Skip to content

Arrange a set of documents to show the progression of historical events and help students understand relationships among events. Present a string of documents to convey historical progression and prompt students to make connections among events. Provide or ask students to write in connections between documents.

Learning Objectives and Historical Thinking Skills

Activities created with the Making Connections tool encourage students to analyze relationships among historical documents. Create activities to help students analyze documents and understand the interconnectedness of historical events, individuals, and/or concepts.…more

Activities created with the Making Connections tool encourage students to analyze relationships among historical documents. Create activities to help students analyze documents and understand the interconnectedness of historical events, individuals, and/or concepts.

Just as historians arrange and connect evidence from the past in order to construct a historical narrative, Making Connections activities help students understand how to put pieces of historical evidence together. When creating a Making Connections activity, insert blank boxes between documents for students to fill in. Students practice Making Connections between historical events, individuals, and/or concepts as they fill in the blank boxes. Teachers also have the option to fill in the boxes themselves with either statements or questions for students to react to.

Upon beginning a Making Connections activity, students will see a string of documents interspersed with the text boxes in overview mode. They see the overall historical narrative right away — seeing the first and last document in the sequence, as well as all of the documents in between. Students can also view the activity in slideshow mode for a close-up, zoomed-in display. Use this view when you would like students to see and analyze one document at a time. This helps students explore historical causation and question historical inevitability. It also creates suspense in the activity as students form predictions about the unrevealed documents and how they might construct a larger historical narrative.

Making Connections activities draw students’ attention to cause-and-effect relationships in history. To facilitate this, present students with documents representing changes in viewpoints, theories, or practices over time. Students need to reflect on larger societal changes and how they occurred. The connections that they record in the boxes between documents reflect their understanding of how a small change or shift led to change on a grander scale. For example, over time, the U.S. military wavered in its acceptance of African American soldiers. African Americans joined the military, were segregated by unit, and eventually served in integrated units. Students can look at documents surrounding this history and make the connections that piece the documents together to explain the history of desegregation in the U.S. military. When students practice hypothesizing about the influence of the past on more recent events, they also learn to make connections between the past, the present, and the future.

To help students understand major concepts, events, and historical figures in a particular academic unit, create a cloze activity. In choosing documents, you are supplying an outline of the unit and students fill in the connections between. Students practice relating major ideas from the unit to one another to understand the overarching theme. Use this as an end-of-unit review to check for understanding, Or use this at the beginning of a unit as a pre-assessment — when the unit is later covered in depth, students are motivated to test their hypotheses and discover genuine connections. The class can even revisit the same activity toward the end of the unit, filling in the blank boxes again.

Making Connections activities also give students the opportunity to think creatively and analytically regarding a topic and evidence presented. To meet this aim, provide less background information before introducing an activity and ask students to be creative as they make their connections. During or following the activity, engage students in discussion about several possible connections. Always explore suggestions to determine if they follow from the information presented. Discrepancies between student opinion and between student and teacher are teachable moments about varying perspectives and interpretations of historical data. Students learn to challenge arguments of historical inevitability.

Making Connections activities can also inform students about how the choice of evidence used to understand the past influences the ultimate historical narrative realized. Seeing different documents in a activity can help students understand how interpretations of history are tentative. Use two different Making Connections activities about a similar topic, choosing a different set of documents for each, to show how the documents that a historian chooses to look at can change one’s view of that era or event. After completing both activities, ask students to contrast the historical conclusions they reached based on each set of evidence. Or follow up a singular Making Connections activity by asking students to suggest other documents that could have been included instead. Encourage them to consider whether new evidence would change the historical narrative or their own conclusions.

Teaching Tips

  • Consider the goals you have for your students before planning your activity. Choose documents and structure the activity based upon those goals.
  • The Making Connections tool can be adapted for use with different ages and learning levels. Students can perform simple storytelling using images, media, or simple textual documents. A set of documents that clearly shows a progression of events, for instance, can teach causation in the early grades.…more
  • Consider the goals you have for your students before planning your activity. Choose documents and structure the activity based upon those goals.
  • The Making Connections tool can be adapted for use with different ages and learning levels. Students can perform simple storytelling using images, media, or simple textual documents. A set of documents that clearly shows a progression of events, for instance, can teach causation in the early grades.
  • In most instances it is valuable to ask students to hypothesize about possible connections between documents before formally beginning the activity. The exercise can act as a pre-assessment and can help to guide students’ thinking. Once students begin to examine documents to determine their content, they have a purpose for viewing them.
  • It is important to model careful document analysis for the class with at least one document before asking them to begin the activity. Analyze a document in isolation or open one document from the string. Ask the class to look at the document very generally. Ask about the type of document and any unique physical characteristics. Ask students to identify the date, creator(s), and content of the document. Be sure to ask students to do the same careful analysis with each subsequent document before they attempt to determine the connections among them.
  • Since the teacher/activity does not specify a definitive right and wrong set of connections, you may wish to guide students by telling them what the focus of their analysis should be. Or use the activity to generate creative, open-ended responses.
  • In many instances documents will not necessarily be in chronological order. In this case, you may wish to remind students that the focus of the analysis should be on the relationship between the documents, not chronology.
  • Engage students in discussion about other possible links between documents. These discussions provide an opportunity for students to think creatively and analytically. Explore the links suggested to determine if there is a basis for them. As part of the discussion, share a list of links that you have created as one possible set. Compare the student-generated links to those on your list.

Making Connections

Present primary sources as a string of documents and help students make connections among those documents and the historical events they illustrate.

Lessons Created Using this Template