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.
September highlights include the first celebrated Labor Day (introductory; advanced) and the publication of the nation’s first daily newspaper (introductory; advanced), as well as milestones related to:
- September 17, 1862: Confederate and Union troops fought the Battle of Antietam (introductory; advanced),
- September 29, 1789: Congress created the U.S. military (introductory; advanced);
- September 2, 1935: Composer George Gershwin completed the opera score for Porgy and Bess (introductory; advanced),
- September 19, 1819: English poet John Keats wrote ode “To Autumn” (introductory; advanced),
- September 24, 1896: F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby, was born (introductory; advanced),
- September 25, 1897: Novelist and recipient of two Pulitzer Prizes William Faulkner was born (introductory; advanced);
The Built Environment
- September 20, 1853: Elisha Graves Otis opened the Elevator Factory (introductory; advanced),
- September 30, 1882: The world’s first hydroelectric power plant opened (introductory; advanced);
- September 16, 1960: College football coach, Amos Alonzo Stagg retired after a seventy-one year career (introductory; advanced),
- September 27, 1939: Professional golf’s all-time leading tournament winner Kathy Whitworth was born (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.