Lesson Plan

Comparing Primary and Secondary Sources

What's the difference between primary and secondary sources? This lesson will compare the two types of sources and ask students to discuss the benefits of using each source.
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Need extra help for EL students? Try the Elections and Conditions pre-lesson.
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Need extra help for EL students? Try the Elections and Conditions pre-lesson.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to compare and contrast a primary and secondary source and gather information about the topic.

The adjustment to the whole group lesson is a modification to differentiate for children who are English learners.
EL adjustments


(7 minutes)
Concept WebLanguage Frames: Compare & ContrastArticle XII: Election of PresidentDouble Bubble Thinking Map
  • Display a picture of the White House and ask students to take out their whiteboards and write as many things as they can think of about the White House, who lives there, and what it represents.
  • Allow students to turn and talk to their partners about their thoughts and have students share aloud. While they share aloud, write their ideas on the board. Confirm relevant ideas and correct misconceptions.
  • Ask a student to read the student objective and circle the keywords on the board.
  • Tell students that today they'll learn about how the President of the United States is elected by considering an excerpt of the Constitution. Explain that the Constitution is a primary source because it is a piece of information that was created or written by someone who witnessed the event firsthand or was part of the historical events that are described (i.e., the writing of the Constitution). Primary sources can be photos, journals, original documents, and newspaper articles from that time period.
  • Explain that they'll gather information from the primary source and compare it to a secondary source, or a source that is an interpretation of the events. The person who wrote the secondary source was not there to witness the events. Some examples can include books, articles, and drawings about the historical events.
  • Draw a T-chart on the board and share some examples that highlight the differences and similarities between the two types of sources (e.g., date the source created, author's tone, point of view). Ask students to share any other examples they can think of as you add details to the T-chart. Refer back to their original thoughts you wrote on the board whenever possible.


  • Allow ELs to participate in the conversations in their home language (L1) or their new language (L2) and provide a word bank of terms they could choose to use in the discussions.
  • Provide phrases or vocabulary terms they can help sort into the T-chart.


  • Allow students to use a sentence stem when sharing their ideas.
  • Ask them to reword the definition and key ideas about the White House and sources discussion.