Ready, Set, Learn
Although the sheer amount of information on the Library of Congress website can be overwhelming, there are tools to make it easier for users. Showing students how to access the Primary Source Sets, Online Exhibitions, or America's Story (which has much more kid-friendly text), will offset the vastness of the collection and make it manageable. The Library's staff and affiliate groups within the Teaching with Primary Sources program create lesson plans for teachers at every grade level which provide entry into the collection for those who are new to the website. The Library also offers links to digital content from partner institutions around the world and their staff works constantly to update and improve the site as well as digitizing and adding more content. I'm not sure how I would teach social studies without this site.
How I Use It
My students use the Primary Source Sets available on various topics (under the Education link), to research for school projects. The fifth graders use the Civil War sets to study the images and then create their own costumes for a Wax Museum project. They also read the original draft of the "Gettysburg Address" and talk about the editing President Lincoln did. The fourth graders view the original handwritten "The Star-Spangled Banner," as well as paintings of the bombardment of Fort McHenry and we discuss the author's purpose and the symbolism of the song and the flag itself. Being able to see the original handwriting on documents, or look at images from the various historical events makes history come alive for them.