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Teaching the World: Primary Sources with an International Flavor

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Recently, the Library of Congress hosted more than twenty master teachers for a Summer Teacher Institute with a focus on world cultures. The participants found a variety of different ways to incorporate the Library’s resources into classroom activities. Are you looking for world history resources or ways to incorporate them into lesson plans? Here are some suggestions.

Atlas of the World

Maps are a great way to provide a sense of place and to show why particular events occurred where they did. The primary source set featuring Maps from the World Digital Library includes a variety of maps documenting how mapmakers saw our world. Students can select a map such as Atlas of the World and compare it to other maps of the world. What are the similarities and differences? What is the mapmaker trying to express? Other tips for working with maps can be found in a recent Teaching with the Library of Congress blog post “Getting Started with Maps in the Classroom.”

For those of you looking for modern maps, take a look at the Library’s Places in the News feature. Places in the News provides access to current maps created by the State Department or Central Intelligence Agency of locations currently in the news. Also included are country descriptions created using resources such as The Columbia Gazetteer, CIA World Factbook, or the U.S. State Department Background Notes.

Picture of Flourishing America

In addition to maps, the World Digital Library includes primary sources in other formats to help students understand what the artist or author believed about life in other countries. Have students look at the drawings titled Picture of Flourishing America. What do they see that they might not expect? Students may compare these drawings to images from the United States created at the same time. What do they think the Japanese thought of the United States when they drew this image?

Find teaching ideas that feature world history related primary sources under “World History & Cultures” on the Library’s lesson plans page. Remember that you don’t need to use an entire lesson plan; one section could be used as a class starter or as a one day activity. You may also wish to look at the Collection Connections for the collaborative projects France in America and Parallel Histories: Spain the United States and the American Frontier. Both include ideas for incorporating primary sources into classroom activities.

What have you used to help bring world history and culture primary sources to your students?

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