National Council for the Social Studies

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Do you teach primarily with a textbook or primary sources? How do you strike a balance between content coverage (that a textbook provides) and skill development (that working with primary sources)? Do you have resources to recommend?

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I think there needs to be a balance between textbooks and primary sources. In order to analyze primary sources students need historical context, and textbooks can provide this. I think the critical question is how we use these sources -- primary and textbooks. We need to teach students how to think like historians: how to analyze point of view, how to corroborate evidence, and how to scrutinize the language used. No matter what type of source they are reading, they should learn not to take it in at face value.

We had a spirited discussion in Indiana this last year about this topic. Our state board of education actually gave districts and principals the opportunity to either create alternative curriculum or buy into curriculum other than textbooks. (One of the releases from the board called social studies textbooks "dry as dust".)

What I see as one of the biggest problems with textbooks probably is that they tend to do TOO much of simply requiring students to regurgitate facts and not to think as historians.

What we did in my district was to actually go with a hybrid approach (this time around). We bought a classroom set of books, but we are also using alternative curriculum (much of which we bought into from a company). How well will this work? At this time, I don't know, since we are just starting this process. However, my hope is that we will be able to buy into more alternative curriculum when we go through the adoption cycle again in 2015 and possibly forego purchasing traditional textbooks. Or, textbook companies might decide that they do need to spend more space in order to encourage critical thinking skills and historical methodology as well as student investigation of history rather than just student retention of facts.

Michael H.
As a future educator I will use my textbook as a guide but hope to utilize many primary sources into my curriculum. Its essential to incorporate primary sources within social studies because they provide a better sense (from the psychological standpoint) of the true actors within the time period being studied. I know tomorrow I'm teaching a lesson on the Boston Massacre to my American History class. I'm having my students analyze Captain Thomas Preston's Account of the event along with Paul Revere's famous engraving. Here, my students will be able to identify the biases, motivations, and intentions of the people involved. I hope to see my students thoroughly engaged tomorrow!

Try locating the Boston Gazette and Country Journal from March 7, 1770. Also Framingham's secondary account of it years later is a nice primary/secondary source for the kids as well. If you really want to get the kids into it, Grab "The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson" and Thomas Hutchinson's "History of the Massachusettes Bay Colony". These materials alone can paint a beautiful picture for the kids of the two main philosophies that divided people at the time on commoners vs aristocracy. If you have tons of time on your hands, anything written by "VINDEX" in the Boston Gazette between March, 1770 and November/December 1770 about the Massacre and the trials is done by Samuel Adams. You can find the actual testimony transcripts at the trial from the soldiers and townspeople in the "Paper of John Adams" vol II.
I just wanted to comment from a student/ future history teacher's perspective. As a student, i found the secondary materials to be somewhat helpful, but awfully dry and dull. At least the textbooks, anyway. When the teacher actually incorporated the usage of historical primary resources in the classroom, interest in the subject automatically picked up. Even kids who weren't terribly fond of history became exponentially more interested. Primary sources can help make history really come to life. Minor things such as presidential memos or letters are fantastic because they help humanize these distant figures of greatness. Students want to feel history, not just learn it. The power of primary should not go unnoticed!
Yah ! I teach with textbook always I use take reference from websites I have ideal guide from . Fatclass is ideal website where we can add students to our profile, we can post educational blogs, it allows social networking for teachers and students.
I feel that a healthy mix of textbooks and primary sources will work. You do, however, have to choose primary sources that your students can get through. If it is too archaic, they will spend more time trudging through the material than they do getting any content out of it. As a future educator, I will probably have to use textbooks before I put more materials together.

As for resource sites, a nice American history site is (although you have to pay to see most documents). There are some nice free photos you can use to include primary sources.





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