What if I told you there are amazing resources you can easily use with students and teachers that will help create curiosity, promote critical thinking, reinforce information literacy skills, and make curricular connections? Better yet, what if I told you these resources were free?
You can find these amazing resources on the Library of Congress’s Teachers’ Resources page. Even if you’re familiar with the site and visit it frequently, you can always find something new because the dedicated librarians at the Library of Congress are constantly adding content. Moreover, they strive to provide information and tools that make it easy for educators to access materials and implement appropriate teaching strategies in their classrooms and libraries.
My Favorite LoC Resources
Because so much material is available on the LoC website, I want to share three of my favorite resources with you. These are the ones I find to be the most helpful and the easiest to use.
Primary Source Sets. Each of these primary source sets is organized around a theme. The sets are easy to use because each one includes a teacher guide and analysis tools. You can print out individual documents and use them with a class to introduce a topic, explore a topic, generate questions, or to make connections to class content. For instance, earlier this school year two U.S. history teachers and I displayed the primary sources from the Women’s Suffrage set and asked students to do a gallery walk. As they looked at the documents, students used this simple graphic organizer that the teachers and I created to identify arguments for and against suffrage and the tactics used by those in favor of and against suffrage. This activity reinforced what students were learning in the classroom and generated insightful questions and comments about the primary source documents.
Chronicling America. A joint project of the Library of Congress and the National Endowment of the Humanities, Chronicling America is a collection of more than sixteen million pages of digitized historic newspaper pages. The collection is searchable, includes newspapers from all across the United States, and covers the period from 1789-1963. Users can search by keyword and narrow their search by date and/or state. Educators can pre-select content for a lesson or they teach students how to search for material.
I recently worked with social studies classes researching the East St. Louis Race Riot of 1917 and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. We had each student choose one of the events and find three articles about it: one from a Northern newspaper, one from a Southern newspaper, and one from a Western newspaper. They used this graphic organizer to analyze their articles. The next day, the class read recent articles about the riots and compared those to the primary source articles. Comparing the primary source articles not only helped students better understand the historic events they were studying, but it also required students think critically and practice their information literacy skills as they looked for biased language and considered the intended geographic audience. Moreover, when students found an article, they had the ability to click on a link to learn more about the publisher of the newspaper that printed the article.
If you want to learn more about Chronicling America, the thirty-minute video Teaching with Historical Newspapers has a lot of helpful information.
Teaching with the Library of Congress Blog. Written by LoC staff and updated frequently, this blog offers lots of great ideas and resources for teachers and librarians. Many posts suggest clever ways to help students make interdisciplinary connections while also comparing the past to the present.
For instance, a blog post from earlier this school year called “Science, Civics, and Primary Sources: A Measles Debate One Hundred Years Ago” features a 1913 newspaper article about “measles parties.” These “parties” were arranged by parents to “immunize” their children against the measles by purposely exposing them to other children who had the illness. The author suggests that after reading and discussing the article, “students might reflect: to what extent does scientific awareness bind citizens in an implied social contract? What role do federal agencies such as the U.S. Public Health Department play in facilitating appropriate civic behavior? Students might also make similar connections between scientific literacy and civic responsibility today.” Students might ask these questions today about the coronavirus.
You can simply browse the blog posts (as I like to do) or search for a specific topic or post. Search options include using the search box, clicking links to specific topics, and searching the blog archives by date.
If you’ve never or seldom used LoC resources before, you might want to watch some short videos on the LoC YouTube channel. You can also show them to teachers in your building if you decide to share information about the Library of Congress with them.
- The Library of Congress Is Your Library
- Exploring the Library of Congress Website
- Planning a Search
- LOC.gov for Teachers
- Copyright Quick Check
Perfect for Almost Any Lesson
Because primary sources are so versatile, you can incorporate them into almost any lesson. As Tom Bober shows us every month, they can be paired with picture books to encourage students to think critically and make connections. A single source can be used as part of a quick activity to introduce students to an idea or event, two or more sources can be used to help students compare and contrast, and multiple sources can help students dig deeper into a topic. No matter what your curricular objective, you can probably find a helpful primary source on the Library of Congress website.
Apfeldorf, Michael. 2019. “Science, Civics, and Primary Sources: A Measles Debate One Hundred Years Ago.” Teaching with the Library of Congress (Sept. 19). blogs.loc.gov/teachers/2019/09/science-civics-and-primary-sources-a-measles-debate-one-hundred-years-ago/ (accessed Mar. 4 2020).
Author: Margaret Sullivan
Margaret Sullivan is a librarian at Rockwood Summit High School and also serves as the Lead Librarian for the Rockwood School District. A past president of the Missouri Association of School Librarians, Margaret’s professional interests include advocacy, teacher collaboration, professional development, equity, and YA literature. You can connect with her on Twitter @mm_sullivan.