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Back to School with Primary Sources: A Primer from the Library of Congress

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Welcome (or welcome back!) to Teaching with the Library of Congress, where we hope you discover and discuss the most effective techniques for using Library of Congress primary sources in the classroom.  We invite readers to engage with topics ranging from What Makes a Primary Source a Primary Source? to what’s happening “next month in history?” Here are staff picks for places to start – or continue – teaching with primary sources.

Teachers Page
Teachers Page

What does the Library of Congress have for me?

“There are millions of primary sources online at the Library of Congress!  Where do I start?” is a common question from K-12 teachers. Both The Library of Congress Teachers Page: Resources for Getting Started with Primary Sources and What the Library of Congress Has for Teachers: Primary Sources and Tools and Techniques to Use Them  offer a number of easy ways to jump in to teaching with the Library’s online collections of primary sources.

Primary source analysis strategies

We’ve gathered strategies, techniques, and tools for analyzing primary sources into a couple of handy reference posts.

A Washington, D.C., classroom, possibly in 1899.
A Washington, D.C., classroom, possibly in 1899.


Looking for classroom activities?  Practicing Close Observation: Spying on the Past introduces even the youngest students to primary source analysis with a focus on the foundational skill of observation. Introduce students to the value of exploring multiple perspectives and deepen their skills at reading informational text with strategies outlined in  Informational Text: Multiple Points of View in Multiple Formats.

Leave a comment if you try any of these strategies, or if you have one to add.


Comments (2)

  1. This is a great start for first year teachers like me who is new to the Library of Congress site. It is a very overwhelming time and resources like these can help my students think on a higher level. Using the resources provided on this website not only enhance history skills, but technology, Science, and English skills as well. I love being able to interrelate subjects with primary sources and the LOC makes it that much easier!

  2. As I begin my first year of teaching, I am always looking for ways in enhance my students knowledge in all content area. I feel the Library of Congress can make my lessons more engaging, inviting and fun for them. Having the resources available right at my fingertips is extremely helpful when preparing lessons. The Library of Congress also allows me to integrate multiple content areas into a single lesson, providing students with a range of knowledgeable content.

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