Educators often think of the National Archives as a place with resources for teaching the secondary grades or even older students. But elementary age students can work with primary sources too!
When using any type of primary source, ask students to break it down in four steps:
- Meet the Document
- Observe its parts
- Try to make sense of it
- Use it as historical evidence
You can find downloadable worksheets that walk elementary students through these exact steps to analyze various types of primary sources at www.archives.gov/education/lessons/worksheets. Worksheets are available for the following primary source types (PDF files):
You can find many primary sources to choose from on DocsTeach.org – our online tool for teaching with documents from the National Archives.
We also have fun ways to engage kids in family history! You can download family trees and charts for kids of all ages at www.archives.gov/education/family-history.
Plus find instructions for making a “food family tree” based on family members’ favorite foods!
For online history, civics, and primary source-analysis activities for K-5 students, check out DocsTeach. These resources focus on skills like sequencing and finding clues in historical objects, and topics like symbols and national monuments. You can ask students to work on them independently, or use them in a full-class or virtual meeting setting by sharing your screen and walking through activities together.
Find activities such as:
- Analyzing a Photograph of Amelia Earhart
- National Monuments Express National Values (in Spanish as well)
- Analyzing a Student’s Letter about the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
- Analyzing a Photograph of Jackie Robinson
- Evaluating a Needlework Sampler as Historical Evidence
- Analyzing a Photograph of Sally Ride
- Examining Where Rosa Parks Sat
- Finding American Symbols
- Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Fight for Civil Rights
- How Can People Make a Difference?
- Patent Analysis: Thomas Edison’s Lightbulb and several other patent activities
- and many more – We’ve created dozens of new activities for elementary grades this past year!
You can also schedule live online learning programs with National Archives staff to learn about voting, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and more.
These free, interactive programs for grades 3-5 feature primary sources and align to national standards:
- Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote
- The Charters of Freedom: Building a More Perfect Union
- The Constitution at Work: Elementary Edition
- Superhero Bill of Rights!