Last updated on: 2/27/2015 | Author:

Primary Source Analysis – Lesson Plan Idea


Primary Source Analysis – Overview


Use one of the primary sources available at to help students practice their analysis of higher level primary sources.

Grades: 8-12

The Activity


Pass out copies of the SOAPPS-TONE Primary Source Analysis worksheet and go through each part of the acronym with students, using a primary source they have already studied as an example. Reinforce the acronym using a Q&A. For example: “Jimmy, If I were looking at a document and its date was September 11th, 2001, what would I write in ‘Occasion?'” or “Alice, if I had written that the audience for the document was ‘clergy,’ what kind of source might I be looking at?” When you feel students are ready to work individually, provide them with at least 2-3 sources and SOAPS-TONE sheets to fill in on their own. End the class by having students share their work and correct their papers.

——————————– site(s): Prescription Drugs (ads), Immigration Timeline (historical images), Ronald Reagan, or any site with an historical timeline. Also, background of: College Education, School Uniforms, Prescription Drug Ads, Gold Standard, or Cuba Embargo

Subjects: History, Social Studies, Civics, American Government

Common Core Anchor Standards: CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.6, CCRA.R.7, CCRA. R.10, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.W.10

Common Core Content Standards: RI.1, RI.2, RI.6, W.1, RH.1, RH.2, RH.4


Make the lesson easier

  • Take out subject, purpose, perspective, and/or tone to make the analysis more straightforward.
  • Hang the primary sources around the room so kinesthetic learners can work standing up and all students can focus on only one source at a time.
  • Fill in one or two sections on each sheet to get the students started.

Make the lesson harder

  • For longer projects or classes, consider using a longer document such as A Nation at Risk or the Engel v. Vitale Supreme Court Opinion.
  • Have students go through their analysis of the source and use it to write one paragraph about each source that explains why the source is important and how we know.
  • Reduce the time available to the students for analysis to help build speed for longer document-based essay writing.
Related Links


  1. Lesson Plan Ideas with Common Core Correlations
  2. Teachers’ Corner