Integrating Tech: Primary Source Analysis using Google Forms

Primary Source Analysis using Google Forms

This is a guest post from Kelly Grotrian, an American History teacher at East Brunswick High School in East Brunswick, New Jersey.

Far and away my favorite Google App for Education is Google Forms. Forms allows you to present a variety of primary sources to students in an organized fashion and to collect data on the analysis of those sources to inform your instruction. Google Forms also allow learners to work at their own pace, which is something that my students enjoy because they have the opportunity to interact with the sources in their own time, at their own pace.  All of their data is then sent to me in a Google spreadsheet, which helps me determine where I need to focus my instruction.

The Civil Rights Movement is included in the New Jersey Social Studies State Standards and the East Brunswick School District US History II curriculum. For my student activity on race riots during the 1960s, we focused on events that took place in Newark, New Jersey during the summer of 1967. While many more famous civil rights rebellions took place in other parts of the country (the South, Detroit, Los Angeles), I wanted students to understand that this concern actually did hit home here in one of our largest cities.

I created a Google form to address this topic. The first section asked students to define what race riots were and to identify current race riots (such as the events in Ferguson or Baltimore). 

Next, students read some reference material on the Newark Riot from  The American Folklife Center – The Civil Rights History Project.  This background gave students a better understanding of exactly what had happened. To ensure student understanding, students were provided with a few guiding questions/prompts. Students then examined a map of Newark in order to find the Central Ward where much of the action took place during the Newark Riot of 1967. This visual helped students situate the action and better understand the circumstances of the actual event.

The next section displayed several primary sources related to the Newark Riot of 1967. These primary sources that students analyzed included a political cartoon, a portion of an oral history video and a portion of an oral history transcript. Each source contained several guiding questions/prompts.

By exposing students to a variety of primary sources from multiple perspectives, students became historians and developed their own well-rounded understanding of events from the summer of 1967. This process also helped them to better make connections between historical and current events (such as Ferguson and Baltimore).  

Students were acutely aware that recent events are not so different from the events of the 1960s. They were visibly disappointed to learn that race relations in our country has had a long and troubled history. While they could see clear and obvious improvements in this area, they realized the struggle for racial equality in the United States is not over.

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