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Sourcing a Document: The First Thanksgiving


This activity introduces students to the importance of source information in the analysis of primary sources. Although assessments are often thought of as tools for accountability, this History Assessment of Thinking (HAT) can be used as an activity for learning. Students complete a HAT about the reliability of a painting of the First Thanksgiving to introduce the idea that it is crucial to consider a source’s date. After students complete the HAT, they examine a rubric that includes links to a range of sample student responses. After students discuss the elements an exemplary response, students will have an opportunity to revise their answers to explain why the gap in time between the painting and Thanksgiving make it a less reliable source.


After completing this learning activity, students will be able to:

  • Consider source information (“source” a document) when analyzing primary documents
  • Understand the limitations of a primary source created long after the event it depicts

Time Required

30 minutes

Recommended Grade Range



Colonial America
Primary Source Analysis


US History


Common Core State Standards

RH.6-8.1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources

RH.6-8.6: Identify aspects of a text that reveal an author’s point of view or purpose (e.g., loaded language, inclusion or avoidance of particular facts)

RH.6-8.7: Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts

California History-Social Science Content Standards for Kindergarten through Grade 5 Historical and Social Science Analysis Skills: Research, Evidence, and Point of View

  1. Students differentiate between primary and secondary sources
  2. Students pose relevant questions about events they encounter in historical documents, eyewitness accounts, oral histories, letters, diaries, artifacts, photographs, maps, artworks, and architecture

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