"Spend less time searching for resources and more time designing lessons that stimulate critical thinking."
To many students history is, quite simply, not about the process of interpretation, but about facts, information, and absolute knowledge. The content presented in textbooks and lectures can be seen as linear fact pattern, the knowledge of which is regularly measured by standardized tests.
An effective way to engage students in a more meaningful, active, and disciplined construction of knowledge can be achieved by embedding primary and secondary documents into your American History course. Student exposure to primary and secondary source documents can create opportunities for understanding how historical knowledge is constructed from evidence, and in some cases learning to deal with complex narratives and conflicting evidence. Unfortunately, many social studies professionals struggle to find the time to locate useful documents and struggle to find ways to teach students to analyze them critically.
This collection of nearly 300 primary and secondary source documents represent tools to enhance coverage of the curriculum. The database allows teachers to spend less time searching for resources and more time designing lessons that stimulate critical thinking. In the process of thinking critically about the documents in this reader, students can develop a deeper understanding of the content—the larger events, themes, and issues of history—in meaningful ways.
This collection of primary and secondary source documents is built on the three key elements to help students develop a deeper understanding of the content:
#1 The documents are organized chronologically and easily examined thematically -
Teachers looking to utilize this resource for document based activities, analysis or assessment can easily edit and shape the documents to meet their immediate needs. The documents cover the first 5 time periods in the AP United States History curriculum (1491-1877). Used as a single master file, teachers can enhance their coverage of the curriculum by layering the 7 course themes into their exercises or activities.
For example you could explore an thematic thread through documents related interactions with Native Americans by examining the following documents in the collection:
Document 2 Christopher Columbus upon reaching the West Indies, 1492
Document 4 Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, 2011
Document 9 Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda Belittles the Indians, 1547
Document 10 Bartolome de Las Casas, In Defense of the Indian, c. 1550
Document 15 Impact of European exploration on Native Americans
Document 36 Père Marquette and the Indians, circa 1674 Wilhelm Lamprech, 1869
Document 43 The Landing of William Penn in 1682
Document 118 Indian Removal Act of 1830
Document 119 Edward Everett Speaks Out Against the Removal Policy, 1830
Document 122 The Trail of Tears, by Robert Lindneux, 1942
#2 Use documents to add value to existing resources -
This database of documents can be used to enhance content knowledge and add value to the textbook and other resources by exemplifying, extending, or even contradicting key facts in the textbook.
#3 Invite critical thinking, not just recitation of facts -
This database of documents can be used to design lessons that stimulate critical thinking by asking students questions that do not simply require them to find particular pieces of information, or come up with a single right answer.
Additional Resources available in the APUSH "Prepare and Perform" Toolbox
APUSH Course Outline [1491-2012]
Student Notes Bundle [1491-1877]
SAQ and LEQ Essay Bundle[1491-1877]