October in History with Primary Sources from the Library of Congress

This post comes courtesy of 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.

October highlights include the birth of the nineteenth U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes  (introductory; advanced) and the swearing in of the first African American Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall (introductory; advanced), as well as milestones related to:

Military History

  • October 5, 1877:  Chief Joseph surrendered to the U.S. Army (introductory; advanced),
  • October 19, 1781:  British General Charles Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, VA ending the Revolutionary War (introductory; advanced);

Dorothea Lange

The Arts

The Built Environment

  • October 13, 1792: The cornerstone of the White House was laid (introductory; advanced),
  •  October 27, 1904: The New York subway system opened (introductory; advanced);

    In the subway, New York, New York

Sports

  • October 1, 1961: Roger Maris broke the record for the most home runs in a single season (introductory; advanced),
  • October 15, 1972: Jackie Robinson threw the first pitch at the second game of the  World Series (introductory; advanced);

Invention

  • October 24, 1861:  The transcontinental telegraph system was completed, ending the Pony Express (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.

How will you engage students using primary sources? Let us know in the comments.

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