Primary Sources Every Day from the Library of Congress

I was chatting recently with a teacher about primary sources in the classroom, and she asked if the Library of Congress offers an online resource that has a new primary source every day.  Ideally, this would be something that can be easily located and used on a daily basis – in homeroom, as a class starter, or as part of an instructional center.

Four resources came to mind, and I’d like to share them with you. Each has a unique URL that you can bookmark on your classroom or library computers, and each offers unique primary sources every day of the year.

Chronicling America: historic American Newspapers

Chronicling America

  1. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers – Explore front pages across the nation from “100 Years Ago Today.”
  2. Jukebox Day by Day – Listen to music that was recorded on any given day of the year.
  3. Jump Back in Time – Go to “Pick a date to visit!” to find primary sources from America’s Library, a resource that’s appropriate for elementary, middle and ELL students.
  4. Today in History – Discover an event from American history illustrated by primary sources from the Library’s historic collections. Visit the Archives to jump to a specific date.

Here are four simple ideas for using these sites:

Extra, Extra:  Have students compare Chronicling America  headlines from 100 years ago to those of today.  What’s one thing that has changed, and one that hasn’t?  Students will be surprised by their findings.

Homeroom Jukebox:  Make a computer with headphones available for students to visit Jukebox Day by Day and discover what music was recorded on this particular date and what it says about that era.  Alternately, have a student select a piece to play out loud while everyone takes care of morning tasks.

Jump Back in Time

Jump Back in Time

Birthday Special:  Have the celebrating student look up their birth date in Jump Back in Time or Today in History, select a primary source, then tell the class why it intrigues them.

Early Bird Activity:  Display a primary source from any of the four sites. Have students explore it when they arrive and share just one detail, question or hypothesis.

To deepen learning, you could have students practice a thinking skill as they explore one or more primary sources (examine, describe, compare, contrast, summarize, and so forth).  Provide a question, sentence starter, or cloze task that exercises that specific skill, and change it periodically.

We’d love to hear any other ideas you have for using these four resources in your classroom or library.


  1. Mim Bizic
    September 25, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    Excellent resources and ideas! Loved that Early Bird Activity too…. I shared on Facebook to help reach a larger audience! Thanks!

  2. Kristen Precious
    September 25, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    This is a great activity for activating learning at the start of the day. We have a homeroom period that is similar to a skills-building and/or enrichment time. Using these primary source websites will be a wonderful way to start the day with critical thinking. I can’t wait to use them! I’ll let you know how the lessons turn out.
    Thanks for another great resource and lesson plan.

  3. Taylor Kendal
    September 26, 2012 at 12:28 am

    With some minimal planning, ‘Today in History’ could be the basis for an excellent intro game. Provide a resource from TIH (projected or printed) with no context and ask students to work backwards with clues to determine what person/place/event/etc. is reperesented and why it’s historically significant.

    Example for September 26:

    Clue #1: Known as the patron saint of horticulture.
    Clue #2: Each year he traveled hundreds of miles on foot—wearing clothing made from sack cloth and carrying a cooking pot that he is said to have worn like a cap.
    Clue #3: He planted nurseries and individual apple trees across 100,000 square miles of midwestern wilderness and prairie.

    TIH makes this activity simple…just copy and paste!

    September 26, 2012 at 12:56 am

    four methods are very good for teaching but first you learned about methos,d of musics and divided the history many part and explaning about a part of histor for example discovery land america or american,s social and…

  5. Glenda Fahey
    October 2, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    What a wonderful classroom resource, and an excellent way to introduce and encourage the use of primary sources with young students.

  6. MaryJane Cochrane
    October 3, 2012 at 8:15 am


    This is a great resource. I am sending it out to our Social Studies teachers.

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