Primary Sources in the Primary Grades: Snowy Day Activities

This post is by Teresa St. Angelo, the 2016-2017 Library of Congress Teacher in Residence.

When school is closed on a snowy day, let the learning and fun continue at home using Library of Congress primary sources.

Create Map Puzzles

United States of America. Murray, Draper, Fairman & Co., 1818.

United States of America. Murray, Draper, Fairman & Co., 1818.

The American Union railroad map of the United States, British possessions. West Indies, Mexico, and Central America. Darius L. Guernsey, 1874


The American Union railroad map of the United States, British possessions. West Indies, Mexico, and Central America. Darius L. Guernsey, 1874

Print two copies of this map from 1818. Glue one copy to poster board or construction paper. Cut out the states from the other copy. You can glue the state pieces to poster board or construction paper to make them sturdier. Place the pieces over the map and complete the puzzle. For added challenge, let students assemble the pieces without giving them the complete map.

To prompt questions about the growth and expansion of the United States, make a map puzzle using this United States map from 1874 and compare the two.

Repeat with other maps, or pairs of maps, from the collections of the Library of Congress as often as you like!

Make a Matching Game

Print two copies of Bufford’s sleighing cards.

Bufford's sleighing cards no. 432, 1878

Bufford’s sleighing cards no. 432, 1878

Cut out the images and glue on an index card or a piece of construction paper. Play a matching game by placing your twelve cards face down and take turns picking two cards to find a match.

Have fun finding other images to personalize and create your own matching game based on a historical time period or  event using primary sources from loc.gov. Ready-made primary source sets offer a great starting place!

Make a Calendar

  • Make a themed calendar (for example, American Revolution, women in history, inventions, historical figures, or ships), choosing a different image for each month. If time allows, highlight dates of important events for the theme.
  • Find images to place on calendar number spaces to highlight special events for your family, such as birthdays, vacations, or doctor and dentist appointments.

The Birthday Cake. Henry Whittier Frees, 1914

Youngsters on the beach, Palm Beach, Florida

Youngsters on the beach, Palm Beach, Florida, ca 1900

Dentist. Harris and Ewing, 1936

Dentist. Harris and Ewing, 1936

Winter Days

Winter Days, 1881

Compare Winter Days, Past and Present

Divide a sheet of paper in half. Label the top of the left side, 1881. Label the top of the right side, 2017. Study this image of Winter Days, 1881 to create a list of winter activities shown. Write them under 1881. Then, under 2017, write a list of activities you could do today. Using the image and your lists, interview your family to learn what their favorite winter activity from the past is as well as their favorite winter activity today. If you like, draw a picture to represent winter activities today!

Explore Historic Newspapers

Look in Chronicling America for:

Make a snowy day the sunniest! Please share a favorite snowy day activity that features primary sources.

8 Comments

  1. Mary Henry
    February 2, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    I love this. Although I teach older students, I wish more parents would spend time reading and doing crafts/playing games with educational resources at home. I can see such a difference between students who have had a background in which the parents worked with their children at home to read and learn, and students who have not had much outside opportunity for learning. Not to mention, these resources are beautiful, and hey, I love learning about them! I can also see how students with autism can really benefit from working closely with noticing particular differences, such as with the map and winter then-and-now.

  2. Patricia Henry
    February 2, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    After building a snowman, throwing snowballs at your sister, sledding down the driveway, or helping shovel the sidewalks what could be more fun than playing one it these snow day themed activities!! All these ideas would educate and inform under the guise of playing a game or doing an arts & crafts project.

  3. Fred J
    February 2, 2017 at 10:21 pm

    These activities are fantastic! Children will enjoy discovering the past while making comparisons to the present. These fun activities will help develop knowledge and skills by delving into primary sources. I especially enjoyed the winter image and seeing life as it was in 1881. Snowy days, at home, will be filled with fun and learning.

  4. Elaine Winder
    February 3, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    Some very creative ideas.

  5. Cathy Mayher
    February 3, 2017 at 2:46 pm

    I love the calendar idea. I taught a course in Humanities- a course that focused on a lot of art. This would be a nice final project (in high school). Students could choose a piece of art from each genre we studied and place it in a month appropriate to its theme, then under each picture explain the rationale for their choice. Very fun and a nice way to apply knowledge.

  6. Marla
    February 3, 2017 at 7:53 pm

    Pour the hot chocolate and let’s play a game! Love the idea of comparing and contrasting winter activities from 1881 and 2017. From my experience, young learners are naturally interested in what the world was like before the advent of modern technology. Also enjoy the idea of a themed calendar. A snow day is a day off from life’s routine for the whole family. Great suggestions to make it a productive, fun, learning experience!

  7. K.C. Stange
    February 4, 2017 at 1:50 pm

    What a wonderful bevy of ideas Teresa! It can be difficult these days to get the kids to put their phones or video games down and enjoy good old fashioned fun. Perhaps even researching old recipes and cooking some fun sweets on a cold day like fudge or cookies!

  8. Cecilia
    February 8, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    Love the idea of helping students make connections to the present through looking to the past. All these activities, from the maps, to the cards and winter activities are so delightfully simple and yet allow for kids to explore the world they know within a more historical and nostalgi context. Thank you for all your help LOC and Mrs. St. Angelo!

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