Teaching with Primary Sources

Using original documents and artifacts in social studies curriculum is becoming more relevant in official teaching practices. There are hundreds of primary source lesson plans, some can be found at the Library of Congress, the National Archives, Stanford History Education Group, and Gilder Lehrman. The History Forge team has been collecting primary source lessons and organizing them chronologically and thematically. Below, you will organized lists under the section “Primary Source Lesson Lists.

In the section “How To Use Primary Sources,” you will find original History Forge articles that will help teachers utilize primary sources in their classroom.

Primary Source Lesson Lists

How To Use Primary Sources

Where Do We Find Our Primary Source Lessons?

The following websites provided our primary source lesson plans. Please read each of their descriptions in order to understand what each resource provides.

History Forge

The History Forge team has made some primary source lesson plans, and numerous videos that show how someone can analyze a primary source. The History Forge team is always thinking of ways to improve the overall collection; keep checking back for updates.

Stanford’s Beyond the Bubble

These lessons come with primary source analysis worksheets for students and rubrics for teachers. They often directly connect to different social studies skills, which can be identified with the social studies skills rubric.

CK-12 U.S. History Textbook

These lessons come in two different formats, basic and advanced. It is up to the teacher which ones they assign to their students, but most 8th grade U.S. History students will need basic and most junior or higher high school students can use the advanced.

Gilder Lehrman’s History Now

Gilder Lehrman focuses less on specific research questions and more about adding primary sources to a historical narrative. They have great secondary source articles that include primary sources, which have detailed descriptions.


Newsela has two different levels of their service: free and pro accounts. Free will provide you with primary source lessons that can have their reading lexile changed to help or challenge different students. The free account also includes reading quizzes and suggestions for writing questions. The pro account uses the same primary source articles, but organizes them into sections and provides the teacher with questions to give their students. If you do not want to purchase a pro account, you can still use the links in order to find which articles are in the study set. You can search for these articles individually on Newsela and find them.