Recent Searches

Loading Search Results...
Loading Directory Results...



Recent Pages

Recent Searches

EIU Teaching with Primary Sources

Teaching Illinois with Primary Sources 

Illinois Header  

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 Illinois 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 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?
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 Illinois...


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. The Library holds numerous photographs pertaining to Illinois, from small towns and wooded landscapes to Lake Shore Drive and factories and manufacturing.

Reading photographs engages students in the processes of historical inquiry.  Students learn to move from a broad, general overview to more precise aspects and then return to the general with new perspectives or understanding. 

Analysis Sheets: The More you Look Photo Analysis Sheet  Storyboards Analysis Sheets   Put Yourself in the Picture Analysis Sheet


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 context.

Connecting to our topic of Illinois....

Reading maps is a wonderful way to present information to students in a different format.  Students will look at two components: the physical qualities of the map and information that will help us understand what this map is trying to tell us and why someone felt that this information needs to be shared.  Many maps are available at the Library of Congress relative to Illinois. Civil War maps illustrate battlefields and strategies, railroad maps show the growth of the railroad in Illinois and state maps show the growth and population of Illinois.

Analysis Sheets: Map Analysis Sheet

Motion Pictures

Why teach with motion pictures?
Like photographs, motion pictures 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 motion pictures to present historical events, people and places in a personal way that students can connect with. The idea that motion pictures never lie has a long history. Many people will argue that motion pictures can indeed lie--they can be doctored, staged, creatively edited, selectively shortened or pieced together or faked in many ways.

Connecting to our topic of Illinois...
Motion pictures not only record events of our past, but the passage of time itself. They don't simply represent characters and actions; they bring the actual people and events to the present. In addition to those major events, motion pictures offer a look at the way daily life unfolded for people: how they worked, played within their families and communities.

Analysis Sheets: Motion Picture 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 Illinois...
These posters were used to promote health, safety, recreation and entertainment in Illinois. When you initially view a poster, your eyes typically go to the image.  Do these images accurately convey the intended message of the poster? Text offers details to support the cause of the creator of the poster. Some posters have few words while others provide detailed statistics or explanations. 

Analysis Sheets: Poster Analysis Sheet 


Why teach with documents?
Diaries, journals, telegrams and other written documents provide students with evidence of daily life during other time periods. Primary sources 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, flyer's 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 Illinois...

Treaties, speeches and case testimonies are just a few of the document related to Illinois in the Library of Congress. Students can discover treaties written by President George Washington discussing agreements with the Native Americans when Illinois was just a territory. In the Haymarket Anarchist trial students can read the testimony from witnesses at the trial and come to their own conclusions of guilt or innocence.

Analysis Sheets: Written Document Analysis  


Why teach with letters?
Stuffed in shoeboxes and drawers are countless letters that could provide insight into our nation's past. Some include eyewitness accounts of events or descriptions of person encounters with historical or popular figures. Many letters are intentionally or accidentally thrown away, lost or destroyed.

Few historical items are as familiar as personal letters. They are plain-spoken and full of details that come straight from the writer. They teach us that the people in the past shared many of the same worries, hopes and day to day experiences and show us how those experiences differ from ours today.

Compared to other written documents, letters are extremely personal and intimate communication. They provide a glimpse at the past from individual points of view, yet most letters resemble others from the same time and place.

Letters are written to a specific person typically with a specific purpose and have an honest, casual quality that contrasts with media reports and official documents.

Connecting to our topic of Illinois...
As settlers moved west to find a new home in Illinois the only way to stay connected to their family and friends were through letters. These letters tell the stories of the settlers and their hardships and victories, their heartache and happiness they found in their new home. Today as people move all over the country, letters are usually the last form of communication, but most every person can relate to leaving their home and making a new start in a different town, state or even county. We can feel the same emotions that the early settlers in Illinois felt by packing up and leaving the only home they had ever known.

Letters written both to and by President Lincoln offer unique perspectives into topics that were important to the whole country as well as those only of interest to individuals and families. There are even letters written between Washington and Coles County, Illinois regarding the care of Lincoln’s parents.  When reading a letter a student must view the letter in the proper context.  The date that the letter was written is important for students to fully understand the purpose of the letter.  Using the Letter Analysis sheet students not only read the words on the page, but consider the relationship between the author and recipient and the perspective of each.  In addition to reading the handwritten letter, when possible transcripts or oral reading should be provided to allow students to reflect on their interpretation. 

Analysis Sheets: Letter Analysis Sheet


Why teach with cartoons?
Editorials 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 Illinois...
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 Sheet













Related Pages

Take the next step

apply now
schedule a visit