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Three Presidents: Primary Sources for Primary Grades and Beyond

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Presidents Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln
Composite image. Presidents Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln. All three source images are available in this set.

The United States has had a number of remarkable leaders. Three early presidents are notable for their contributions: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln.

What better way for young students to learn about these presidents than to explore documents from the time period – including letters, school work, diagrams and drawings created by the men themselves?

With the Library’s recently updated primary source set, Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln, students can immerse themselves in various aspects of these presidents’ lives by examining primary sources related to their early years, families, personal interests and achievements. In addition to documents created by each president, students will find photographs and prints of the time which can provide context to help bring these famous men to life.

Here are some ideas for incorporating this primary source set in your classroom:

  • Identify characteristics of the three presidents by comparing portraits;
  • Study family photographs, handwritten documents, and school work to make personal connections;
  • Examine Jefferson’s handwritten draft of the Declaration of Independence and consider the process of writing and collaboration; and
  • Create a presidential timeline and add primary sources and information as they are discovered.

As with all of the Library’s Primary Source Sets, a Teacher’s Guide is available with background information, more teaching ideas, and additional resources.

Which of these primary sources would you use in your classroom or library, and how? We’d love to hear your ideas for helping students make connections to these important people in our nation’s history.


Comments (2)

  1. Speaking of remarkable leaders, I must acknowledge here the leadership of Anne Savage in helping teachers make the most of primary sources in their classrooms. Though we may not have a curated set of digitized primary sources to reveal and highlight Anne’s positive influence on teachers and classrooms across this country, I am sure that the evidence can be found in schools where students and teachers engage with primary sources inspired by Anne’s modeling during the Library’s Summer Teacher Institutes. I only worked with Anne for a year…but in that time I learned so much. Thank you for this latest blog post, Anne. And thank you for helping me and so many other teachers learn how to facilitate deep learning with primary sources.

  2. I would like to add to Trey’s comments about Anne. I worked with Anne for a short time but learned so much from her! Anne would spend hours searching, writing, researching, rewriting, and collaborating with colleagues to produce quality primary source lessons that were pertinent, creative, challenging, and engaging. I saw her commitment to Ed Outreach and teachers every day. She enjoyed her work and teachers, as well as students, reaped the benefits.

    Anne used her remarkable knowledge of technology in order to create and inform. Her skills and support were instrumental in providing professional development workshops, week long summer programs, and twitter posts that brought Library of Congress news and primary sources to teachers throughout each and every day!

    I am so happy that I was able to see the development of this, Three Presidents, primary source set, all due to Anne’s hard work and commitment. As you read and use the ideas and primary sources in this set, know what it meant to Anne to develop and provide the best she could for educators!

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