This is a guest post by Mary J. Johnson, an educational consultant to the Library of Congress.
The Educational Outreach staff at the Library of Congress has been working diligently to highlight effective ways to use primary sources in support of the Common Core State Standards. Like many readers of the Teaching with the Library of Congress blog, we have identified strategies related to the Common Core’s instructional “shift” toward integrating more informational texts into literacy programs. Today’s summer blog round-up pulls together five posts packed with ideas for using informational texts from the Library’s collections.In Informational Text, the Common Core, and the Library of Congress: A Resource Center Rich with Primary Sources, Educational Resource Specialist Stephen Wesson explains how the Library can help teachers. First, he links to search results in a range of media: biographies, newspapers, maps, technical texts, and digital sources. Next, he points readers to teacher tools for analyzing informational text. The post ends with several “close reading” suggestions based on the Library’s new primary source set on the Spanish-American War.
In Teaching with Informational Text: Historic Newspapers from the Library of Congress, Stephen encourages teachers to take advantage of rich informational texts from the Library’s Chronicling America collection. He writes, “In a typical paper from 1900, you might find factual reporting, fire-breathing editorials, biographical profiles, literary nonfiction, weather reports, box scores, charts, graphs, maps, cartoons, and a poem about current events – maybe even all on the same page!”
For a new twist on the idea of informational texts, take a look at Stephen’s Informational Text: Child Labor Reform Panels and Multimedia in the Early 20th Century. Here you will explore a cut and paste precursor to today’s multimedia campaigns. Through a mix of informational and visual texts, activists made a persuasive case against child labor that changed the nature of the workforce.
In Informational Text: Multiple Points of View in Multiple Formats, Cheryl Lederle suggests that we start with one of the Library’s outstanding primary source sets to find informational texts by theme. Using the sample set, Immigration Challenges for New Americans, she suggests ways for students to engage with some “unexpected documents, like cartoons and popular songs” as they evaluate complex texts.
Finally, in Teaching with Short Texts: Primary Sources from the Library of Congress Say More with Less, Educational Outreach Intern Bernice Ramirez and Teacher in Residence Earnestine Sweeting explore the use of short texts to help students unpack meaning. By analyzing a single 1903 telegram and two short letters, students place events within their scientific, technological, and political context. They make inferences about the character and motivations of the famous authors.
Whether or not your school plans to follow the Common Core directive to beef up the quantity and complexity of informational reading and writing, you will find a wealth of texts waiting for you in the Library of Congress collections. We hope you will share your own primary source strategies for teaching with informational texts!