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Diary of an Archivist: LOC Primary Source Analysis Tool

Posted by Emily Chicorli
2 Mars 2015 - 10:05am

If you are a regular reader of the Diary of an Archivist blog posts, then you will have noticed that I constantly discuss the Library of Congress’ amazing tools and resources for teachers when working with primary sources.

One of my more recent discoveries is their online Primary Source Analysis Tool that can be used to help students record their responses to primary sources. This tool asks students to Observe, Reflect and Question what they see, as well as what they think a further investigation would entail. Even cooler is that students or teachers can click on the small question box in the top right corner for helpful prompts to write their answers, which can help students if they get stuck, and can help teachers prompt students in other environments when using primary sources. Even cooler than that is that teachers and students can change the types of prompts they receive based on the genre of the primary source, i.e. whether it is a photograph, manuscript, letter, a sound recording and so on. It is a really neat tool! Click here to view it.

The observe section for analyzing a manuscript, for example, provides prompts like:

  • What do you see?
  • What do you notice first?
  • How much of the text can you read? What does it say?
  • What do you see that looks strange or familiar?
  • What do you see on the page besides writing?

The observe section for analyzing a photograph provides prompts like:

  • What do you notice first?
  • How are people and objects arranged?
  • What is the physical setting?

The reflect portion of the resource furthers students’ connection with the primary source by asking them to do more than just describe what they see but do think about why the primary source was created, how was it created, what’s missing?

The question and further investigation section asks students to think about what they want to know more about as well as suggestions for follow-up activities.

Here are some more suggestions on how to use the tool:

  1. Have students fill in the chart on computers if they are analyzing a primary source online. This way, they use technology and can take full advantage of the interactive features of the chart (like clicking on the prompts to help them write). Students can also email the chart to themselves, download it and/or print it.
  2. Print out or create your own chart based on the one by Library of Congress so students can fill out the chart when on a field trip.
  3. Create a resource for students, such as a hand out or a chart posted in the classroom (poster size), with some of the prompts provided in this resource so that students can see the questions all the time and can use the resource in other subjects.
  4. Teacher can use the resource in the classroom to create dialogue. Students can share their ideas verbally, in groups, or by brainstorming on the board with stickie notes or writing their ideas down on the board.

How would you use the primary source analysis tool?