Reading and Analyzing Texts
Each of the four reading strategies in history focuses on a certain way of thinking about the text as a way of interpreting what is read and judging the evidence provided for making claims. The first of these reading strategies is Sourcing. Sourcing refers to the attribution of the text—who wrote it, when it was written, why it was written, where it was written. The first thing to do when sourcing a text is to look for who wrote the document and when, as this information is crucial to understanding the author’s meaning. Because texts are human creations, it is important to look at the source of each document in order to gain insight into the author’s perspective or stance and to consider the relevance of the text to the investigation.
When using this strategy, teachers model looking for the author and date as well as interpreting the text based on knowledge of the author, the type of text, word choices and phrases, and bias. This typically looks like (1) either stopping after reading a few sentences to interpret what was just read or (2) reading a large section and then going back through it to read smaller section carefully in order to make interpretations. Using this strategy, readers can question the usefulness of the source given the focus on the investigation and consider the author’s reliability.
Video and Reflection: Watch Citing Evidence from Primary Sources to Support Arguments to learn more about sourcing. You may want to take notes on the questions below.
- Before you watch: Why might it be important to source a text in your everyday life? Why might it be important to source a text when studying history?
- Watch the video: As you watch, notice where you see Mr. Votto or his students pay attention to the author, author’s purpose, kind of source, or date when it was created. What kinds of questions does Mr. Votto ask, or what kind of statements/explanations does he give to help the students source? How does attention to sourcing (attention to author, author’s purpose, kind of source, date) affect the conversation and students’ understanding of the text?
In LeRoy Votto’s classroom, students read, annotate, write about, and discuss Wendell Phillips’s speech “The Philosophy of the Abolitionist Movement.”
Teacher: LeRoy Votto
School: The Urban School of San Francisco (Private), San Francisco, CA
Discipline: History (the Civil War)
Lesson Topic: The abolitionist movement and its message
Lesson Month: January
Number of Students: 14
- Reflect: How might the ideas about sourcing texts from this video be incorporated into your own teaching?