Five Teacher Resources from the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress offers valuable teacher resources for those looking to help make studies come alive for their students.

Finding new and exciting resources can be a challenge for teachers who want to keep their students engaged and help them grasp the information they are learning. Primary sources are excellent ways to incorporate many of the new standards being implemented according to state and Common Core guidelines, and they are also great for helping students feel more connected to the material rather than just learning from a textbook.

The Library of Congress offers a variety of resources, but here are five that stand out as particularly helpful in the classroom.

Before and After the Great Earthquake and Fire: Early Films of San Francisco, 1897-1906

Recommended Grades: 3-5

These two disasters that plagued the people of San Francisco during the turn of the early 20th century are typically covered as important aspects of the modernization of America as well as the industrialization of the country.

For many students, however, these periods of history all tend to run together as something remote and not much more than facts to be memorized. These films help to bring the city to life and help students see that the people affected by the disasters were not much different from those alive today. Personalizing this lesson through films helps students relate to it and retain the details they are learning.

The Bill of Rights: Debating the Amendments

Recommended Grades: 6-8, 9-12

This material works not only as an excellent history lesson, but also as a civics lesson. Students will be able to read, analyze, and debate the first amendments in the form that they were originally sent to the states to be ratified.

Once they have also made their arguments for each of the amendments, they will be able to vote on the ones they would include if they were the Founding Fathers, and then compare their results with those which were actually ratified.

This will help students understand how the Constitution came to be and the process the Founding Fathers went through in developing this document that still governs the United States today.

Drake’s West Indian Voyage 1588-1589

Recommended Grades: 6-8

Students are given the opportunity to analyze maps which detail a voyage made by the famous explorer which corresponded with attacks made against Spanish settlements in Africa, the Caribbean, North America and South America.

In this lesson, students can learn about the various attacks and detail events which occurred in each settlement. To help with critical thinking skills, the students should also be encouraged to look for bias within the map collection.

American Authors in the 19th Century: Whitman, Dickinson, Longfellow, Stowe, and Poe

Recommended Grades: 9-12

This lesson helps to tie in information about history as well as classic literature. Students should be given historical and contextual information about the rise of American leisure time and enjoyment of literature in the 19th Century and how these writers helped to shape their era.

Students are given opportunities to read some of the primary sources where they will have a chance to see some of the corrections made by authors as they progressed through their works. Students can discuss the process taken by the authors as well as their mindsets and their role in history.

The Civil War Through a Child’s Eye

Recommended Grades: 3-8

Through a combination of primary sources as well as historical fiction, students will be introduced to the American Civil War through the eyes of children about their age. The resources will help them gain a firm grasp on the human perspective on national tragedies, such as war, which will help them relate better to the period and retain the information they are learning.

Helping children learn while using primary resources can be an excellent way to make them more engaged in the material. Memorization from a textbook can be boring and dry, but primary sources can bring the material and the history to life. The lesson plans above do an excellent job of educating students and will make very good additions to any classroom.

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