Develop students’ critical thinking skills by teaching them to compare and contrast primary and secondary sources in ways that allow them discover the past, investigate the present, and create the future.

by Terry Kaldhusdal

Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12


In my classroom, students examine primary sources and construct their own knowledge, rather than simply absorb it from me or from secondary sources.

This develops in students, a facility for critical thinking and the ability to apply what they’ve learned to the present as well as have greater agency to control their futures.

And working with primary sources leads to discovery, the cornerstone of knowledge creation and original thinking.

Using primary sources enables students to:

-Raise more questions than find answers,

-Use history to explain the present and prepare for the future, and

-Engage directly with complex text while discovering turning points, cause and effect, change and continuity, historical context, and perspective.

When you give students the primary sources and control over their own learning trajectories, it goes much deeper and sticks. That’s what education should be about in any discipline.

About Terry Kaldhusdal

Terry Kaldhusdal teaches across the curriculum at Kettle Moraine Middle School in Southeastern Wisconsin. He is currently part of a team of teacher...

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