Learning To Interpret Primary Sources

In my DBQ assignment, students will begin to interpret the language in a set of primary sources. Each source will be directly related to the topic covered in the classroom. The students will be given a journal, which contains each primary source in the original language on the left pages. On the right will be my interpretation of the document, rewritten into student friendly language. Each lesson will examine a new primary source in the journal. Starting at the beginning, students will read both the original source as well as my interpretation. This will be followed by a class discussion of the document, both in the content of the document as well as any language nuances or syntax. As the lessons progress, and the students advance through the journal, my interpretations on the right pages will begin to disappear, leaving large blanks for the students to fill in for themselves. Then the class will discuss the content and meaning of the primary source, focusing on the blanks in the interpretation.  Eventually, the students will be writing their own full interpretations of the documents. Each lesson will include a class discussion to make sure that everyone is on the same page (or close to it) on the meaning of the documents.

2 Replies to “Learning To Interpret Primary Sources”

  1. This sounds like a really cool DBQ! I love how much scaffolding you have going on in the DBQ. I am a big fan of scaffolding but it is sometimes hard to find the right balance. I think you have found the balance though. By starting the students with your interpretations it will show them what you expect and so by the time your interpretations stop they will not be totally lost. I would suggest also to directly speak about how you wrote it into friendly language, like using a dictionary to find words you didn’t know and then finding a word that you did know that means the same thing. Doing things similar to that will help the scaffolding process. Depending on the students’ ages you will need to be more direct in how you teach writing primary sources into student friendly language.

  2. I think that discussing certain questions the students can ask about a document will be an important aspect of this project, Sam. A way to connect this to what you already have planned is to direct the students to the questions you asked in your interpretations. I have forgotten which age group you are working with, but at least with my eighth graders, they tend to need some more direction to what kinds of questions they can ask about a document.

    Is there a certain time period or event that you are drawing your sources from? Or are you stretching yourself wide?

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