Students absorb the bulk of their historical knowledge from secondary sources — most notably textbooks. But primary sources — diaries, letters, artwork, memoirs — created by those who participated in or witnessed events of the past tell us something that even the best written books cannot convey. The use of primary sources exposes students to important historical concepts. First, students become aware that written history reflects an author’s interpretation of events. Therefore, as students read a historical account, they begin to recognize its subjective nature. Second, through primary sources students are able to directly touch the lives of people in the past. As they use primary sources, they develop important analytical skills.

Too many students see the past as a dry collection of dates and facts. The use of primary sources can change this view, and help them begin to see that texts present only one historical interpretation.

Although this curriculum is designed to have a home in the social studies department, it is truly an integrated unit, developing process and content competencies across many disciplines. The unit draws on the specific national standards promulgated in history and the arts.

Although there are still many divisive issues in the field, there is clear emphasis on developing higher order thinking skills across content areas. Constructing knowledge will take precedence over specific content outcomes in this curriculum.

Bloom’s Taxonomy defines skills as:

The ability to do something proficiently in repeated performances. They are processes that enable students to link knowledge with beliefs that lead to action.

The three categories of skill defined within the taxonomy are:

  • Skills related to acquiring information;

  • Skills related to organizing and using information; and

  • Skills related to interpersonal and social participation.


The Curriculum Guide
  Constructing History
  Educational Standards
  The Curriculum Activity
  Beginning the Unit
  Exercise One
  Exercise Two
  Exercise Three

  History Standards
Arts Standards





Students can explore the primary sources associated with the Tirocchi collection, using the curators' databases to learn about the objects collected from the shop, people involved in the business, and many other aspects of the research.