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Ways to Use the Primary Source Documents

The activities and questions outlined in the OTM are part of a complete unit which can be used as is, or easily changed or adapted to meet the needs of your students, teachers working with you, availability of library and lab, etc. Some suggestions as to how the documents could be used are provided below.

  • Give each student one document to read
  • Have students work in groups and divide up the reading and the work
  • Have all students work on one document
  • Have students create their own questions for the documents and share with class
  • Create a lesson around primary sources using the documents as examples
  • Use the Ontario History Quest website’s link to Using Primary Sources as a starting point with your class on primary sources

Setting Students up for Success

When using the activities and questions as outlined, it is important to ensure that the students know, not only what they are creating, but how this will be assessed. With this in mind, students should be shown the assessment tools (checklists, group assessment sheet and rubric) that will be used to mark their progress and form their grade. Teachers may want to establish class deadlines when various stages of the research process need to be completed. This will help students to stay on top of their work and act as an indicator of those who need support to keep up. The research process takes time and students need as much support in learning how to do it independently as possible. This practice will benefit them greatly in high school where the research expectations and involvement increase dramatically.

Differentiating Instruction

Within any classroom, a wide range of learning styles, reading levels and personal interests exist. Teachers may want to consider assessing the reading level and the content of the documents in order to find the best match of student to document. In the process of doing this, unneeded student frustration can be avoided, replaced instead by a feeling of success. For some students accommodations may need to be made to meet needs. Coordinate with the ESL/ESD teacher and the special education resource teacher to ensure that constructive collaboration is in place for the students they support.


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