Planning Student Learning Experiences Using Library of Congress Online Exhibitions: Plan a Collaborative Tour

This blog post is by Stacie Moats of the Library of Congress.

This is the last of a three-part series of blog posts featuring tips for preparing students to personally connect and collaboratively engage with primary sources through more than 140 Library of Congress online exhibitions. I’ll use the Library’s exhibition, Rosa Parks: In Her Own Words, as a case study for planning these virtual student learning experiences.

Early Life and Activism Page for Rosa Parks exhibition

Encourage close looking and so much more with a collaborative tour approach

To provide students with greater opportunities for close looking and collaborative engagement, experiment with a “build your own” class tour of “Rosa Parks: In Her Own Words.” Begin by creating teams of anywhere from 2-4 students, depending on age and skill level. Next, identify 4-6 pre-selected items from one exhibition section for each team. Multiple teams can be assigned the same group of items, although each team still collaborates independently.

Next, provide teams with a set of activity directions, such as:

  • Go to the exhibition section, Early Life and Activism
  • Spend 15 minutes on your own looking closely at and reading about only these five items:
  • Discuss as a team for 10 minutes after looking closely at all five items:
    • What surprised you?
    • What connections did you discover?
    • What makes you curious? Why?
    • Which item is your favorite? Why?
  • As a team, spend 5 minutes to:
    • Choose one “do not miss” item that all of you of agree to highlight for everyone during our build your own class tour.
    • Ask one team member to share—in just a few sentences—your do not miss item and why your team chose it during our tour. [Note: focus on what makes this item meaningful to all of you.]

If teams need more time to explore items and discuss findings, wait to facilitate the student led class tour during another session. If more scaffolding is needed before teams work independently, you might first guide the entire class in a collaborative think aloud while looking closely at an exhibition item and reading its accompanying text (in any order). This provides opportunities to demonstrate and emphasize that there is no right approach to experiencing and interpreting exhibition content.

Before starting the tour, remind the class that every visitor approaches learning in an exhibition differently. Explain that this collaborative tour approach brings together each of their unique perspectives to highlight items that might otherwise be missed or unappreciated.

Invite team representatives one at a time to present their highlight items. Following the exhibition’s chronological order is often helpful to students, but you could experiment with other options. After each team briefly shares its item, try prompting additional insights by asking one or two follow-up questions of the entire team, such as:

  • What other items did you consider for your selected item?
  • How did you explore the items—looking closely at them? Reading text? In what order?
  • Tell us about any surprises, connections or curiosities you discovered.
  • How did your experience confirm or challenge your understanding of Rosa Parks?
  • What would you like to investigate further?

Continue investigating with the exhibition’s resources

If students identify questions that they would like to investigate further, a great place to start is the exhibition’s “Events and Resources” page. Here you’ll find related Library of Congress online resources, including digitized collections, webcasts, online exhibitions, and classroom materials. Also featured are recommended book lists for adults and young readers.

You might use these resources to help synthesize and review students’ learning after their exhibition experience. For instance, consider watching this brief video, also titled “Rosa Parks: In Her Own Words,” and invite students to compare the information it presents to what they discovered through close looking and reading.

If you explore an online Library of Congress exhibition, we’d love to hear from you about students’ experiences!

A Teacher’s Memories of Congressman John Lewis

Rebecca Newland, a former Teacher in Residence and contributor to the Teachers Page blog and the Poetry and Literature Center blog reflects on her interactions with the late congressman John Lewis. She notes that by talking about Lewis and his work with young people, we can keep alive the spirit of compassion and non-violence he espoused.