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What’s It All About? Capture the Heart of a Primary Source in a Headline

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This guest post is from the Library of Congress Teacher in Residence, Earnestine Sweeting.

Headlines can capture the essence of major themes or concepts.  Teachers use headline-related activities to support specific Common Core and curricular goals such as determining big ideas, summarizing important details, and even confirming predictions.  These and other K -12 skills help students develop valuable thinking routines about what they are studying. Engage your students with activities that extend across genres and disciplines.

Teachers Assemble and Headline a Copy of the 1507 Waldseemüller World Map

In this image, teachers from the Library of Congress summer teacher institute worked in small groups to assemble pieces of an undisclosed map and come to a consensus about its purpose. They were then asked to create a clear and simple headline that captured the most important aspect of the map or the heart of what it’s all about. Each group shared their headline and justified the selection of words used for their headlines.

At the end of the activity, the headlines were displayed and its title revealed. Teachers reflected on the impact of their instructional practice.  One teacher said, “I like the idea of students using this in cooperative groups to summarize and condense their ideas into a concise statement.” Another said, “It lends itself to developing strong interdisciplinary units to help reinforce skills and content.” This activity was inspired by a Visible Thinking routine from Project Zero at Harvard Graduate School of Education.

When creating headlines, teachers can have students:

  • Revisit a headline they created during an early lesson of a unit of study. Ask if they would change it after learning more information

When analyzing headlines, teachers can have students:

  • Compare and contrast headlines of different newspapers or articles about the same topic.  Discuss which one would you read first and explain why.
  • Discuss how the selection of words of a headline is structured to get to the heart of what a story is all about.
  • Think-pair-share ideas about what a headline implies with what it explicitly says

You will find this 1507 Waldseemüller World Map ready to print in six pages.  For additional resources check out a primary source set of  Maps from the World Digital Library.

Tell us how you might develop your students thinking and writing skills using headlines?


  1. headline is very important for cognitive subject .
    i think when we select the headline foe any matters or subjects it is very important that the headline iscomplete package for that subject,because the headline help to user for making total concept .one of the ways for communication is using share,s words

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