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.
January highlights include the first of more than twelve million immigrants entering the United States through Ellis Island (introductory; advanced) and the ratification of the Treaty of Paris, officially establishing the United States as an independent nation (introductory; advanced), as well as milestones related to:
- January 11, 1885: Equal Rights Amendment author Alice Paul was born (introductory; advanced),
- January 23, 1964: The 24th Amendment ended the poll tax (introductory; advanced);
- January 17, 1871: Andrew Smith Hallidie patented the first cable car (introductory; advanced);
- January 10, 1861: Florida seceded from the Union (introductory; advanced),
- January 26, 1837: Michigan became the 26th state to enter the Union (introductory; advanced),
- January 29, 1861: Kansas entered the Union as a free state (introductory; advanced);
- January 8, 1815: Troops led by General Andrew Jackson defeat British troops in the Battle of New Orleans (introductory; advanced),
- January 21, 1824: Confederate military hero Stonewall Jackson was born (introductory; advanced);
- January 7, 1955: Marian Anderson performed at the Metropolitan Opera (introductory; advanced),
- January 19, 1809: Edgar Allan Poe 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.
Some of our favorite ideas for using these resources came in the comments reacting to Primary Sources Every Day from the Library of Congress. Let us know how you use them!
Thank you for the resources and links. I have used the Today In History resources in the past, but I have not used the introductory level Jump Back In Time. As I have moved from the secondary level to middle school I want to implement some of the materials and information from the introductory level link.