How to Compare First & Secondhand Accounts: Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:04 Different Perspective
  • 0:31 Firsthand Account
  • 1:34 Secondhand Account
  • 2:35 Similarities & Differences
  • 3:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ashley Davis

Ashley has taught first, fourth, and fifth grades and holds a master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction.

In this lesson you will learn to distinguish between first and secondhand accounts. You will learn how to compare first and secondhand accounts when reading to gain information.

Different Perspectives

Think of a diary or a journal. If you've ever written in one yourself, you were writing from your own viewpoint. Can you think of how it is different from a newspaper article? In newspapers, reporters write about things that have happened but most of the time they weren't there themselves.

Diaries are an example of a firsthand account and newspaper articles are an example of a secondhand account. Let's look at both more closely.

Firsthand Account

Firsthand accounts, or first-person accounts, are told by a person that was a part of the action. These accounts will include the person's feelings and opinions about the topic. When writing, the author will use words like 'I' and 'we' to show that they were there and that what they are saying is their experience. Like journals, interviews and autobiographies are also examples of firsthand accounts. Take this example:

'When I walked into the zoo, the first thing I noticed was the smell. I looked to my left and realized it was coming from the flamingo exhibit. It smelled so bad, my stomach started turning so I went looking for my favorite animal: the komodo dragon. The exhibit was closed so I explored the rest of the zoo and saw pandas, lions, otters, and several different kinds of monkeys.'

In this firsthand account, the author gives you facts about the zoo by telling you what kind of animals are housed there. However, you're also given the author's opinions and experience. This mix of facts and opinions and the use of the word 'I' indicate that this is a first-person account.

Secondhand Account

Now, in secondhand accounts, or second-person accounts, authors are not a part of the action. They will use words like 'you,' 'he,' 'she,' and 'they.' Because the writer was not a part of the experience, you are less likely to find the author's feelings and opinions expressed in the text. Like newspaper articles, textbooks and encyclopedias are sources for secondhand accounts. Take this example:

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