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Teaching with Primary Sources

Teaching with Primary Sources

Common Core Shifts for ELA/Literacy

I recently spent a few hours with a group of teachers who were attending a literacy professional development training at NWESD. They were discussing the three instructional shifts required by the English Language Arts Standards (CCSS):

This sparked another discussion about the need teachers have for resources to use in the classroom that support them in designing instruction to address these shifts in meaningful, integrated ways. A teacher-librarian in the group mentioned that she had recently visited the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. and that they offer online resources through their Teaching with Primary Sources program. I was amazed by the vast amount of primary source materials available for free to use in K-12 classrooms! According to the Library of Congress, “Primary sources are the raw materials of history – original documents and objects which were created at the time under study.” Additionally, examining these sources gives students “…a powerful sense of history and the complexity of the past…and can also guide them toward higher-order thinking and better critical thinking and analysis skills.” (http://www.loc.gov/teachers/usingprimarysources/)

After viewing the resources available, the teachers concluded that primary source analysis benefits students in many ways- the materials are engaging, they help students develop critical thinking skills, they support students in constructing knowledge about history, and they address all three shifts! To explore the plethora of primary source documents, lesson plans, analysis tools, and much more available through our nation’s Library of Congress, check out their page for teachers.

To read more about how the Library of Congress website encourages deep learning through close reading and viewing of primary resources, read the article, “Primary Sources: At the Heart of the Common Core State Standards,” from The Teaching with Primary Sources Journal.

Image source: achievethecore.org