For Teachers/Students

South Dakota History Day

Teaching with Primary Sources


Plan a Visit to the Archives

Archives collections contain original documentation of the past that even the best written source cannot convey. By using primary sources you will expose your students to important historical concepts.

Students will realize that written history is merely the author's interpretation of the past. Rather than viewing history as a series of facts and dates in their textbook, students will realize that their book is just one interpretation of the events described by the author. Historians have biases created by their own personal situations and the social environments in which they live. Students will begin to form their own opinions based on evidence and original sources.

Primary sources humanize history. Students are fascinated by the human emotions and the values and attitudes of the past reflected in personal writings. Primary sources add color and excitement to history as they link students directly to individuals from the past.

The use of primary sources develops important analytical skills. History trains students to gather, sift, and evaluate evidence. Students learn how bias and point of view affect evidence, what contradictions exist within a source, and how reliable their sources are. Development of these skills are important to students in all aspects of their lives, including historical research.