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EIU Teaching with Primary Sources

Teaching Coles County with Primary Sources 

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Introduction | Primary Sources and Analysis Tools |
Library of Congress Resources | Primary Source Set

Choose a link below to access printable PDF versions of these materials including additional information, color images and citations.
Teaching Coles County with Primary Sources Resource Booklet 
Primary Source Set


Primary Sources and Analysis Tools

This page contains information about incorporating primary sources into learning activities and links to primary source analysis tools. Examples of primary sources relative to our topic are included in the printable version of the resource booklet and primary source set above. You are also encouraged to visit the Library of Congress Resources page above to locate collections, exhibits and more sources of digitized primary sources. Of course, you should always go to and conduct your own search for primary sources that you can use in your classroom! If you need assistance feel free to contact the EIUTPS staff or use the Library of Congress "Ask A Librarian" links.


Why teach with photographs?
There is much more to a photo than the subject in the center.  People, places, things and conditions in a photograph may offer a more complete view than what we see in the expression of the subject. 

Photographs are powerful tools that can activate a student’s background knowledge on a particular person, place or event and spark an interest to learn more.  Teachers may effectively use photographs to present historical events, people and places in a personal way that students can connect with.  The idea that photographs never lie has a long history, with many debates resting on photographic evidence. Some argue that photographs can indeed lie -- they can be doctored, staged, or faked in many ways.

Connecting to our topic of Coles County... 
Each image tells a different story or may invoke a different emotion. Using a photo analysis sheet, students can take a closer look at these images and form opinions about the “big picture” of Coles County. 

Students may discover details that were missed at first glance.  Backgrounds, people, environment and more that we see in these pictures help to share a graphic story about Coles County.

Analysis Sheets: ABC Photo Study Analysis   The More you Look Photo Analysis 
Put Yourself in the Picture Analysis


Why teach with maps? 
Maps serve as representations of geographic, political or cultural features on flat surfaces. Maps are visual records of knowledge valued by people in an area and they point to belief systems as well as boundaries. Teachers may effectively use maps to illustrate concepts that may otherwise be difficult for students to understand, such as settlement patterns, trade routes, economic growth and development. 

Maps can be an important source of information for investigation. A map is a visual recollection of where people lived, roads and rivers passed, and natural geographic features once stood.   A map represents a place that has been reduced in size, and chosen to focus on a particular theme. The results are then presented with symbols.   The map reader, who may live in a different location and time, must decode the symbols and techniques used to understand the map.

To read a map, students should have a foundation of information to place it within the correct geographical, chronological, and cultural contexts.   

Connecting to our topic of Coles County...
When we typically think of a map we expect outlines of states, a legend, maybe even battlefields. When we look at maps relative to the topic of Coles County, we gain more insight into the area in which this county is located.

Analysis Sheets: Map Analysis


Why teach with documents?
Diaries, journals, letters, telegrams, and other written documents provide students with evidence of daily life during other time periods. Primary source documents include letters, journals, records or diaries that may be handwritten or typed, published or private.

Documents can provide personal information about major historical events or individuals, as well as day to day life while allowing students to analyze fact versus opinion or find evidence or data not located in textbooks. 

These items record people’s every day lives; event and travel ticket stubs, brochures, programs, flyers and posters. These documents are printed objects intended for one time use.  They tell us a great deal about the personality of a group at a particular point in time.

Connecting to our topic of Coles County...
As with anything we read, we use our foundation of knowledge and decoding skills to comprehend new concepts.  By putting the pieces together we are able to understand more than the words visible on a document.  Using the Document Analysis sheet students will consider the physical characteristics of a document and what they reveal about the author.  Students study the document to gain an understanding of the use of terminology, words that are crossed out or added and specific phrases or terms used. 

Analysis Sheets: Written Document Analysis    Letter Analysis

Posters and Broadsides

Why teach with Posters or Broadsides?
Propaganda is a tool used as a weapon freely during war.  Famous images and slogans that originated on posters of past wars are still recognized today.  Some of the same techniques that were used to invoke emotion are used today in advertisements, something students will be able to understand.  Posters attract our attention and often immediately appeal to some type of emotional reaction. 

When we look at posters as historical documents, we must consider what the poster implies.  In less than a single sentence, and on occasion with no words at all, posters are highly selective in the way that they depict the world. The way that a group, race, class or gender is portrayed in a poster can be very biased or skewed to fit the needs of the creator or to raise the desired reaction from viewers. 

Connecting to our topic of Coles County...
When reading a poster, decoding and the use of context clues can be helpful.  Students must understand that although their first impression is important, they must continue to investigate the attributes of the poster to fully appreciate how the artist developed the entire finished product.  Using the Poster Analysis sheet on the next page, students can deconstruct the poster to consider symbolism and messages.   As a final step, student will consider all of these features to try to understand the possible motivation and goal of the creator and possible reactions of various groups that view the poster.

Analysis Sheets: Poster Analysis


Why teach with cartoons?
Editorial or political cartoons divulge opinions on issues, events and people in the public eye.  They are present in major, local and regional papers and appeal to most readers. The people who create editorial cartoons possess an awareness of society and cultural events as well as art skills such as the use of symbolism, satire, and the use of caricatures.

Editorial cartoons can be used to teach students to identify current issues or themes, analyze symbols, identify stereotypes and caricatures, think critically, recognize the use of irony and humor and understand the need for a broad knowledge base.   Cartoons are terrific tools for developing higher-level thinking skills. Students can discuss, analyze and create original works that reflect their perceptions of current events and issues.

Editorial cartoons used to be utilized in language arts and social studies, but today, teachers of all subject areas can use cartoons with a wide range of topics.  

Connecting to our topic of Coles County...
Cartoons offer a variety of ways to reach learners.  The use of language and writing skills, drawing techniques and social situations offer multiple opportunities to reach students from different backgrounds and interests.  Using the Cartoon Analysis sheet students will search for the use of each of these tools in editorial cartoons from the past and today.  They will then form opinions about the purpose of the cartoon, the message the artist was trying to send and possible responses by readers.

Analysis Sheets:  Cartoon Analysis



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