Analyzing primary sources: Who gets a voice and why does it matter?

How do you teach students about primary sources? Do you show photos? Talk about journals or government reports? Do you discuss how primary sources are different from secondary sources? Mention that newspapers, books, and magazines are secondary, but the writers of these often use primary sources?

Today’s featured eSource file focuses on analyzing primary and secondary sources. It’s a classroom assignment to help you teach our intriguing new TFCB title Bombs over Bikini: The World’s First Nuclear Disaster. The book tells about the U.S. military program that detonated bombs in the Marshall Islands in the 1940s and 1950s.


Such a book, and the sources author Connie Goldsmith used to research it, are an excellent start for a CCSS lesson on analyzing point of view. In this free downloadable classroom assignment, you’ll find links to formerly classified government documents about the program, a press release about the event, and images documenting the bombing and its aftermath.

Students can use these primary and secondary source materials to identify the writer or producer and the intended audience, and then analyze the tone of each source. And then your class can discuss a few key critical thinking questions, such as: Why does it matter who produced a document or photograph? Why is it important to pay attention to such things? Who gets a voice and who doesn’t?

Each season, our editorial staff puts our heads together to come up with great extras to help you get more out of our new series and titles. To download free resources for a book or series, find it on our website. If you haven’t registered with us, please do so at the upper right corner of the page. On future visits, you’ll need to sign in to download files. Then look in the right-hand column of the page for the eSource logo. Just under the Font Lens, you’ll see the downloadable eSource files. Click on an individual file or on “download all.”