Using Primary Sources in the Classroom

Project Description

This project is designed to help teachers more easily integrate the use of primary source materials into their classrooms. It consists of teaching units on Alabama history organized in ten chronological/subject areas:

While these units cover some of the most critical and significant periods in Alabama history, the selected lessons are meant to be representative rather than comprehensive. These units were designed to augment the study of Alabama, yet they are useful in the study of the United States, the world, and the social studies in general. The documents can also be used to supplement the study of other curriculums.

Each unit contains background information for the teacher and is made up of several lessons. The lessons contain learning objectives, suggested activities, and documents. Documents are reproduced in the original form and transcribed when necessary. Primary source materials may be printed and reproduced for classroom use. Lessons can be used without modification, adapted for specific class use, or entire new lessons and activities may be created based on the primary source materials provided.

Purpose of the Project

The 1992 Alabama Social Studies Course of Studies emphasized the use of primary source documents to "enrich the social studies program and enable students to visualize and empathize with people of other times and places." These documents help students vividly understand the feelings and actions of Jeremiah Austill at the Canoe Fight of 1813, of riders on the first integrated buses in Montgomery at the conclusion of the famous bus boycott, of women nursing wounded Civil War soldiers, and of destitute Alabama families during the Depression. These documents enrich the study of Alabama history and the study of all civilizations.

The Alabama Department of Archives and History is the official repository for Alabama government documents and holds many of the most important books, documents, visual materials and artifacts that document the history of Alabama and the South. The purpose of this project is to bring those materials to students, and to organize them in such a way that teachers can easily utilize them in the classroom.

Project Background

In the summer of 1996 the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) contracted with Alabama educators to develop teaching units on various aspects of Alabama history. The units provide background information, selected primary source material, and activities for use in the classroom. The ten periods/themes of Alabama history were determined by ADAH staff and the contract educators. Alabama Department of Archives and History staff chose documents and graphic materials from ADAH collections to illustrate the time periods. Copies of the primary source material were provided to two contract educators -- Susan DuBose, teacher at Tallassee High School, and Jackie Matte, retired teacher from Mountain Brook Junior High School. They selected items for inclusion in the project and developed the lessons and activities. The draft units were reviewed by ADAH staff and two contract reviewers -- Rhonda Holtan, teacher at Carver Elementary School in Montgomery, and Dr. Leah Atkins, emerita director of the Auburn University Center for the Arts and Humanities.

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