This is a guest post by Mary J. Johnson, an educational consultant to the Library of Congress.
Many teachers who read this blog can probably tell a story of finding the perfect primary source at just the right time to ensure a brilliant teaching moment. Unfortunately, teachers more often spend hours painstakingly searching for promising primary sources to fit the curriculum and engage students. Hours, that is, until a Teachers Page Primary Source Set comes to their rescue!
Primary Source Sets typically include a mix of photographs, political cartoons, ephemera, maps, sound recordings, films, songs, and pages from historic American newspapers. Education experts at the Library have carefully selected these primary source gems to appeal to a wide range of grade levels and interests in the K-12 community.
Did you know that every Primary Source Set comes complete with a four-section Teacher’s Guide?
- Historical Background
- Suggestions for Teachers
- Additional Resources
- Primary Sources with Citations
Recently, the Library’s Educational Outreach staff has also focused its attention on discovering primary sources that support Common Core State Standards. You will notice informational texts in a variety of media featured in the latest Primary Source Sets.
In the past year, this blog announced three newly published Primary Source Sets. I’ve added my personal impressions of the value of each set below. What are yours?
- The Spanish-American War: The United States Becomes a World Power. If I were teaching American History (and I’m not), I would use this set in place of a textbook because of the way it reflects passionate and authentic American arguments both for and against imperialism. These primary sources are ready-made for debates, reenactments, and evidence-based writing.
- Mexican American Migrations and Communities. This set has a broad range of appeal for teachers of American History, current events, geography, English as a Second Language, and cultural studies. I found myself especially intrigued by the maps showing the shifting borders of the U.S.
- American Authors in the Nineteenth Century: Whitman, Dickinson, Longfellow, Stowe, and Poe. A gold mine for literature and humanities teachers! I can picture a celebrity showcase of famous authors, enriched and expanded through primary sources, in every classroom.
Summer is the best time to explore Primary Source Sets and to plan how you will use single items or entire sets during the next school year. Think of this round-up post as a garden ripe for easy summer harvesting! After you’ve explored the three new Primary Source Sets or any of the thirty-two available sets, let us know what ideas or items you’ve picked for next year’s teaching basket.