Primary Source Lesson Plan for Elementary School

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Teach your students how to read and utilize primary sources with this lesson plan. Students will read a text lesson that explains what primary sources are, explore types and explain their uses in through hands-on work.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • define 'primary source'
  • share and identify primary sources
  • explain the use of primary sources


  • 1 hour for the lesson
  • about a week for the activity


  • Copies of the lesson Primary Sources: Lesson for Kids, one for each student
  • Boxes
  • Collection of primary source materials for each category (diaries/journal/letters, images, documents, recordings, autobiographies, objects) placed in a box; one box for each small group

Key Vocabulary

  • Primary source
  • Historian
  • Autobiography

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.7

Draw on information from multiple print or digital sources, demonstrating the ability to locate an answer to a question quickly or to solve a problem efficiently.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.3

Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.4

Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 5 topic or subject area.


  • To create your primary source box, collect primary sources as follows:
    • Diaries/journal/letters, images, documents, autobiographies; download and print from internet, or use books and magazines
    • Recordings - if possible, stock boxes with digital recordings; consider playing one for the whole class during this section as an option
    • Objects - use objects from around home or the classroom, such as a scarf, pencil, etc.
  • Place all items in boxes.


  • Divide students into small groups and give each a primary source box, telling them not to open it yet.
  • Have students think of a story they know about their family, such as an ancestor who came from Ireland or a parent who won an important award.
  • Tell students to briefly share their story with their group, then ask:
    • How do you know this event happened?
    • What things prove this story is true?
  • Ask students to consider how we know events in the past really happened, then discuss as a class.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account