutes to complete round one (if possible, set a timer).
  12. At the end of round one, ask students if they have any questions.
  13. Direct students to play the next three rounds.
  14. At the end of round four, remind students of the focus questions and give them 10 minutes to fill out the Game Sheet Graphic Organizer.
  15. Discuss student findings as a class, then review the focus questions. For each question, ask: What is your opinion and how did you come to that conclusion? What evidence supports your conclusion?

Game instructions

  1. Student 1 rolls the die, finds the square for that number in the row for the current round, and looks for the information requested on the laminated newspaper page. After, the student writes her/his initials and a brief answer (1-4 words) in the square.
    • Players earn two points for each square completed.
    • If Student 1 is unable to find the information, Student 2 may try to”steal” the square by finding the requested information on her/his own or may offer to help Student 1 by looking for the information together.
      • If Student 2 successfully “steals” the square from Student 1, then Student 2 earns two points and goes on to roll the die for her/his turn.
      • If Student 2 is also unable to find the requested information, Student 2 loses two points and goes on to roll the die for her/his turn.
      • If both players find the information together, each player receives one point and Student 2 goes on to roll the die for her/his turn.
      • If both players cannot find the information, mark the square with an X and Student 2 goes on to roll the die for her/his turn.
  2. Student 2 rolls the die and takes her/his turn.
    • If the player rolls the number of a completed square, she/he loses a turn.
  3. Continue until all squares in the round have been filled in or time runs out.
  4. Tally and mark the number of points each player earned for the round.
  5. At the end of all four rounds, tally and mark the total number of points each player earned for the game.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed by Ruth Chandler Ferris under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.