text: What can documents tell us?
documents—whether typed, printed, or handwritten—reflect
the people and the times during when they were produced.
We record what we think is important, and the words
suggest values of the author. For this activity, students
read a document and interpret its meaning to its creator,
to its audience, and to its owner.
the ability to examine history from the perspectives
of the participants (SS Benchmark I-D Performance
Describe primary and secondary sources and their uses
in research (SS Benchmark I-D; 9-12:3).
a document from the collection
Evaluate the audience, purpose, and meaning of the
Search for historical clues in the document to add
depth to the story of the document
packet from Curriculum Resources, First Impression
Reading Document Worksheet
National Archives (www.archives.gov/)
Library of Congress American Memory Project (http://memory.loc.gov/)
worksheets on Reading documents (one per group) and
Interpret the meaning (one per person).
Select one document from Battle for Bataan
Artifacts to demonstrate exercise. (Use the documents
from First Impressions
Display demonstration document via overhead projector
or other projection method. Model the process of completing
the worksheet, facilitating student input.
Divide students into groups and distribute Reading
Have students examine document and describe the story
it tells by completing the first impressions and second
look portion of the worksheet.
Students look for details that are not necessarily
part of the story of the document but contain valuable
historical information (Details section of the worksheet).
Students deduce facts from the details of the document.
Students present conclusions they have reached about
their documents to the class.
As a unit, the class evaluates the logic behind the
deductions students made about their documents.
rate each other in accordance with how you derive from
meaning from your interpretation.
Rubric Students award one
point for each category if well done, a half point if
inadequately done, and no points if not done.
other document details
else would the author say? Imagine you
are the author of the document you examined. Write a
journal entry describing your day. Would this document
be important enough that its author would have included
it in a journal entry for that day?
Secret messages. In wartime,
military forces need a way to send messages that cannot
be read by their enemies. Many innovative methods, from
codes to encryption machines, have been used to keep
messages secret. Research one of these ways and create
a presentation about it.
Audience analysis. Documents
are often written for a single, primary audience, but
people outside that audience may use them. For example,
the slideshows in this web site were written for students,
but are available to an audience that includes veterans,
parents of students, historians, and others. Analyze
this secondary audience for your document by creating
a 5-column table. Label the columns as described below
and complete each column for at least 5 possible categories
of people who might be in a secondary audience.
Column 1. Audience: Who might read this document (for
example, parent of soldier, local newspaper editor,
historian, commanding officer, politician)?
Column 2. Intended audience: Was this reader part of
the audience the document was written for?
Column 3. Background: What is the background of this
type of audience in terms of education and experience
with the topic?
Column 4. Interest in document: Why is this type of
audience interested in this document?
Column 5. Use of document: How will this type of audience
use this document?