Zach Majsiak’s 7th grade students at the Alfred Faust School have been analyzing primary and secondary sources as part of their study of Manifest Destiny and The Westward Expansion. Mr. Majsiak gathered documents together using ABC-CLIO’s American History database, pulling out excerpts from the writings and speeches of key historical figures like President Polk and Andrew Jackson, and scholarly writers examining these topics in connection to slavery, Mexico, and the Louisiana Purchase. Mr. Majsiak has his students separate into two groups, each one designated as either “primary” or “secondary” sources. He then calls on individuals to explain why a specific document should be included as either a “primary” or secondary” source by a student on each side of the room.
After completing the document analysis, students were asked to create an outline and four paragraph essay on The Westward Expansion. Later in the year, these 7th graders will learn how to navigate ABC-CLIO on their own and locate a relevant source. This assignment, however, allows the students to get exposure to a variety of content in a manageable way, appropriate to their grade level.