TPS Fest Session Summary – Going Beyond Think-Pair-Share and Document Analysis: Unique Activities for Teaching with Primary Sources

Contributed by Blake Spitz

“Going Beyond Think-Pair-Share and Document Analysis: Unique Activities for Teaching with Primary Sources” was a session on July 19, 2023 at TPS Fest 2023, an unconference organized by a collaborative team from the TPS Collective. The session was facilitated by Anu Kasarabada, had technical and Zoom chat monitoring assistance from Erin Rhodes, and included short presentations from Sarah Andrus, Megan Atkinson, Miranda Rectenwald, and Blake Spitz. Its purpose was to encourage dialogue and sharing about teaching with primary sources beyond traditional techniques, such as document analysis worksheets. 

Presentations focused on successful activities implemented in archives classes that engaged students, were unique, and had learning objectives outside of the standard show-and-tell or analysis of a single document. Blake Spitz shared an activity focused on annotating an accessible secondary source with information gained from analysis of primary sources, with an example of a lesson she runs with materials from the W. E. B. Du Bois Papers. Sarah Andrus explained her lesson using 1930s mail order catalogs, which asked students to build and finance a life from the catalogs given a set profession and budget. Miranda Rectenwald presented her activity to guide students through primary source analysis related to conflicting views on difficult topics using prepared case topic packets and slowly revealed information. Megan Atkinson presented three activity concepts:  the big paper assignment for group brainstorming on a common question, a photograph assignment about recreating historical photographs, and an accession and value worksheet focused on learning outcomes related to archival accessioning and value assessment. Notes on this session are available via the TPS Fest 2023 Shared Notes Document, and a recording of these presentations is available on the TPS Collective YouTube channel.

The session continued with a robust period of audience participation and discussion, mostly fueled and documented through an open and collaborative digital community space on a prepared Padlet. In addition to posts covering the four presentations, fifteen additional lesson plans and ideas for activities were shared by session attendees, with a wonderful diversity of learning outcomes, styles, and primary sources referenced. We encourage anyone interested in teaching with primary sources ideas to check out the shared activities! They are available to view (but no longer open for additions) on Padlet for an unknown time ( and permanently available via a Padlet generated PDF.