One of the nation's leading repositories for exceptional and intriguing primary sources for teaching and learning.

Submitted 9 years ago
My Rating

My Take

Our nation's library is committed to the collection and dissemination of exceptional, rare, interesting, and unique resources that hallmark who was are as Americans and how we interact in the global world. Even two years ago, the collections were difficult to search and manage but this has changed, and the resources are easy to find, cite, and use in the classroom setting as well as for individual research and activities. The front page search bar is now an intuitive searching tool that acts as a visual aide and a resource filter to help the user cull through literally millions of online digital resources. This upgraded searching feature alone is worth a look as it makes finding a primary source to integrate in the classroom a snap for teachers, and finding research materials easy for students. Some key things to take a look at include:
* The Teacher's Page: This page includes a wealth of instructional resources organized by topic, theme, standard, and strategy in the classroom materials section. As an educator, the resource sheets available for teaching with primary sources (analysis sheets/ activities) are outstanding and can be printed or are interactive. The teachers section also includes a great individualized module section for professional development for teachers and students to use to brush up on strategies using analysis, synthesis, and inquiry. As a professional development leader, the site can offer online professional development sections that are customizable for multiple types of professional development.
* Check out this fantastic upgrade to the original Thomas site which can now help students and teachers access government records, track current bills, contact a legislator, collect and synthesis important documents in the legislative process.
* This Day in History: If you are a history geek, scroll down to the bottom of the front launch page and explore this section which highlights not only what happened yesterday, today, and tomorrow, but also holds an immense archive of searchable primary sources with important keywords and topics that makes learning and collecting digital resources a breeze.
* World Digital Library: Explore the world through this collaboration with libraries from all around the world to provide digital access to amazing primary sources from almost every continent. If you never thought there was anything in the Library of Congress for your teaching area, this site will probably prove that statement false - with good reason.
The only criticism is that sometimes the site can be overwhelming in the search responses and it takes time to cull through resources. With the latest improvements on the search functionality on the front page this is changing but the site can be be a huge time taker in a good and bad way for teachers. It is easy to get so deep into content you will never come back to the surface!

How I Use It

The site has amazing options as a teaching tool and can support skills and content learning in all content areas- yes, even math and science. With the launch of the New National Common Core State Standards primary sources tie right into supporting learning with text, evidence based conversations, and the use of non-fiction. Some quick ideas include:

Large Group Instruction:
* Using a projector, deconstruct elements of a map using the amazing online zooming tool.
* Have students analyze a photo using the same zooming tools in the prints and photographs collection, and create questions that they would like to further research.

Small Group Instruction:
* Print out architectural drawings from some of America's most famous places in the Building America Collection, and have students figure out the scale and measurements then recreate them in Sketch up or using another online 3-d tool.
* Use several selections of text from the Manuscripts Division to illuminate different points of view and have students determine, and then add to, the different points of view on an event.

Teaching Strategies:
* Employ the use of inquiry in the classroom through the inquiry activities listed in the Classroom Resources Section of the website, and use the interactive primary source analysis sheets to engage students in learning.
* Explore the WPA collection, Broadside collection, and Historic Newspapers which are little known collections that pack a huge "wow" of information in a great primary source. Students will be engaged in comparing and contrasting "then" and "now" using these resources which is another key skill.

Extended uses for special learners:
* Pair a photo and text on a subject to give access to a topic to all levels of learners.
* Have GT students create their own primary source collections or resources to share on a topic such as those created on the Teaching Page.
* Use primary sources to highlight and teach essential vocabulary to students and give visual support to learning.