50 Primary Source Document Activities for US History

Social Studies teachers and education leaders have long preached the benefits of using Primary source materials in the classroom. These documents are essential to helping students understand history and encourage analytical thinking.

Primary sources allow teachers to expose students to different perspectives throughout US History and allow students to draw their own conclusions about important historical events.

Many studies have shows textbooks to contain bias or even inaccurate information in some cases. Primary sources bring students directly to the history and eliminate bias in the classroom. 

Finding good primary sources that students can understand is the tough part. Often primary sources are at a higher reading-level that students struggle with or are too long to be digested in a class period or for a single assignment.

Over the past few years, I dedicated myself to curating and editing engaging primary source resources for my US History classes. I have spent countless hours researching to discover resources that cover important topics and can be understood by students.

Sometimes, I edit them for length so that we can focus on the key points of that primary source as opposed to getting bogged down in pages and pages of reading. They allow students to exercise their analytical abilities while remaining engaged in the material.

Next, I set out to create activities and analysis questions for each document that help students best understand the material and place it in the context of history.

Included below are 50 of these primary source document activities and lessons for US History. Each includes questions to help guide student understanding as well as answer keys. Most have been updated to include Google Doc versions of the activity as well. 

I broke them down by era so you can easily find a resource for whichever unit you are covering: 

Colonial Era Primary Sources

Early America Primary Sources

Sectionalism, Civil War, & Reconstruction Primary Sources

Gilded Age, Progressive Era, and Imperialism Primary Sources

World War 1 and the Interwar Era Primary Sources

World War 2 Primary Sources

Cold War Primary Sources

Civil Rights Movement Primary Sources

All of the above resources are engaging, rigorous, and based on state standards. As you can see on the links, each is visually engaging and presented in a way that makes it easy for students to understand what to do with them. 

If you think that you want to use a lot of the resources above, it might benefit you to join Students of History! When you join, you get immediate access to ALL of the above resources for immediate download.

There are also tons of secondary source articles, projects, interactive notebook activities, PowerPoints with guides notes worksheets, flipped classroom videos, engaging class activities, and more for American History.

You can join the US History or World History site and have lesson plans for every single day of the school year at your finger tips.

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