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Memorable End of Year Activities for Middle & High School Students

As the end of the school year approaches, it's a whirlwind of emotions for both students and teachers. We're all eagerly anticipating the upcoming summer break, counting down the days until we can kick back and relax. Amidst the excitement, there's a tinge of bittersweetness, especially for teachers. 

Use these end of year ideas to end your school year on a memorable note for both you and your students as you get ready to dive into summer.

As you glance around the classroom during these last few weeks, you'll likely feel a surge of pride seeing your students working, chatting with their friends, or sharing a moment of laughter together as a class. It's incredible to witness how much they've grown since the beginning of the year. I know sometimes it can feel like we are spinning wheels when we are in the thick of it, but these moments make me realize just how far they've come. 

Nine months may seem like a short time, but within the school year, so much can happen. That's why it's essential to pause and reflect on all the achievements, big and small, that our students have accomplished. Today, I'm sharing a few ways I celebrate the end of the year with my students to make these final days memorable! 

End of Year Celebrations Positively Impact Our Students

End of year activities to celebrate our students are so impactful! They're a fantastic way to acknowledge all the hard work and growth they have achieved throughout the year. We acknowledge these milestones throughout, but having a celebration at the end helps them see all they have accomplished. Each year, so many of my students start to remember important moments they had when we take time to look back. It's fun to see their eyes light up, and a smile start to break through on their faces when they realize how they have grown! 

Use your end of year ideas to positively impact your students and show give them an opportunity to reminisce on the incredible year they've had.
 In a way, these celebrations create a sense of closure and excitement as we wrap up the year together. It's a chance to look back on all the fun memories we've made and the challenges we've overcome as a class. By marking the end of the year with special activities, we're reinforcing a positive and supportive classroom environment. 

Not to mention, these festivities help build lasting connections between us and our students and between students themselves. It becomes a time to show appreciation for each other. On top of it all, we are continuing to strengthen our sense of community before heading off for summer break. This is even more beneficial if we are in a grade level that leads into a transition time, like 8th grade into high school and high school into college. 

End of Year Ideas with Your Students

I have some end of year ideas to help you wrap up your school year with your students! These activities have brought great joy, some laughter, and a bit of reflection to my students each year I have done them. Here are a few ideas to make the last days with your students extra special! 

Yearbook Signing

There is nothing more end of the year than signing yearbooks. If you do not do a school-wide signing, then making time for this activity in your classroom is a must. 

One of my favorite end of year ideas is to have dedicated time for and end of year yearbook signing.
Even if they act like they're too cool, they love the chance to reminisce with one another. A picture might strike up a funny story that everyone pauses to listen to. A project that was forgotten about may remind them how much they've learned. 

Once they have had time to flip through and tell all the iconic stories, I give them time to sign each other's yearbooks. I have markers on hand for them to use as they sign and write messages. My rule is that they sign everyone with a positive message. Everyone may not be best friends, but they can still support each other and wish them a fun summer! 

If you happen to be at a school that doesn't pass out yearbooks until the start of the new school year, you can still experience the same type of reminiscing. Making a slideshow of pictures that highlight your class or the school year is a great alternate activity. They still get to tell the stories and remember moments from the year.

Get Outdoors

As we inch closer to the last day of school, my students are practically bouncing off the walls. Who can blame them, though? The weather's warm, the sun's shining, and even I can't resist the urge to get outside and soak it all in. So, I make sure to plan a special day where we can ditch the classroom and head outdoors for some fun and games. 

Include an outdoors sports day in your end of year ideas to give your students an opportunity to enjoy the wonderful weather and get in some teamwork fun at the end of the year.
My students have their favorites, like kickball, capture the flag, and frisbee, so those are always on the agenda. I don't stand on the sidelines the whole time. I jump right into the action with them! We run, we laugh, and we make memories. 

If you can do an outdoor event that is longer than one class period or with the entire grade level, consider a faculty vs. students kickball game. It's a riot! The kids love it, and whenever they come back to visit us, it's one of the first things they mention. It's a chance for all of us to let loose, be a little silly, and bond over some friendly competition. 

Minute-to-Win-It Challenges

Minute-to-Win-It games get everyone out of their seats and participating! I love them for that reason but also for their simplicity. We can have a lot of fun together in just a few minutes using these short but interactive games!

Minute-to-win-it challenges are a great addition to your end of year ideas and let your students have some extra fun before leaving for the summer.
Games include stacking cups at lightning speed and trying not to crack up while fellow classmates try to nudge a cookie down their faces into their mouths without using their hands, or a blindfolded jockey challenge. 

We definitely laugh as classmates try to shake out ping-pong balls from empty Kleenex boxes tied around their waists! These games are quick and wacky and guaranteed to have the whole class bonding and laughing. 

End of Year Gratitude Graffiti Wall

This one is one of my favorite end of the year activities we do. I usually hang a large piece of bulletin board paper up on a wall in my room. I'll eventually place it in the hallway if there is a good spot! On this graffiti wall, my kiddos have a chance to write out messages showing gratitude towards a teacher, classmate, or situation during the year. 

Let your students show off their appreciation with this end of the year gratitude graffiti project.
We start by brainstorming together to get the ideas going. Once we have thought of a handful, I give them some time on their own to think of other people and events they'd like to show gratitude to. Then, they are free to go up to the wall to write or draw their messages of gratitude. 

I love how this activity encourages my students to take the time to reflect on who was a light in their lives. They see how even the smallest action or statement can help turn a situation around. During a time of year when emotions are running thin, this helps to spread positivity. It's beautiful to witness how grateful so many are for what has happened throughout the year! 

End of Year Reflection Doodle Page

A must-do end of year activity I do with my classes each year is an End of Year Reflection Doodle Page. The page I give them is full of fun shapes that are filled with prompts to answer about the school year that is ending. 

My students write out the school year and their grades. Then, they write down the most memorable quote or saying. These always crack me up, and I find myself nodding in agreement! They have a chance to write down the one thing they will always remember from the year. There is space to record all of their accomplishments from the year, from athletic to extracurricular. 

An end of year reflection doodle page like this gives your kiddos the opportunity to reflect on the amazing year they've had.
One of my personal favorite groups of prompts is called This Year's Favorites. This gives them space to write down their favorite song, movie, series, book, class, and phone app. I always tell my students to keep this page, and when they randomly find it while cleaning their room in 5 years, they're going to be amazed at what their interests used to be. 

I encourage my students to be proud of themselves for what they do, so I made sure to include a space for them to write down what they are most proud of from the year. Then, they have a space to write down three things they learned. I don't limit them to just academics, so if they want to include more of a life lesson they learned, then that's fine with me! 

They then have the chance to illustrate something that represents the school year. For some, it might be a pile of books and paper for too much homework! While others might draw something sports-related or an emoji. With time left over, I encourage them to go ahead and color in any of the shapes on the paper and add their own doodles!

The completed page is a great addition to their yearbook.  It allows them to have a space for some personal memories as well as school-wide ones. Students can glue this page inside the front or back cover, or they can tape it along the spine of the yearbook as an additional page.

Time to Celebrate the End of the Year With Your Students

End of the year ideas and activities will give you an opportunity to celebrate your students and all the hard work they've put into their learning this year.
As the school year winds down and summer break calls out to us, it's essential to take a moment to celebrate all the hard work and achievements of our students. From outdoor adventures to creative activities, there are countless ways to make the end of the year memorable and meaningful. 

Whether it's laughing together during the Minute-to-Win-It challenges or recalling personal accomplishments, these moments together strengthen connections between teachers and students. So, make sure to seize the opportunity to create a few more memories with our students before we send them into summer!  

Save for Later

Remember to save this post to your favorite teacher Pinterest board to help you save time when you plan your students' end of year celebrations and activities! 

Looking for fun end of the year ideas to incorporate into those last few weeks of school? Use these amazing end of year ideas to give your students the opportunity to have fun, build on friendships, and reflect on an amazing year! #historygal #endofyearideas #endofyearideasforhighschool #endofyearideasformiddleschool #EOYideas

The Power of Primary Source Letters in History Class

As educators, we're always on the lookout for innovative ways to breathe life into history lessons. If you're like me, you understand the thrill of transporting students back in time to allow them to experience the past firsthand. However, sometimes our students perceive people from the past as distant or unrelatable. They easily dismiss their relevance because, before they know them, they are just random people who lived in times so different from our own. That's where primary source letters come into play! Today, we're exploring the captivating world of primary source letters and how they can transform your history lessons to engage your students! These letters bridge the gap between the past and the present. While doing so, they reveal how people from history are actually quite similar to us.

Use primary source letters in your history class to engage and inspire your students as they learn about important people, places, and facts from history.

Discovering Primary Source Letters

Let's kick things off by diving deeper into the wealth of knowledge held by primary source letters. These letters are authentic documents penned by individuals from the past. They offer us a direct line to their thoughts, emotions, and experiences. 
Primary source letters like these are a treasure trove of information relating to people in history which will be immediately exciting for your students to read.

Primary source letters are not just pieces of paper meant to collect dust. They're time capsules brimming with the hopes, fears, and dreams of their authors. From soldiers scribbling their thoughts on the battlefield to pioneers chronicling their journeys westwards, these letters capture what was happening during their eras. Whether it's an immigrant writing to family back home or a politician penning their next speech, each document offers us a different perspective of the past. They weave a tapestry of human experiences that cross continents and centuries. 

In a world where history books often focus on the big names and major events, primary source letters offer our young historians a change of pace. These letters shine a light on the everyday people whose stories might go untold—the unsung heroes and heroines who shaped history in their own small, but significant ways. 

Unveiling the Power of Personal Perspective

What sets primary source letters apart from other resources is their ability to offer a personal perspective on historical events. We care deeply for our students, but let's be honest... Our middle schoolers and high schoolers can often be solely focused on themselves. When you begin your lesson on important people throughout history, you're often met with an eye roll or a sigh, right? I know I can't be the only one seeing this unfold during class! Primary source letters help them see different perspectives of individuals who may be more similar to them than they think! 

Give your students an extra in-depth perspective on history from a very personal point of view with primary source letters like these.
Unlike textbooks that often present history from a distant, impersonal standpoint, primary source letters invite our students to step into the shoes of those who lived through pivotal moments in history. Imagine a Civil War soldier's trembling hand as he writes a letter home describing the horrors of the battle or a suffragette's passionate words as she reflects on her fight for women's rights. These letters offer a front-row seat to history, which allows our students to have an authentic experience of the past through the eyes of those who shaped it. 

In a world where our students are constantly searching for connections and reliability, primary source letters provide a bridge between past and present. They learn about the heartache and fear of a mother struggling to feed her family during the Great Depression or a young teen's experience living during the Roaring Twenties. In a way, the letters show our students that these were humans experiencing similar struggles or emotions they could be facing in their own lives. 

Integrating Primary Source Letters in the Classroom

You might wonder how exactly we can incorporate primary source letters into our history classes. You're in luck because below I share a few ideas I use in my classroom!

1. Interactive Readings: Stepping into History's Shoes

Make primary source letters interactive by reading them out loud to your students.
Interactive readings allow students to engage with primary source letters in an immersive way. They foster empathy and understanding for the individuals from the past. When I do interactive readings, I do my best to put myself in the shoes of the writer so that I can read with the likely feelings and emotions behind the words. For example, I may read out loud a primary source letter from the Civil Rights Movement. While I read, I want to portray the fear felt by many, the excitement felt during a protest, and the concern for the future.  My students listen to the hopes and struggles of the author and can hopefully connect them to emotions they themselves have felt and experienced.

I read aloud primary source letters a lot at the beginning of the year because of how writing and vernacular have changed over the years. The tricky wording can stump my students and often cause mental roadblocks.  However, as the year goes on, students do more of the reading on their own, with a partner, or in small groups.  

2. Dramatic Role-Play

You may have to do some coaxing for your older students, but hear me out; once they start, they'll get over their being too cool for some fun! Role-play or reenactments breathe life into primary source letters by taking on the role of those in the letter. 

Get your students involved in reading the primary source letters with a dramatic role play reading.
I divide my class into partners or small groups depending on how many people are in the letter. I then give each group their letter. Working together, they fill out the analyzing page, and then they plan out how they'll retell the letter's story through acting. 

You can give your students the choice to bring in costumes, or props. You could even put on a small production in the school library for the staff or invite a group from a local elementary school to come to see the performances. 

This approach fosters creativity and collaboration and helps them place themselves in the shoes of those from the past. 

3. Historical Debates

Use primary source letters to spark debate about specific subjects your students are studying.
Primary source letters aren't just standalone documents. They're pieces of a larger puzzle. In historical debates, I have my students use primary source letters as evidence to support their arguments. This helps them explore different perspectives on key historical events. 

Whether they are debating the causes of World War I or the impact of the Great Depression, primary source letters provide exposure to the voices of the past who lived the events. This enriches our classroom discussions and definitely deepens my students' understanding of historical events. 

Navigating Primary Source Letters

Be warned that working with primary source letters will always present challenges. Deciphering archaic handwriting, unfamiliar language, and cultural contexts may seem alien to how we write and word things in modern times. However, with anything, the more exposure and practice, the easier it will become over time. 

To help guide my students through analyzing these letters, I always have my Analyzing Historical Letters Doodle Page on hand for them to fill out. This tool serves as our compass, helping my students navigate the complexities of primary source letters with ease. With this page in hand, my students can focus on the essential details of the letter without getting bogged down by fancy wording or extra information. 

Use worksheets like these to help your students navigate primary source letters and dive deep into the meaning written on the pages.
As my students begin, they zero in on the basics. They look at who wrote the letter, when it was written, and who was receiving it. Then, they scour the letter for context clues that reveal the time period or historical event that could have occurred at the time of the writing of the letter. Whether it's a passing mention of a famous figure or a reference to a significant event, these clues lead them to a particular moment in history. 

The page also provides a space for them to jot down an interesting quote. They can also record any unfamiliar words or confusing sentences. These help to guide our class discussions when we come back together. So, while working with primary source letters may pose its own set of challenges, it's also an opportunity for students to sharpen their analyzing skills. 

Finding Primary Source Letters

There's no shortage of resources for finding primary source letters. From digital archives, exploring museum collections, or even visiting local historical societies will help build your own collection. The time it takes to find these letters is so worthwhile for enriching your lessons that will help your students buy-in to history. Here are three of my go-to sources for finding primary source letters.

1. Digital Archives

Digital archives are a goldmine for primary source letters, offering a wealth of documents at the click of a button. Institutions like the Library of Congress and the National Archives boast extensive collections covering a wide range of historical periods and topics. 

2. Museum Collections
Use websites like the Smithsonian to find excellent sources of primary source letters to include in your history lessons.

Museums are truly the guardians of history. Many museums around the world digitize their collections. This makes primary source letters accessible to educators and students. Whether it's a local historical society or a renowned museum like the Smithsonian, museum collections offer an array of letters that will help build our students' knowledge.

3. Historical Societies

Don't overlook the invaluable resources offered by your local historical societies. Our historical societies often house letters that provide a window into our region's history. My students are always amazed by the historical events that took place in our area. I find those moments so impactful because they help them see how close history touches our lives. 

Enhance History Class with Primary Source Letters

Primary source letters like these will breathe life and excitement into your history classes.
Primary source letters offer powerful tools for immersing our students in history. By diving into the personal perspectives of individuals who lived through major moments in history, our students gain a deeper understanding of the past. While doing so, they also build their empathy, critical thinking skills, and a sense of connection to those who came before them. 

So, continue to explore, engage, and unearth the stories of the past. By doing so, we can empower our historians of tomorrow to make meaningful connections with history. 

Additional Resources

Looking for other resources for primary sources? Make sure to check out the resources below!

Save for Later

Remember to save this post to your favorite history Pinterest board for planning to use primary source letters. 

Looking for fun ways to keep your students engaged as your focus on specific concepts, time periods, people, or places in history this year? Consider adding primary source letters to your curriculum. They are a great way to help students build connections with people and events in history through the words of ordinary and extraordinary individuals. #thehistorygal #primarysourceletters #lettersinhistory #usingreallifelettersinhistoryclass #highschoolhistoryclassideas

Using Primary Source Photos in the Secondary History Classroom

Ever feel like you're putting on a circus act to grab your students' attention? I'm right there with you, especially in history class. It can be difficult to bring history to life in a way that makes it seem real and not just a "story" in a textbook. A total game-changer in my classroom has been using primary source photos. These photos are my secret to transporting my students back in time and making history memorable! They help to ignite curiosity and bring those history lessons to life, creating buy-in from my students. Today, I'm thrilled to share with you what primary source photos are, why they're beneficial, and where you can find some for your next class. 

Learn how to utilize primary source photos to make the most of your middle school history class.

What Are Primary Source Photos?

So, you may be wondering what the scoop is on primary sources. These sources are the real deal, or in the words of my middle schoolers, the OGs (originals) of historical evidence. They can be anything from diaries to letters or, what we are focusing on today, photographs. They're artifacts that give us a front-row seat to history's greatest and not-so-great hits. 
Primary source photos are actual photographs which show historical evidence of things that have happened in the past.

Unlike textbooks that sometimes make history sound like a snooze-fest, primary source photos are authentic artifacts from the time period being studied. They freeze moments in time, allowing us to peek into the lives of folks and events that came before us. 

But we don't just stop with looking at the photos.  Nope!  We become history detectives as I teach my students how to analyze this valuable primary source. We've even been known to pull out the magnifying glasses as we take a trip back in time. 

These photos give us firsthand glimpses of historical moments. They help us make human connections to people from hundreds of years ago. In a way, they are our own version of time travel. These photos act as portals to the past, but more importantly, they offer a unique perspective that words alone can't share. 

Primary source photos give our young historians an up-close and personal look at the real story. Secondhand accounts and artifacts are beneficial in their own way, but primary sources truly make learning history an authentic experience. The more authentic the experience, the easier it is to create buy-in for our students!

Benefits of Using Primary Source Photos

Now that we are familiar with primary source photos, let's explore the benefits of using them in our classes! 

1. Bringing History to Life

Ever had that moment when history seemed like a far-off place that was completely out of grasp? This is often how students view it. If your students are anything like mine, they're likely trudging into class with a mindset that class will be boring or wondering what's the point of having to know this stuff. This can be tough to grapple with as a teacher!

Primary source photos bring history to life for your students.
But don't worry, there's still hope! I saw a complete shift in the way my students would come to class once they realized how history plays a role in our lives today. The drama-filled moments in history also help a lending hand. Primary source photos help me to make history vivid, tangible, and relatable for our middle and high schoolers, making the subject more approachable and enjoyable. 

My students' eyes always light up when we have gallery walks where we walk around the classroom looking at primary source photos. I post pictures around my classroom, and they walk around to each one. They enjoy seeing how life has changed from that time in the photo to the present. The differences and sometimes similarities they take note of are amazing! They identify seeing the hustle and bustle but may note that it isn't as fast-paced as ours is today. They may relate to the expressions some of the people are showing in the photos and the reasons behind those emotions. Suddenly, history becomes something they can relate to and explain instead of being some unattainable topic. 

2. Embracing Authenticity 

Textbooks are like reading a script, but a photo is like a step back in time. Primary source photos provide impactful visuals related to the time being studied. This does wonders for our visual learners but also for the skeptics who question why we need to learn history. The photos may not have one of the many filters we have today, but this makes them more powerfully authentic. Instead of reading text, our kiddos are given exposure to the events they are reading about. They are standing on the front lines, witnessing the drama in history unfold. 

3. Fostering Critical Thinking and Analysis Skills

Primary source photos like these help foster critical thinking and analysis skills in your students which become life-long skills they can use forever.
Forget the days of passive learning. Primary source photos are the catalysts of active engagement and critical thinking. When it's time to pull out photos, I encourage my students to put on their detective hats and look closely at the details. What's in the background? What emotions do their faces show us? What clues can they gather about the time and place? 

Analyzing these photos gives my students a crash course in critical thinking and observation skills. As they dissect the images, they do more than just memorize facts. They're piecing together the puzzle of the past. They help to transform our classrooms into hubs of curiosity and discovery! 

Integrating Primary Source Photos in the History Classroom

It's time for us to roll up our sleeves and get down to business by integrating primary source photos into our history classes!

1. Photo Analysis

With photo analysis, I am very intentional about the photos I choose for my students to analyze. I want the photos to be relevant to what we are talking about in class or what we will be studying. At the beginning of the year, I make sure to do these as warm-ups or bellringers so that my middle schoolers can see how I think through them, what I look for in photos, and how I communicate my findings. I also introduce them to the Primary Source Photographs Student Analysis Doodle Page.  We use this page to guide our analysis of the historical photos.  I have found it very helpful in helping them learn how to analyze the photo as a primary source.

Primary source photos like these can help students empathize with the people in the photographs leading to more critical thinking opportunities.
I first lay out an image and challenge them to be as observant as possible. No detail is too small or insignificant when analyzing a photo. I encourage them to jot down details they notice. These can be details about the clothing, expressions, the background, the actions, or even the words they see within the photo. 

For example, when we are studying the Civil Rights Movement, a photo I would share would be of people marching. They may be marching along Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, or they may be marching because the were inspired by the movement. Either way, we have a snapshot into these important historical events that take us beyond our own thoughts and knowledge.

We look at the emotions on each of their faces and think through what they may be thinking and feeling. We'll zero in on the posters they are holding up high and the symbolism behind the images and phrases. As much as I wish, we could talk directly to the people in any of the photos chosen to analyze, the next best thing is being observant enough to infer and make those connections. 

2. Group Discussions

Primary source photos can help foster group discussions which leads to collaboration.
Once my kiddos feel comfortable with analyzing primary source photos, I amp up the energy by switching to group discussions. I divide my students into teams and hand each group a different primary source photo. 

As a group, they are encouraged to share their interpretations, debate the historical context, and connect the dots between what they are seeing and what they have read. 

An example of one group's photo may be a wartime photo. This particular photo could show soldiers standing and sitting in the trenches. 

I may prompt them to think and discuss the challenges these soldiers might have faced based on what they see in the photos. The goal or purpose of this exercise is to fuel their critical thinking and collaborative exploration! 

3. Research Projects with Primary Source Photos

We have looked at primary source photos as a whole class and in small groups. Now, it's time to take it up a notch with research projects that put your students in the driver's seat of historical inquiry. 

Primary source photos can be a starting point for research projects.
I assign each student or partnership a primary source photo that is linked to a specific era or event. Their tasks include diving into the background, learning the historical context of the photo, discovering any related documents to the event or time period, and presenting their observations to the class. 

One project could center around a photo capturing the space race. With this photo, my students could explore what was going on politically at the time, the types of technology being developed, and what life was like overall. All of this information weaves together to create the larger picture of our history! 

Overcoming Challenges with Primary Source Photos

I do warn my students that there might be some hurdles they'll have to overcome when searching for and through primary source photos. Below are some to share with your own students!

1. Lack of Context

A lack of context with primary source photos isn't necessarily a bad thing because it can lead to deeper questioning and critical thinking.
There have been times when I felt like I found the perfect photo to use, but when I placed it in front of my students, the blank stares told me otherwise. Especially in the beginning, they won't know what to do and they'll wonder why I am showing them a random photo of strangers. 

My tip is to always introduce the photo by giving a brief historical rundown of its relevance. If you want them to discover those details on their own, give them hints of what they should be looking for. Having the background information or the hints can help set the scene and make the photo more approachable. 

2. Difficulty Interpreting Historical Clues

You've been proactive and set the stage around the photo for your students. Remember those blank stares? Yup, they are still there! Sometimes, the clues or the parts to observe don't pop out of the photo like in others. They aren't as obvious and may take some more inferring. 

Even though it can be difficult to interpret the historical clues in primary source photos you can encourage collaboration by giving students the opportunity to discuss the photographs and really think deeply about what they are observing.When this happens, I always recommend to encourage collaboration among your students. Have them turn and talk to their neighbors or make groups ahead of time. They can share their observations, interpretations, and questions with one another. 

Everyone thinks differently, which makes things jump out more to some than others. In this collaborative setting, your students will be able to see the photo from different perspectives, allowing them to learn from each other. 

During this time, I am walking around, guiding conversations as needed, and listening to the "Oh, I didn't even think about that!"

3. Embracing Ambiguity

Not every historical photo has a clear-cut solution. This can lead to beneficial classroom discussions and debates that allow curiosity to run free. 

Embrace ambiguity with primary source photos by giving your students the opportunity to discover the historical meaning of the photographs with critical thinking.
One thing I always tell my students is that it's okay not to have all the answers. When there are no more questions, the learning is finished, but that won't ever happen because we are meant to constantly explore and be curious. 

If history was simple, everyone would pay more attention to it. It's complex, which is what draws me to the subject. Some of my favorite memories of teaching histories are the ones where students asked questions, and we went down those pathways away from the planned-out lessons I had. 

Where to Find Primary Source Photos

Now that we know the ins and outs of primary source photos, we need to know where to find valuable ones to use! Let's take a look at some of my go-to sites!

1. Library of Congress - Prints and Photographs Online Catalog

The Library of Congress boasts a large collection. Lucky for us educators, it's accessible online. As you explore their Prints and Photographs Online Catalogue, you will discover how their primary source photos span various historical periods. 

2. National Archives - Digital Vaults

The National Archives houses a digital wonderland called the Digital Vaults. Here, you'll discover primary source documents, images, and more—each fully authentic and ready to bring history to life in your classroom! 
Use helpful websites like this to find primary source photos to use in your classroom this year.

3. Smithsonian Institution - Collections Search Center

The Smithsonian's Collections Search Center opens the doors to a vast array of primary source materials, including photographs. Whether it's American history, world cultures, or scientific advancements, you'll find the visuals you need to enhance your classes! 

4. New York Public Library - Digital Collections

The New York Public Library's Digital Collections offers access to a diverse range of primary source photos. From iconic cityscapes to historical events, there's something there for each of your lessons. 

5. Getty Images - Open Content Program

The Getty Images Open Content Program offers high-quality visuals, including photographs, that are free to use and share. It's a fantastic resource for adding clear and authentic photos to your history lessons, regardless of the unit. 

6. Local Historical Societies and Museums

Don't forget to look in your own backyard! Local historical societies and museums often digitize their collections. This allows them to offer access to a unique perspective on your region's history. If you're able to, I also recommend going to these societies and museums in person. They are full of knowledge, artifacts, photographs, and passionate people willing to help! 

Primary Source Photographs Student Analysis Doodle Page

We chatted about how we use primary source photographs as a whole class and in small groups. Suggestions were given about what to look for to observe and infer. A lot of what my kiddos do involves having those verbal conversations. 

Use this engaging primary source photo student analysis doodle page to help students uncover the context clues hidden in the photos they are observing.However, over the years, I have seen how some of my students benefit from the use of a graphic organizer. The provided prompts on the graphic organizers help to guide students who may feel lost or not want to do the activity. 

My Primary Source Photographs Student Analysis Doodle Page prompts my students to reflect on and observe different angles of the photographs. It gives them an organized space to record their thoughts accurately. My students enjoy having space where they can describe what they see, how it makes them feel, who took the photo, the purpose of the photo, and any questions they may have. 

This doodle page fits with any photograph and unit you are focusing on, making it a flexible tool for your classroom. This resource transcends U.S. History, World History, Ancient History, and more.

Enhance Your History Classes with Primary Source Photographs

Integrating primary source photos into your middle school history classes invites your students on a historical journey. They bring history to life through authentic, firsthand images. Even though they may be tricky to interpret at first, using resources such as my doodle note page helps them see what was happening years and years ago. Together, we can turn history class into an experience that sparks curiosity, leads to understanding, and leaves a memorable learning moment in the minds of our middle schoolers. Time to unlock the wonders of our past, one photograph at a time! 

Save for Later

Remember to save this post to your favorite history Pinterest board so you can use more primary source photographs in your History lessons! 

Looking for ways to enhance your middle school history lessons? Use primary source photos to help students develop critical thinking skills, collaboration skills, communication skills, and more! Be sure to grab the graphic organizers to make using primary source photos in your classroom a breeze this year. #thehistorygal #primarysourcephotos #howtouseprimarysourcephotosintheclassroom #middleschoolhistory

Research Ideas for Arab Heritage Month


Woman typing Reseach idea for Arab Heritage Month into a laptop

In 2021, President Biden formally recognized April as Arab Heritage month. Arab Americans trace their roots to Northern Africa and the Middle East.


I recently posted a freebie for Arab Heritage Month and some of you have requested  a list of important people for students to research. So, here's my list!


But, f
irst, if you haven't had a chance to grab the freebie, you'll find it here.

Image of Spotlight on Arab Heritage Student Worksheet


Doug Flutie
Steve Kerr
Justin Abdelkader
Sam Khalifa
Sarah Attar
Toni Breidinger


Dina Habib Powell
Rashida Tlaib
Khader El-Yateem
Donna Shalala
Darrell Issa


Television, Movies, Music, Celebrities, Artists:
Paula Abdul
Salma Hayek
Hoda Kotb
Maysoon Zayid
Fredric Fekkai
Gigi Hadid
Tony Shalhoub
Steve Jobs

Casey Kasem
Danny and Marlo Thomas
Jerry Seinfeld


Historical Figures:
Colonel James Jabara

Linda Sarsour
Candy Lightner


Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha
Dr. Farouk el-Baz
Christa McAuliffe
Dr. Michael DeBakey
Elias J. Corey
Ahmed Zewail


Fady Joudah
Laila Lalami
Gibran Khalil Gibran
Naomi Shihab Nye
Mona Simpson


I hope you find this list helpful!

Hispanic Heritage Month Reseach Ideas

Colorful background with text that reads: Reaseach Ideas for National Hispanic Heritage Month

Did you know Hispanic Heritage Month is September 15-October 15? 


Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Research Ideas

Did you know May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month? 

I recently posted a freebie for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and have had some requests for a list of important people for students to research. So, here's my list!

Teaching Students the Changing Political Boundaries of Europe during the 20th and 21st Centuries

An image of Europe at night from space with text that reads Teaching Students how the Borders of Europe Have Changed, a Blog Post By History Gal


Are you looking for some ways to help teach your students about the political boundaries in Europe and how they've changed throughout the 20th and 21st centuries - particularly what Europe looked like before World War I, after World War I, after World War II, and after the Cold War? I have some resources that will help! 

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