December in History at the Library of Congress

This post was written by Uhuru Flemming of the Library of Congress.

Many teachers like to include mini-lessons or bell-ringers about “this day in history.” The Library of Congress offers two resources that recount what happened on a particular day using the Library’s collections of digitized primary sources: Jump Back in Time (introductory) and Today in History (advanced). Choose the one that best matches your students’ reading levels to build both content knowledge and research skills with primary sources in context.

December highlights include Wilbur and Orville Wright’s first flight (introductory; advanced) and the Battle of Nashville (introductory; advanced), as well as milestones related to:

Education

The States

U.S. Presidents

Science

  • December 20,1790:The first cotton mill in the United States began operation (introductory; advanced);

Poetry

  • December 24, 1822:  Clement Moore composed his classic poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” also known as “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” (introductory; advanced).

To engage your students immediately, distribute or display one primary source from an entry and invite them to jot down a single detail they notice and then share. To draw your students deeper into analyzing the primary sources, ask them to record observations, reflections and questions on the Library’s primary source analysis tool. Anne Savage offers tips in the Blog Round-Up: Using the Primary Source Analysis Tool.

Students can also:

  • Compare a secondary source account, such as a textbook explanation, to a primary source account. What can be learned from each? What cannot be learned from each? What questions do students have?
  • Consider how a series of primary sources support or challenge information and understanding on a particular topic. Ask students to refine or revise conclusions based on their study of each subsequent primary source.
  • Use the list of additional resources at the end of each Today in History entry to search for additional primary sources.

Some of our favorite ideas for using these resources came in the comments reacting to Primary Sources Every Day from the Library of Congress. Let us know how you use them!

Native American Cultures Today: Primary Sources Documenting Music, Law, and Everyday Life

Native American cultures are alive and well today, thriving and evolving within cities, rural communities, tribes, and nations across the United States. The online collections of the Library of Congress contain a variety of primary sources that document daily life and creative works in diverse Native American communities from the late twentieth century to the present day.

Frederick Douglass: Activist and Autobiographer

Last November, we published a post addressing the controversies associated with Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. A recent comment pointed out that Huck’s views on slavery are those of the dominant society of the time. Because the post featured a letter from Frederick Douglass as a supplement to the novel, the commenter wondered “why not present the experiences and views of the oppressed rather than the oppressor?” That struck me as an intriguing question, so here are a few places to start exploring those views and experiences with your students.

See You at NCTE: Resources for English Teachers from the Library of Congress

This year’s NCTE conference: Story as the Landscape of Knowing will take place November 20-23 in our hometown, Washington, DC. You will find us at Booth numbers 236 and 238 in the exhibit hall Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The Teachers Page from the Library of Congress offers ideas and resources for English educators. We have rounded up a few of our favorites.

Tangible and Intangible Legacies

As our fourth and final blog post this fall related to the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, it seems appropriate that its theme focus on the concept of legacy. What a singer-songwriter leaves behind, from recordings, to manuscripts, to lyrics, can be thought of as their tangible legacies. The impact of his or her work, the connections listeners and concert goers make to the music, and the emotions the music inspires–these are some of the intangible legacies.

Storytelling and Songwriting: Making Connections through Primary Sources

In July 2014, when Librarian of Congress James H. Billington announced that Billy Joel would receive the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, he described Joel as being, “a storyteller of the highest order.”

Talented songwriters can be great storytellers! Not only do their songs often include elements of a short story, but they do so in ways that listeners can easily imagine and relate to.

Teacher Webinar Tuesday Nov 18: Using Library of Congress Primary Sources to Engage Students in Inquiry Learning

An inquiry approach supports students as they draw on their prior knowledge, personal experiences, and critical thinking skills to develop questions that guide their learning. The process engages students because pursuing the answers to their own questions gives them direct control as they construct meaning about topics of interest. Join us for a webinar focused on strategies for taking an inquiry approach to teaching with primary sources on Tuesday, November 18, at 4 PM ET.