Finding Primary Sources to Teach Virginia Studies

Resources and tips for locating and selecting primary sources to teach Virginia Studies

Are you interested in using primary sources with your students, but aren't sure where to start? I know it can be a little overwhelming and time-consuming to find what you need, so I've compiled a list of user-friendly places to look for primary sources related to the Virginia Studies curriculum. I've also included some suggestions for how to select appropriate primary sources to use with your students. Hope this helps you to get started!

Resources for Virginia Studies Primary Sources:

This list includes some of my favorite sites (check out the clickable links)! Many of these sites also have background information, lesson plans, and other resources you may find helpful.

Library of Congress Primary Source Sets

Library of Congress Primary Source Sets: Virginia

Library of Congress Primary Source Sets: Jamestown

Document Bank of Virginia (from the Library of Virginia)

Virginia Memory (from the Library of Virginia)

Jamestown Paintings (from the National Park Service)

Mary Baldwin University Library: Virginia History

Virginia Historical Society: The Story of Virginia

There are also some excellent general databases that you can search, like:

Library of Congress American Memory Collection

DocsTeach (from the National Archives)

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History Collection

Selecting Primary Sources:

One of the most common difficulties teachers encounter when using primary sources is figuring out how to choose ones that are both appropriate and engaging for their students. Here are a few factors and questions to keep in mind when you're considering whether to use a particular primary source.

  • Will this source capture my students' interest?
  • Will it lead to discussion?
  • Will it offer opportunities for critical thinking?
  • Will it help students make connections to history and their own lives?
  • Is this source appropriate to use at school/with this grade level/with my students?

Background Knowledge
  • Do my students have enough background knowledge to understand this source? If not, what information do I need to provide?

Reading Level
  • Will my students be able to read and understand the text in this source?
  • What vocabulary should I pre-teach?
  • Would modifying the text, transcribing it, or using an excerpt make it more accessible?

  • What point-of-view does this source represent?
  • What other sources can I use to represent other perspectives?

In a later post, I'll share some specific ideas for using primary sources in your classroom. In the meantime, feel free to follow my Pinterest board for primary source resources, activities, and lesson plans!

If you have questions about getting started with primary sources, please ask in the comments!

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Resources and tips for locating and selecting primary sources to teach Virginia Studies

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