Back to School with Primary Sources: A Primer from the Library of Congress

Welcome (or welcome back!) to Teaching with the Library of Congress, where we hope you discover and discuss the most effective techniques for using Library of Congress primary sources in the classroom.  We invite readers to engage with topics ranging from What Makes a Primary Source a Primary Source? to what’s happening “next month in history?” Here are staff picks for places to start – or continue – teaching with primary sources.

Teachers Page

Teachers Page

What does the Library of Congress have for me?

“There are millions of primary sources online at the Library of Congress!  Where do I start?” is a common question from K-12 teachers. Both The Library of Congress Teachers Page: Resources for Getting Started with Primary Sources and What the Library of Congress Has for Teachers: Primary Sources and Tools and Techniques to Use Them  offer a number of easy ways to jump in to teaching with the Library’s online collections of primary sources.

Primary source analysis strategies

We’ve gathered strategies, techniques, and tools for analyzing primary sources into a couple of handy reference posts.

A Washington, D.C., classroom, possibly in 1899.

A Washington, D.C., classroom, possibly in 1899.


Looking for classroom activities?  Practicing Close Observation: Spying on the Past introduces even the youngest students to primary source analysis with a focus on the foundational skill of observation. Introduce students to the value of exploring multiple perspectives and deepen their skills at reading informational text with strategies outlined in  Informational Text: Multiple Points of View in Multiple Formats.

Leave a comment if you try any of these strategies, or if you have one to add.


What’s In a Name? Learning from the Titles of Library of Congress Primary Sources – Part 1

In a recent Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) workshop, gathered to learn about the power of teaching with primary sources, a teacher was concerned that she needed to “change everything” to address anchor standards for reading. As we discussed ideas for using primary sources in the classroom (already a good sign, right?), we realized that some small activities, such as close attention to reading a title, can be very powerful.

Engage Book Club Readers with Primary Sources from the Library of Congress

This post is by Rebecca Newland, the Library of Congress 2013-14 Teacher in Residence. As a school librarian, I’ve found that book clubs can draw students into my library and into books by socializing reading. One way to engage students with what they’re reading, without turning an extra-curricular club into a class, is to introduce Library […]

Creating Ripples of Change with Primary Sources from the Library of Congress

We engage our students in learning, and then we hope that their learning continues to spread, influencing others around them. Many times, we don’t see the effect of our influence until years later. In my role as a literacy coach, staff developer, and writing project teacher consultant, and because I don’t have students of my own, I always feel that my job is to drop pebbles and stand back as the professionals I work with create unpredictable and beautiful ripples.