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Library of Congress Teacher Institutes: Thoughts from the Participants

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The Library of Congress recently kicked off its 2011 season of Teacher Institutes.

Working with primary sources at a Library of Congress Teacher Institute

Every year, groups of teachers from around the United States spend five days on-site at the Library of Congress learning and sharing ideas for effectively using primary sources in the classroom.

We’ve completed two weeklong sessions so far, and will be holding five more in the coming months. Throughout the summer, we will be highlighting the rich discussions taking place in hopes of continuing these conversations with our readers.

Here are a few words from the teachers themselves:

  • “I’ve learned that analyzing a primary source is not always black and white, right and wrong, or yes and no. It is downright messy at times. But the real learning is in the messy!”
  • “I found there are infinite ways to use primary sources in science. It is often difficult to make science personal, it can be cold, technical and analytical but with using a primary source I can put a personal spin on my teaching. I work to have my kids observe the world around them, now I will have my kids observe that the world changes, too using primary sources.”
  • “I have had affirmed the importance of pairing primary sources with literature – the ‘hook’ is that we ALL want engaged learners and using the primary source analysis tool helps us move in that direction.”
  • “Being able to leave some questions unanswered and realizing that history is a living phenomenon, not a closed set of facts, makes it much more interesting. Thinking like a historian keeps the chapter open to keep searching for answers.”
  • “I’ve learned the importance of stepping outside the box when it comes to using other types of primary sources than I’m used to using. For instance, using sheet music along with the sound recording of the song, what a powerful impact that has.”

How would you describe experiences you’ve had exploring primary sources? And would any veterans of past Library of Congress teacher institutes like to share their experiences?

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