Primary Source Lesson Plans

Primary Source Lesson Plans

The Lehigh County Historical Society and Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum received a grant through the Library of Congress’s Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) Program.  Primary sources are the basic building blocks of history—original sources created at the time of a historical event.  The lesson plans listed were created by teachers who participated in our “Teaching with Primary Sources” workshops. We defer to your best professional judgement to decide for yourself about their utility and appropriateness for your students. You can learn more about the Library’s TPS program and other resources available to teachers at

The grant from the Library enabled the Lehigh County Historical Society to offer teacher continuing education workshops helping teachers learn to use primary sources to meet Common Core and State Academic Standards while teaching various subjects across the curriculum.  Participating teachers were invited to develop and submit lesson plans incorporating primary sources.  The Lehigh County Historical Society would like to thank all the educators/teachers, with a special thanks to those who submitted these lesson plans for further review. 

We also invite all those who use these lesson plans to provide feedback.  How did this lesson plan work in your classroom?  Do you have suggestions?  Have you created an effective lesson plan using primary sources?  If you have comments, suggestions, or would like to submit a primary-source-based lesson plan for possible inclusion on this site, please email

We are offering these materials to teachers as resources for you to decide for yourself about their utility and appropriateness for your students.  We cannot guarantee that any particular lesson will be appropriate and work well for your class, nor can we guarantee that all information provided in external links is accurate and up-to-date.  You must be the judge of that. 

The lesson plans are listed below along with brief descriptions.  Please note that when the lesson plans refer to “showing,” “displaying,” or “projecting” a primary source, this should be done by projecting the source directly from the website in order to adhere to any possible copyright restrictions.  Remember that, ultimately, rights assessment is your responsibility.  We cannot make that determination for you.

Each lesson plan may be downloaded as a ZIP file by clicking on the Lesson Topic. These are simply starting points. You must decide for yourself about each lesson’s utility and appropriateness for your students. 

Lesson TopicTarget GradeLesson Summary
Civil War Letters2-5Students read & discuss a letter written by a Civil War soldier, then compose an original letter written from the perspective of a Civil War soldier.
Political Posters3Students analyze historical presidential campaign posters, then create their own persuasive campaign poster.
William Penn:
(2 lesson unit)
4These lessons use primary sources to explore William Penn, his beliefs, and how they shaped early Pennsylvania.
Harrisburg4Student teams view and analyze historical photographs of our state capital, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, then create their own Google Docs slide show presentation.
Dust Bowl5Students analyze an oral history, photographs, and songs related to the Dust Bowl Era.
Civil War Drummer Boys7-8Students analyze primary sources such as photographs and maps to help illuminate the reading of a literature source about Civil War Drummer boys.
Second Great Awakening8Students analyze a newspaper article and lithograph about the Great Awakening.  They then examine two political cartoons about temperance, a social reform movement that grew out of the Great Awakening.  Finally, students create a persuasive political cartoon about another social reform movement referencing the Great Awakening.
Introduction to Poe10Students analyze primary sources to learn about Edgar Allen Poe’s life and influence.
American & British Relations9-12
Student teams explore the online exhibit John Bull Uncle Sam Four Centuries of British-American Relations at  Teams summarize main ideas and important details from their assigned subsection of the exhibit, using exhibit materials to create a short PowerPoint.