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.
April highlights include the celebration of the first Earth Day (introductory; advanced) and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln (introductory; advanced), as well as milestones related to:
- April 13, 1743: Thomas Jefferson was born (introductory; advanced),
- April 27, 1822: Ulysses S. Grant was born (introductory; advanced);
- April 6, 1917: United States entered World War I (introductory; advanced),
- April 9, 1865: General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant (introductory; advanced),
- April 11, 1900: U.S. Navy acquired its first submarine (introductory; advanced);
- April 7, 1915: Legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday was born (introductory; advanced),
- April 17, 1897: Writer Thornton Wilder was born (introductory; advanced),
- April 20, 1850: Sculptor Daniel Chester French was born (introductory; advanced),
- April 25, 1918: Jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald was born (introductory; advanced);
- April 16, 1862: Slavery was abolished in the District of Columbia (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!
I love the Today in History resource for a quick connection to the past. There are often gems there that I might not have found any other way. I also enjoy the front page of Chronicling America where is shows newspapers from 100 years ago that day. While there might not be historical events, I’ve found it to be an interesting way to dive into history and get a feel for a moment in time.