After a few days of studying the Industrial Revolution, I gave students a warm-up activity to get them using primary sources creatively and putting themselves into that time period.
In this activity, students were given a sheet containing two primary sources. There were several different sheets, and students could trade with their neighbors if they didn’t like the one they received. They contained photographs, quotes or maps from the period. They were then asked to write between a half a page and a page in the first person about what life would be like for the people the photo, quote or map describe. They were encouraged to combine the information from the two sources they received. After they were given time to write, students shared their answers.
Positives: It was a short activity which gave students an opportunity to get into character for the rest of the lesson. Some students enjoyed a chance to express their outrage and have it supported by their peers. Others wrote very poignant, sad descriptions of child laborers and their families.
Negatives: It can be difficult for students who aren’t used to that kind of assignment. Some sources are also more difficult than others, particularly the map. Choosing different sources specifically for struggling students or providing an exemplar might help focus students.
Here are the sources I used: