Primary Source Learning: What Are Primary Sources?

This definition from the Library of Congress provides a basic answer to the question above. “’Primary sources’ are the raw materials of history — original documents and objects which were created at the time under study. They are different from secondary sources, accounts or interpretations of events created by someone without firsthand experience.”

To learn more, take a look at the videos below from the Library and the Minnesota Historical Society, a TPS Consortium partner. Then, dig deeper with blog posts from Teaching with the Library of Congress and TPS Connect from the TPS Western Region to consider how sources could be labeled as primary or secondary in different contexts. Next, review a professional development activity to consider the kinds of primary sources that we create every day and a classroom activity relevant to the grade band you teach. After, think about how you can best convey what primary and secondary sources are to your students.



Blog posts

PD activities

Classroom Activities

Questions to consider

  • How has your understanding of primary and secondary sources evolved based on the resources you reviewed above?
  • Reflecting on your students’ unique lived experiences, how might you adapt the professional development activity and/or one of the classroom activities for use with them?

Related teaching resources