Teaching with Documents: Using Primary Sources in the Classroom

Teaching with Documents is a self-paced course with instructional videos and lesson plans for teachers of grades 6-12. Each video and accompanying teaching unit focuses on a different way to use primary sources to improve student content knowledge and core literacy skills. Teaching with Documents demonstrates the same tested, Common Core-aligned approach used in Gilder Lehrman’s Teaching Literacy through History™ professional development program.

Teaching with Documents includes

  • Six demonstration videos, each covering a different literacy strategy
  • Six classroom-ready teaching units, one for each demonstration video
  • An online quiz to review the skills developed in each demonstration video
  • A certificate of completion

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About the course

In Teaching with Documents, educators will learn a series of integrated literacy skills that will directly impact student understanding and performance. These improved student skills include: evidence-based writing skills, vocabulary development, analysis of documents and graphic materials, and a deeper understanding of complex texts.  

Each video in this course uses primary source documents to illustrate a pedagogical strategy. The strategies presented include

  • Unlocking primary source documents through a scaffolded shared-reading strategy
  • Text-based questioning strategies to promote a better understanding of complex primary sources
  • Encouraging student interaction by building a dynamic classroom experience
  • Integrating literature and art into social studies content

Each video is paired with a corresponding teaching unit that expands on the strategies introduced in the video. The lead instructor is Tim Bailey, Director of Education at the Gilder Lehrman Institute and the 2009 National History teacher of the year. The video series is approximately 90 minutes in length. 

Each classroom-ready unit is 3-5 lessons in length, features primary source documents and graphic organizers, and offers step-by-step instructions for integrating the unit into the classroom.

Documents featured in the videos and lesson plans include:

  • The Bill of Rights
  • Paul Revere’s letter describing his midnight ride
  • President Polk’s message to congress on the Mexican-American War
  • Frederick Douglass’s “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”
  • Political cartoons and works of art


  • Standard: $39.99
  • Affiliate School teachers: $24.99 

After your purchase, you may access your course by visiting the "Community" tab at the top of the Gilder Lehrman Institute homepage. 

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Interested in a bulk purchase for your school or district? Email tlth@gilderlehrman.org or call 646-366-9666 x37.

About Teaching with Documents instructor Tim Bailey:

Tim Bailey is the Gilder Lehrman Institute’s Director of Education. The 2009 National History Teacher of the Year, Tim began his teaching career in 1989 and obtained undergraduate and master’s degrees in education from the University of Utah, where he served as an adjunct faculty member and teacher mentor. Tim has received a Fulbright Award in addition to several other awards from the state of Utah, the Salt Lake City school district, and others. Tim is also leading Gilder Lehrman’s Common Core efforts, lesson plan development, and online history curriculum.