Document analysis is the first step in working with primary sources. Our worksheets can help teach your students to think through primary source documents for contextual understanding and to extract information to make informed judgments.
We have worksheets for several media types, available on our website:
- written documents,
- videos, and
- sound recordings.
Have you used any of our document analysis worksheets before? We originally created these student tools many years ago — and thousands of educators have made use of them.
Now we’re happy to report that we’ve made some updates. Not only do the sheets have a new look, but they reinforce a standard progression while guiding students through the analysis process:
- Meet the document.
- Observe its parts.
- Try to make sense of it.
- Use it as historical evidence.
Worksheets for Novice or Younger Students, or Those Learning English
We’re also happy to announce that we’ve created some brand new worksheets to join the existing group!
This set covers all the same document types — but the worksheets are geared to the early grades or those very new to the process. They guide students with simple language, answer choices, and colorful illustrations.
Progressing Beyond the Worksheets
We hope the worksheets will teach your students to analyze primary sources independently so that — ultimately —they won’t even need them anymore!
The first few times you ask students to work with primary sources, and whenever you have not worked with primary sources recently, model careful document analysis using the worksheets. Point out that the steps are the same each time.
Once students have become familiar with using the worksheets, direct them to analyze documents as a class or in groups without the worksheets, vocalizing the four steps as they go.
Eventually, students will internalize the procedure and be able to go through these four steps on their own every time they encounter a primary source document. Remind students to practice this same careful analysis with every primary source they see.
Don’t stop with document analysis though! Analysis is just the foundation. Move on to activities in which students use the primary sources as historical evidence, like those on DocsTeach.org, our online tool for teaching with primary sources.
Please let us know if you have feedback on these new, or newly updated, worksheets! Leave a comment below or send us an email. We’d love to hear from you.
These worksheets and other materials created by the National Archives and Records Administration are in the public domain — you can copy, modify, and distribute them.