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MFA for Educators

Engage your students with the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to illustrate themes and concepts in any discipline.

Primary Sources Tell a Story

Primary Sources Tell a Story


In this lesson grade 3 students will learn about primary sources--their value, their location, their significance, and their meaning. Through a detailed exploration of maps, painting, and architecture, students will learn about the land, children, and homes of colonial Boston. Students will make connections between the past and present by comparing how English colonists lived in the 17th and 18th centuries in Massachusetts to how we live today. After comparing colonial Boston to their experiences today, students will create their own primary source artwork. Using a medium of their choice (diary, sketchbook, diorama, other) students will describe their neighborhood, the children that live there, and their homes.

Learning Goals:
Students will—

Learn what a primary source is, why it is important to use them, and how to access them.

Learn how primary sources describe a sense of time and place.

Use primary sources from Colonial and Revolutionary Boston to better understand the land, the children, and their homes.

Learn to read and analyze primary sources.

Explore the author’s/artist’s choices in creating the primary source.

Understand the context and function of the primary source.

Create their own primary source


Educational Standards:
Common Core

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.1. 9-10.1, 11-12.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.2, 9-10.2, 11-12.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.4, 9-10.4, 11-12.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in text (including visual literacy/visual “words”) including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.

Visual Arts:

Mass. Visual Art Standard 1: Methods, materials, and techniques. 
Mass. Visual Art Standard 2: Elements and principles of design.
Mass. Visual Art Standard 3: Observation, abstraction, invention.
Mass. Visual Art Standard 5: Critical Response
Mass. Visual Art Strand 6: Purposes and Meanings in the Arts.
Mass. Visual Art Strand 7. Roles of Artists in Communities.
Mass. Visual Art Strand 10. Interdisciplinary Connections


Enduring Understandings:

Artists draw their ideas from personal experiences, their imagination and
       the world around them.
People use art to express who they are and where they come from.
People use art to describe who and what is important to them.
Artists are recorders of history

Essential Questions:

Where do artists get their ideas?  
How does art help me identify and express who I am?
How does art help me describe and record who and what is important to me?
How are history and art related?

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