Free Educational Resources For All Subjects From The Library Of Congress… Innovate With Primary Sources!

Welcome to a posting dedicated to the United States Library Of Congress and the use of Primary Documents in the classroom. I know you will find amazing uses for this incredible resource at all grade levels and in all content areas. As you enjoy the article please be sure to subscribe to this blog by RSS or Email for more great up-coming posts. It is my passion to provide the best information  and resources for 21st century learning and student centered learning. You are also invited to follow me on twitter (@mjgormans) and visit my 21centuryedtech Wiki. Now, lets take a moment to check out how primary resources can engage learning! Have a great week! – Mike

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Library Of Congress – Primary Sites

I often write about sites that provide hundreds of resources that are free, engaging, and cover the 21st Century and NETS-S Standards. I also attempt to bring you those sites that provide opportunities to assist in the implementation of Project Based Learning while promoting student centered learning. The United States Library Of Congress is definitely a  site that provides information fitting all of the benchmarks I have described. In addition, there are numerous professional development activities to enrich your delivery and even count toward state certification.

A mission of the Library Of Congress Teachers Page is to bring the power of primary sources into the classroom. Primary sources include  raw materials of history and are the original documents and objects created at the specific time being studied. They differ from secondary sources which are accounts or interpretations of events created by someone without firsthand experience. The Library of Congress relates that, “Examining primary sources gives students a powerful sense of history and the complexity of the past. Helping students analyze primary sources can also guide them toward higher-order thinking and better critical thinking and analysis skills.” I agree that investigation of primary resources is indeed an important 21st Century skill. Such activities allow students to discern what a primary source is and to investigate how a primary source can be valuable to research and understanding.

Library of Congress  (Teacher Resource Section)

The link that I direct you towards first is the official Teacher Library Of Congress Page. It is this page that will get you right to what can be considered the best stuff for engaging classroom lessons and activities.  A teacher can search by their state curriculum areas, by grade level or content. While this is a great way to check out what may be available, I feel much can be missed. Please read on as I highlight those areas that I know you will find valuable!

Classroom Lessons

One sure stop is the newly designed Classroom Lesson Page. Here you will find a large amount of lessons arranged into over twenty topic areas and nine time eras. While social studies and language arts seem to stand out, a closer look reveals science, technology and other STEM related resources.. A small sample of lessons include Thomas Edison, Electricity, and AmericaExplorations in American Environmental History1900 America: Primary Sources and Epic PoetryCivil War Photographs: What Do You See?Westward Expansion: Links to the PastLocal History: Mapping My SpotImmigration History FirsthandThe Constitution: Drafting a More Perfect Union, and Primary Sources and Personal Artifacts. You will find that many of the activities have the ability to initiate a Project Based Learning project while focusing on the 21st Century Skills of collaboration, research, communication, inquiry, investigation, and innovation. The lessons also facilitate the opportunity for cross-curricular integration, allowing students to see real world application and content relationships.

Over Twenty Primary Source Sets

Perhaps you may wish to  take a look at the more than 20 Primary Source Sets.  In this location you will find primary sources along with lessons, activities, presentations, and further classroom connections. Explore  primary source document sets   rich with outstanding resources. Examples include, The Inventive Wright BrothersMaps From The World Digital LibraryPrimary Sources By StateVeterans’ Stories: The Veterans History ProjectCivil War Music, and Baseball: Across a Divided Society.

Themed Resources

This area includes exhibitions, special presentations, lesson plans and other materials gathered from throughout the Library of Congress for selected curricular themes.Explore more than 25 Themed Resources that include such themes as the The Lewis and Clark ExpeditionMusic and DanceScience and InventionExploration and Explorers, and Advertising.  These themed resources abound with information and amazing ways to bring primary resources into the classroom.

Collection Connection

There is also an amazing Collection Connection. This area provides historical context and ideas for teaching with specific Library of Congress primary source collections. Example include Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers at the Library of CongressFirst-Person Narratives of the American South, 1860-1920 and By Popular Demand: Portraits of the Presidents and First Ladies, 1789-Present. The Collection Connection Page provides information regarding availability of teaching resources involving each specific collection.

Presentations And Activities

The Presentations and Activities travels across the American Memory collections to investigate curricular themes. They include historical background, helping to tell the story behind the theme. Here you will find dozens of presentations including American Memory Timeline, and The Branding of America along with  a selection of activities such as Port of Entry and Historical Detective.

Professional Development

The United States Library of Congress also has an outstanding area that addresses teacher professional development. A section of the site entitled Build and Deliver includes 15 modular activities to create and deliver your own Library of Congress professional development. All the materials you need  are included, and one can download materials in an easy-to-print PDF or exportable HTML file. Build and Deliver provides a great way to deliver standards-based Teaching with Primary Sources professional development to educators. Most components can be completed in one or two hours. Be sure to  take a look at this list of fantastic components. Are you are looking for professional development that will also allow you to earn a certificate of completion?  Then investigate the Library’s self-paced interactive modules. Each of the multimedia-rich programs deliver approximately one hour of staff development.

Summer Institutes

Perhaps I have saved the best for last in the area of professional development. Each year the Library of Congress provides opportunities for K-12 educators to attend one of its Summer Teacher Institutes in Washington, D.C. During these five-day institutes, participants work with Library of Congress education specialists to learn best practices for using primary sources in the K-12 classroom, while exploring some of the millions of digitized primary sources available on the Library’s Web site. Applications are usually accepted until Feb 1 and workshops occur most weeks in the summer with one that usually emphasizes the Civil War. This involves an application process and I have supplied a link to assist you.

Thanks for joining me on this journey to the Library Of Congress. It certainly is a resource that will facilitate 21st Century education and help transform learning in engaging and powerful ways. As always, I invite all comments so that we can all learn from each other. Please be sure to subscribe to this blog by RSS or email for more great upcoming posts and as always you are invited to give me a follow on twitter (@mjgormans) and visit my 21centuryedtech Wiki. Have a great adventure as you find primary ways to transform, create, and innovate! – Mike


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6 responses to “Free Educational Resources For All Subjects From The Library Of Congress… Innovate With Primary Sources!

  1. Thanks for simplifying all that the LOC has to offer. I know my teaching staff will benefit from reading this post.

  2. bre

    I am a teacher in NC and was happy when I found this post about the LOC. Thanks for the great resources. Our teachers have also used a couple other resources websites such as and when teaching or searching for resources for our classroom.

    Thank you again

    • Bre – Hope all is great down in NC! What an awesome state. Thanks for the comment and kind words. I will be sure to check out the resources you listed. Always looking for new items to share. Please continue to return so we can learn from each other. Have a good week! – Mike

  3. Thanks! This helped a lot! ~~A.S.

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