Audio Review # 78 | Docs Teach will learn ya’ how to use primary sources in the classroom


Docs Teach is a website effort by the National Archives that promotes the use of primary source documents in middle- and high school history classrooms. The site is divided into activities and the documents themselves. The activities page is loaded with primary-source based activities that develop historical thinking skills. Intelligently, the National Archives has made these activities ready-to-use. the documents page groups primary source documents by era for easier access.


Though the activities portion can be modified with other documents so as to fit any history subject, the focus of the documents is on United States history. This focus limits the utility of the site for Modern World History, AP European History, and Big History teachers, to name some of the courses that are largely left out. That being said, the activities portion does offer methodologies in teaching historical thinking that can serve as a starting point for these teachers.

Also, the size of the site is daunting. Even with the curation of resources, Docs Teach can feel overwhelming to a teacher looking for a simply, straightforward lesson, say, on colonial America.

Sample Uses

US History and AP US History teachers can dove right in, bring primary source documetns into their instruction.

Do I plan to use it?

I have used Docs Teach, but only when teaching US History or AP US History. I am using other resources for my Modern World History class this year.

Commitment and Learning Curve

Time is needed to sift through the activities and resources. Further, teachers need to thoroughly train themselves on historical thinking instruction. Time is the challenge here, and commitment to effective pedagogy. Docs Teach is not a fast food. It is a fine feast that requires eating slowly.

Best for ES MS or HS?

MS & HS teachers and student researchers



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About miles.mei

Technology Multimedia Specialist

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