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ERIC Number: EJ1003799
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 5
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0037-7724
Teaching Challenging Topics with Primary Sources
Singer, Alan J.
Social Education, v76 n6 p324-328 Nov-Dec 2012
The most common activity in a social studies classroom should be the analysis of primary sources. Students are intrigued and engaged by edited and unedited documents, written statements, transcribed speeches, photographs, pictures, charts, graphs, cartoons, and even material objects. Ideally, the goal of social studies teachers is to prepare students to "read" historical documents in their original or unedited form. The best means of achieving this goal is to encourage students to develop their skills by working with material that matches their level of interest and performance abilities. It is wonderful for students to be able to pick up a document and analyze it on their own, but until they develop this ability, it is important to provide them with questions that guide them and help them discover key information and patterns. In selecting appropriate documents, the author recommends focusing on issues that actually engage students. This makes them keen to read the text because they are concerned about what is happening in the world and in their lives. In this article, the author will recommend excerpts from documents that are relevant to three challenging topics: same-sex relationships, a historic dispute about human nature and its implications for government, and the implications of an "originalist," textual interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. The excerpts are brief, which allows for focused, in-depth class instruction. The documents can be used (depending on the document), in World History, U.S. History, or Government classes. They can also be valuable for classes that focus on important and controversial issues. (Contains 14 notes.)
National Council for the Social Studies. 8555 Sixteenth Street #500, Silver Spring, MD 20910. Tel: 800-683-0812; Tel: 301-588-1800; Fax: 301-588-2049; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: United States Constitution