I believe there is no greater way to impact a student’s understanding of history than the use of primary documents. I infuse primary documents into every lesson I teach because I find it is the only way to make a genuine connection between my pupils and the past. When topics are presented solely via textbook readings and secondary sources, the information feels removed, about issues of long dead people in which our modern society has little to no connection.
Primary documents take these people from the pages of textbooks and make them real; they connect students to the topic in a way no amount of textbook reading can. Primary documents creates that connection with the past. Seeing a draft of the Constitution with lines crossed out and notes in the margins makes our Framers real; it makes them humans, rather than demigods preserved only for the text of books. There is a connection to history, a connection to the story of the American people in which nothing else can replicate.
[Check out James Wilson's personal draft of the United States Constitution from August 1787 by clicking on the image above, and read more about it in Preserving American Freedom]