Creating an Analytical Lens: Determining Point of View in Primary Source Documents (Day 1 of 3)

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SWBAT analyze an author's point of view or purpose by reading and responding to primary sources from the Industrial Revolution.

Big Idea

The first step in reading and analyzing primary sources is to determine the perspective they present.


10 minutes

We will start class with ten minutes of reading time. I will read with my class during this time.

Providing Analytical Tools for Reading Primary Sources

9 minutes

For most of the year, we have been using the rhetorical triangle (speaker/audience/purpose) as a method for analyzing informational text. To increase the sophistication of my students' analysis, I am going to introduce two additional strategies, which are meant to improve their written responses to primary sources.

We are teaching them these strategies for a couple of purposes. One is to promote analytical thinking about primary and secondary source documents (bonus standard! CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.2). The second is to prepare the students for their history DBQ (Document Based Question), which will happen at the end of this unit. Most of the document analysis they have done for history has provided the extra scaffolding of guiding questions. With this DBQ, they will be asked to analyze documents with no specific support/guidance. This will require students to determine the main idea of a text through an objective summary (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.2) as well as determine the point of view of an author and how that impacts their purpose/strategy (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.6).

The SOAPSTone technique is one that I learned in a variety of A.P. trainings. It is very similar to the rhetorical triangle, but asks them to look more specifically at the following parts of a piece. This is a great tool for creating objective summary of main ideas and messages in a document. I will use the following guiding questions to help them define what they look for for each:

  • Speaker: Who is speaking/writing?
  • Occasion: What was their motivation for communicating what they are communicating?
  • Audience: Who is their intended audience? Unintended audience?
  • Purpose: What is the purpose for this piece? To persuade? Entertain? What message is being presented?
  • Subject: What is the subject matter of the piece?
  • Tone: What is the tone of the piece? 

The second technique that we will be using over the next few days are Point of View statements. These are basically a writing technique used to synthesize their SOAPSTone analysis. The statement will be at least two sentences long and is intended to answer the following questions:

  • What is the author trying to say?
  • Why is he trying to say it?
  • How does he say it?

Their summaries will end up being a part of these statements, but there should also be analytical thought inherent in what they say. By asking the students to consider the point of view of an author (i.e. what might be influencing his perspective on the topic?), they will hopefully be able to write a better analysis of the what, why and how of each document they read.

Analysis of a Primary Source

9 minutes

Our first primary source for review will be the transcripts from the evidence given by Elizabeth Bentley to the British Parliament's Sadler Committee, a committee convened to to investigate the mistreatment of children in factories during the Industrial Revolution. This source, in addition to the other sources we will looking at over this three day lesson set, are all primary sources that link to the history textbook reading that the students have been doing about the Industrial Revolution in Europe.

I will give students a copy of this primary source (from the supplementary materials workbook that goes along with their history textbook--an online version of the source is available here). I will ask them to complete a SOAPSTone analysis first. I will pause to discuss their findings using Popsicle sticks labeled with student names to randomly call on student "volunteers" so that we can have a variety of participants in the analysis. I will record their observations on the board. (*A note about the picture--I clearly had a bit of absent-minded teacher syndrome in class today as you'll notice I got the SOAPSTone acronym wrong when I wrote it on the board with the kids--facepalm. Sigh.)

I will then have them write a brief point of view statement that summarizes their anlaysis of Bentley's perspective and purpose for saying what she does here. Again, I will use the Popsicle sticks to call on students to share what they write verbally.

Wrap Up and Next Steps

2 minutes

Today's lesson is going to go fast. It is one of our short Wednesday periods, which means we will only have 30 minutes to accomplish all of our tasks. This is okay, though, as I really just want to introduce students to the two techniques and allow them to practice it with a fairly accessible text. Tomorrow and Friday, students will be reading additional primary sources and will be more independent in the process. As such, I will use any time left at the end of the period today to see if there are any big questions remaining about the techniques introduced.