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November in History with the Library of Congress

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This post was written by 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.

Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress

November highlights include Abraham Lincoln’s delivery of the Gettysburg Address (introductory; advanced) and the opening of the Library of Congress (introductory; advanced), as well as milestones related to:

Military History

  • November 23, 1863:  Fighting commenced in the Battle of Chattanooga (introductory; advanced),
  • November 13, 1775:  General Richard Montgomery captured Montreal (introductory; advanced);

    Troops, under command of Benedict Arnold, en route to invade Canada.

The Arts

  • November 3, 1916:  The experimental Playwrights’ Theater opened in Provincetown, MA (introductory; advanced),
  • November 30, 1835:  Samuel Langhorne Clemens, also known as Mark Twain, was born (introductory; advanced);

The Built Environment

The States

  • November 2, 1889:  North Dakota and South Dakota became the 39th and 40th states (introductory; advanced);


  • November 5, 1844:  James K. Polk is elected 11th President of the United States (introductory; advanced),
  • November 22, 1963:  President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX (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.

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