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.
October highlights include the celebration of Halloween (introductory; advanced) and Christopher Columbus and crew spotting land that came to be known as the Americas (introductory; advanced), as well as milestones related to:
- October 10, 1845: The U.S. Naval Academy was formed (introductory; advanced),
- October 18, 1898: American troops engaged in the Spanish-American war raised the flag in Puerto Rico, officially taking control of the former Spanish colony (introductory; advanced);
- October 20, 1803: The Senate ratified the Louisiana Purchase Treaty (introductory; advanced);
- October 23, 1941: The Senate passed a supplemental Lend-Lease bill (introductory; advanced);
- October 17, 1823: President James Monroe wrote a letter to Thomas Jefferson seeking advice on foreign policy (introductory; advanced),
- October 21, 1960: Millions of Americans watched the great debates of Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy (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!