Primary Sources Highlight Community Services

RFP_community_servicesPrimary sources are a valuable tool for our students. However, I often struggle  incorporating them into regular instruction. Quality instruction takes time to plan, but the vastness of resources providing primary sources can be time consuming to dig through. Amy, from ClassicSixBooks, and I are challenging ourselves to teach with a few primary sources a month and to highlight them on our blogs.

Carolyn’s Lesson:

First grade students at my school are coming out of a unit exploring the goods and services of communities. I wanted to allow them to dig further into this topic using a Visible Thinking Routine and some primary sources. I started searching for images and videos that show what community service jobs were like in the past with the intention that students could explore the past, connect to the present, and predict the future.

I landed on two pictures of snow removal from over 100 years ago. This is a job that is certainly of service to the community, it is timely in the month of January, and the changes over time are remarkable enough that students will be intrigued enough to ask a lot of questions.

I pulled the two resources and then discovered in the search I was doing that the same pictures had been featured in a blog post at Teaching with the Library of Congress. The curriculum focus is different in this post, but it’s interesting to see how the same images can be used for different curriculum connections. Their focus is how tools are used.

I also found a picture of a modern day snowplow from Wikimedia Commons to use as an image representing the present. While students may have seen snow plows the previous winter or during our first snowfall this year, I don’t want them to have to rely on their memory. They need the visual.

I put the three pictures together in a PowerPoint to use the See, Think, Wonder Visible Thinking Routine.

I hooked the students by explaining that we were going to be investigators exploring a job in the community. Investigators look for clues and do a lot of thinking about what might be happening. Their first job is to look at the picture and find the details. Look at the top corners of the picture, the bottom corners and all of the middle. For a few minutes there is no talking. We want to let our brains see the details.

Then I showed this picture:


Bain Collection, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress, LC-B2-7-8

We made a list of all the things we can see in the picture. The students said, “We see wagons,” “We see horses,” etc. They did a really great job just identifying the details without any speculation.

On the next slide I asked the students “What do you Think?” They said things like “We think they are taking the snow somewhere.”

On the third slide I asked, “What do you Wonder?”


I wanted students to really practice the See, Think, Wonder routine so we practiced it for two more pictures.


Bain collection, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ggbain-04462


SnowKing1, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

After doing See, Think, Wonder with the past and the present, I ask students to think about how we might get rid of snow from the roads in the future. Next week’s challenge is going to be to look at a different community service job from the past and present and then to draw pictures of the future.

One student suggested that in the future we will be scooping snow up off the ground. Another student said maybe we would have robots to clear the roads. I have to admit that I won’t mind if there’s a robot out there to do this chore!!

Amy’s Two Cents:

This was a great lesson to try with my first graders.  I told them that you had created it, Ms. Vibbert, so they felt super special trying it out for you.  I had never done the See, Think, Wonder routine with any of my students, let alone my firsties, so I was a little nervous about how they’d do.  I think it’s safe to say that both of my first grade classes did awesome!  Very engaged, hands in the air kind of awesome.

We had a very similar experience to yours, Carolyn.  On of of the slides, there was a date 1/14-15/10.  This led to ALOT of discussion among my kiddos.  We tried to figure out if the year was 2010 or 1910 or 1810 by looking at the photograph for clues.  Some students said they could tell because the “trolley” looked old-fashioned.  We also discussed how there probably weren’t streetlights in 1810.  Another student saw the word New York and suggested that it was 1910 since there were no tall buildings.

As we went through each of the slides (we did all four), the classes kind of skipped around a little bit – they shared their see, think, wonder not in linear order, which I thought was okay.  If they had had trouble coming up with “wonder” observations, I would have stepped back a little bit and had them do the process in order, but they didn’t seem to have any trouble.  I will say that I did not write down their thoughts.  Maybe next time, now that they are familiar with the process.

My favorite parts were when a student said he thought the photograph was from the past “like 1980 or something!”  That always makes me feel ancient! Another student, after we looked at the final “present”  slide, said, “I wonder what snow plows will look like in the future!”  Today I received a packet of illustrations from that class showing just that!  YAY!  I love lessons where the classroom teachers feel they can extend them in their classrooms.

Both of the classroom teachers enjoyed this activity as well.  One teacher asked me if we could do more See, Think, Wonder.  Another student requested books on snow plows {which I did not have!} so I ordered some.

Thank you, Carolyn, for a fantastic lesson!


Download the Lesson Plan and PowerPoint from Carolyn at TeachersPayTeachers. The file is free, but if you’d like to make a donation you can do that at my store. Only buy it if you love it and use it! There are some extra resources in the package that I did not use for my lesson but I thought others could benefit from.

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