Primary Source? What is That?

6, 7, 8

The purpose of this lesson is for learners to identify and evaluate the use of primary sources to learn about our past. They will gain an understanding of how to analyze the information found within a primary source and distinguish between primary and secondary sources. Themes of philanthropy and philanthropic roles within the community in the Diary of Anne Frank will be analyzed and discussed. Learners will gain an understanding that they too have opportunities to leave accurate records of their lives for people in the  future to explore.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne to Two Forty-Five to Fifty Minute Class Periods (or one block schedule session)

The learner will:

  • be able to define "primary source."
  • identify examples of primary sources.
  • define secondary sources and distinguish between primary and secondary sources.
  • develop definitions and examples of biography and autobiography.
  • gain an understanding of why primary sources are used in examining the past.
  • learn to determine the reliability/accuracy of a source.
  • read and discuss entries from the Diary of Anne Frank and examine the roles of members of a community (focus on the philanthropic actions of the individuals mentioned in Anne Frank's Diary).
  • define philanthropy, role of the individual and community in philanthropic acts.
  • develop appropriate applicable vocabulary of philanthropy.
  • altruism (n) Selfless concern for the welfare of others 
  • Frank, Anne. Anne Frank: The Diary of A Young Girl. New York: Bantam Books, 1993. The story of a young Jewish girl during World War II. The book is the diary Ann kept while in hiding from the Nazis.
  • "Primary Sources" handout (Handout One)
  • United States History provided by the school district
  • "Your History" worksheet (HandoutTwo)
Home Connection 

Intertactive Parent / Student Homework:"Your History" worksheet (see Attachment Two).


Frank, Anne. Anne Frank: The Diary of A Young Girl. New York: Bantam Books, 1993.

Lessons of Anne Frank Forgotten." Old Magazine Articles


  1. Anticipatory Set: The lesson will begin with the teacher handing out small strips of paper to the learners. The learners will be asked to write down what they think is the definition of a primary source. They will also write down an example of a primary source.The teacher will collect the strips of paper. The teacher will read the learners' definitions and examples to the class. A student volunteer will write the various examples on the chalkboard.

  2. Discuss the examples given during the Anticipatory Set activity.

  3. Provide the definition of a primary source: "a document or physical object that was created during the time period being studied."

  4. Pass out the "Primary Sources" handout (Attachment One). Have learners take document home and share it with their parent/guardian as they write their sentences.

  5. Talk about the use of each example as a primary source.

  6. Break up into small groups (three to four learners) and give each group an entry from the Diary of Anne Frank.

  7. Explain that this is a primary source, just as their own personal diary if they keep one. Ask the learners to give an example of what would constitute a secondary source about Anne Frank.

  8. Define biography and autobiography.

  9. Each group will choose a reader to read their entry out loud to the group.

  10. Each group will analyze the information uncovered in the entry and enter a summary of each reading into a journal.

  11. Each group will discuss the roles of the individuals mentioned in each entry (focusing on philanthropic actions of the individuals).

  12. Discuss whether this could ever happen in an open democratic society.

  13. Discuss a closed totalitarian society.

  14. Have the learners make a connection between altruism and the actions of individuals in the Diary of Anne Frank.

  15. Identify universal values discovered with emphasis on human rights.

  16. Ask about human rights issues today and list those mentioned.

  17. The class will come together as a whole and each group will share what they learned from their entry with the rest of the class.

  18. Have learners compile a list of acts of philanthropy discovered in Diary of Anne Frank. Clarify giving time, talent and treasure as applicable to examples from Diary of Anne Frank.

  19. Ask learners to identify examples of philanthropy within their community and nation.

  20. Assign "Your History" worksheet (see Attachment Two) as homework. (Answers from the assignment would be shared with the class the next day in order to discover and discuss what the learners can do in order to keep a better record of their lives.)


Group presentations about the information discovered by reading the entry from the Diary of Anne Frank. The "Your History" worksheet (Attachment Two). Have the learners write a three-paragraph essay using a minimum of four concepts from the list above and connecting those to examples from Diary of Anne Frank.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define philanthropy as individuals and organizations providing their time, talent, and/or treasures intended for the common good throughout history and around the world. Give examples.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Describe the characteristics of someone who helps others.
    2. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Give an example of how philanthropy can transcend cultures.
      2. Benchmark MS.5 Discuss examples of groups denied their rights in history.
    3. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Define civic virtue.
      2. Benchmark MS.7 Compare an open, democratic community to a closed, totalitarian community.
      3. Benchmark MS.8 Define civil society.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Identify and describe the actions of how citizens act for the common good.