Monday, June 13, 2011

Primary Sources Teaching Kit World War II by Sean Price

I found this thin book while looking for something else in the library and pulled it from the shelf to look at it. It turned out to be a unique type of activity book for teaching grades 4-8 about the Second World War.

The book relies on primary source documents for relating to the war.  The book suggests that a teacher using this workbook begin by teaching students the difference between a primary and a secondary source document. The benefits of using primary sources for students is that as they learn how to interpret what they are looking at they become active historians rather than simply passive receivers of information (and usually someone else’s interpretation of history.)

The first part of the book contains teaching note on the various areas to be looked at, including teaching suggestions. This is followed by a reproducible page (see example below) that the students can use for evaluating each document they use.

The rest of the book contains the also reproducible primary source documents (see example below), beginning with pages from Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, his plan for Germany written before he seized power.  Using Hitler's book is something I have never seen before in other workbooks, but I think it is important to understand an enemy and how he thinks.  Other topics covered are the Hitler Youth, movies and songs of the time, Auschwitz, and Roosevelt’s Day of Infamy speech, including his handwritten changes and corrections.

This workbook also includes a timeline, a glossary and two reproducible world maps and a wonderful K-W-L chart for students use.

The real value of this book lies in the teacher’s ability to go beyond what is covered and include topics of their choice, while still using the basic ideas and document evaluation page. This also means that the teacher can use it with older students who are ready for more complex topics of the war.

I really liked this book when I found it. I think most students enjoy history much more when they are actively engaged with it. I know my own imagination really took off when I saw this useful workbook.

Primary Sources Teaching Kit World War II was published by Scholastic in 2004 and may not be easy to purchase, but can certainly be gotten through a school’s or public library’s InterLibraryLoan program.

This book is recommended for readers age 10-14
This book was borrowed from the Mid-Manhattan branch of the NYPL

Non-fiction Monday is hosted this week by Books Together


  1. What a great way to introduce the idea of primary sources and teach history, too. I will be looking for this one. Thanks

  2. I'm glad you like the idea behind this book. I thought great too.

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