Random Thoughts: Change, Primary Sources & Other Stuff

housegirlTara Conklin’s House Girl is a popular book club book and appropriate for high school students. The historical fiction novel tells the story of Lina, a contemporary New York attorney working on a slavery reparation case. Through her work she discovers connections between art, a client, and a slave. As Lina begins her research she compiles a list of the slaves, making a comparison chart of the harm they received.  Several names caught my eye.

The familiar names were drawn from  Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1938, an AmericanLukeTowns Memory collection of more than 2000 first-person accounts. These interviews were collected as part of the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in the 1930′s. Take a look at Luke Towns, a centenarian, born in Georgia in 1835.

When I read historical fiction I am always curious about the author’s source.  These primary source interviews clearly tie in with the novel. They support the study of slavery,  inquiry, and reading/understanding/comparing informational text

Conklin cites the slave narratives and other collections  in her list of sources.  There are countless primary resources to complement The House Girl and movies such as Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 11.07.29 AM12 Years a Slave.  For starters,  The Emergence of Advertising in America collection has powerful, thought-provoking flyers from slave auctions. Voice from the Days of Slavery from the Library of Congress American Folklife Center has recorded interviews of former slaves.

Primary sources like these offer engaging learning opportunities for  classrooms. Learn how!

Images: Luke Towns selection from Born Into Slavery: Slave Narratives From the Federal Writers Project and The House Girl, p 75

The May 2012 post Google’s Information Literacy Lesson Plans ranks high on Random Thoughts’ stats list. Is there is quite a bit of interest in these practical tools?  I tried to find out by making a personal contact and by posting requests about usage on LM_Net. I was surprised to hear from only a few people.

Several said they are considering using one or some of the 15 lessons.  A high school librarian explained:  I am in the process of systematizing the research process in our district.  I’m meeting with the Elementary, Middle and High School to get a handle on exactly what is being done at each level.  Ideally I’d like to scaffold the process, building each year.  We will be using NoodleTools as our citation making program and that has a note taking component, but we all know there is so much more than that involved.  I would like to involve all the disciplines, and have found that sometimes teachers in disciplines other than English feel intimidated with the research process.  I believe that if we can document a system it should ease their fears, (we’ll train the Teachers as well as the students) . . .  Lessons are more geared towards Middle School but I was wondering if the advanced level could be used as a refresher at the High School level.

It was great to hear from two librarians who use the lessons with my fifth grade students to teach them how to be better Google searchers.   It’s good to start young! Even primary level students prefer Google to many “age appropriate” resources.

A library director uses Picking the Right Search Terms with 6th grade.  Students “race” to find the correct answers and share their search terms with the class. I have selected 10 searches that utilize various skills, and placed them in a presentation on my Google Drive account, and the presentation is projected on the board. The kids, especially the 6th graders find Google alluring and a little mysterious, so they feel like they’re peeking behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz.  She also uses Narrowing a Search to Get the Best Results with 9th grade history students.  They’ve had plenty of experiences with finding too many or not relevant results and are eager to learn. It’s discussed in terms of making their desired results “rise to the top” among all the muck. We continue to refine search strategies so they are typing keywords, not full sentences or questions, and then we limit the results in various ways. She also uses some lessons with older students, including some now in college, who rated themselves as better searchers than their peers. She plans to expand more to the high school level said by incorporating lessons in future web evaluation lessons.   These are skills that adults use in their daily lives, and we want it to move from explicit lessons to implicit understanding.

Have you discovered  Google Literacy Lesson Plans?  Are you using any of the 15 lessons?  Share your experiences by commenting on this blog.  Thank you!  

Google Literacy Lesson Plans: Way Beyond Just Google It.  Internet@Schools, Sept/Oct 2012
May 2012 post

A special thanks to: Christina Pommer (Florida); Marianne Kerrigan (New Jersey) and Mary Catherine Coleman (Virginia)


On My Mind! The NEW MEDIA CENTER, Internet @Schools, Dec/Nov. 2013

I just wanted to thank you for your article in this months Internet @ Schools, “Questions, Musings, and Other Things On My Mind”.  It was fantastic and I couldn’t agree with you more about what you said about library media specialists and our jobs. I have been the LMS at my school for two years now and feel that libraries in schools are vital to the life of our schools. Though we have clerical duties as you pointed out in the article, our main focus should be on the students and staff in this building—helping them.  
Keep up the great work.  Sincerely,
Kimmie Vogt, Library Media Specialist, Hastings Middle School

Interacting with History; Teaching with Primary Sources, edited by Katharine Lehman.   It was a lot of fun writing the chapter bookcover Discovering Local History in your own Back Yard.  The types of local history treasures like those I’ve written about on this blog are included along with  stories of how media specialists and teachers are bringing local history resources and activities into their schools.  Other chapters are by Sara Suiter, Sherry Galloway along  with contributions by Library of Congress American Memory Fellow and an introduction by Barbara Stripling.  Other selected content: Overview of the Library of Congress Resources ~ Teacher Pages Resources ~ Professional Development Materials  and Lessons ~ Teaching with Primary Resources Partners ~ Interacting with History is available from ALA , Spring 2014. 


I recently participated in a discussion with a group of media specialists who met virtually to engage in some conversation with a few HS librarians who are actively teaching to the CCS with their teachers.  Sharing was facilitated by author/speaker and former school media specialist Toni Buzzeo.

School media specialists want to be involved and work with teachers, but many are overwhelmed. They want to know how to collaborate with teachers and what to do to get started.  Several shared what they are doing. Examples include focusing on standards, what resources will support them, and meeting with teachers. Others are updating media center web sites to meet new needs, aggressively updating collections, and acquiring more resources to meet the CCS informational text requirements.

Throughout our discussion I thought of how this is not that different from what we’ve long been doing– collaborating with teachers to integrate and infuse information literacy throughout the curriculum. I would apply my “work with the living” philosophy and reach out to those who are interested in trying new things and using new resources such as digital primary resources from the Library of Congress.

But, what may be familiar is not all the same.  High stakes testing and the emphasis on accountability in the classroom and media center place a greater importance on successful and educational meaningful collaboration and integration.  The CCS standards are more complex and more far-reaching than the  others.

After our discussion ended I came across The Common Core Companion: The Standards Decoded, Grades 6-8. It’s a very practical book that makes CCS very understandable.

I am impressed with this book! It clearly depicts the alignment/integration of Common Core Language arts standards in reading, science/technical subjects, speaking/listening and writing.  Many clear examples, including several involving technology are included.  The format and layout clearly shows the cross-disciplinary nature of CCS.  The easy-to-read bulleted text and generous note-taking spaces are a plus. I shared the book with a social studies teacher/future media specialist. She instantly saw its potential as a tool for her own teaching and as a PLC leader.

I examine many books as a reviewer for LMC magazine; this one stands out! Debbie Abilock said Burke’s a pro – his teaching strategies and student-focused instructions are a proactive, intelligent approach to synthesizing and integrating information while avoiding plagiarism.


What’s a flouroscope?


Shoe Fluorscope on display at the National Museum of Health and Medicine.

I just had foot surgery!  This post isn’t about my foot, but about how seeing the pre-op x-ray results on a large computer screen and later seeing the post-op results led to an interesting conversation. I suppose the last time I saw those bones I was standing on a fluoroscope in a department store’s shoe department.  The nurse did not know what I was talking about. I told her how fun it was to stand on the machine even if we weren’t in the store to buy shoes. Fluoroscopes were used in shoe stores so parents and sales people could view a child’s feet have long since been taken out of use because of dangers from radiation. Modern fluoroscopes are still used in certain situations.

A technical college x-ray tech instructor came up with a great activity when she discovered historic photos of x-ray equipment , historic newspaper articles about x-rays in court trials, and posters warning about the dangers of x-rays and radiation.   There is a picture of a doctor taking a radiographic image. The equipment and patient protection are outdated.  Learners can analyze the photo and reflect on the changes that have been made with regard to the equipment and protections standards we use today.  It would be a great way to start a group discussion.

An elementary teacher found primary source photos of simple machines. Her ideas was asking students to identify the machines to share and review their knowledge this basic scientific concepts.

Primary sources are not just for history!  Two November blog posts, Asteroid Impostors and the Planet that Never Was: What’s on Your Diagram of the Solar System?  and Exploring Eclipes through primary Sources highlight selected astronomy primary sources resources and ideas.

The Jan/Feb 2014 Internet @Schools NEW Media Center Column  (An article version of this post)

Primary sources offer exciting possibilities for the science and health classrooms.
Learn how to find and use them in your classroom!
Learn more from science teacher

American Memory Collections
Library of Congress Teachers Page Blog
National Museum of Health and Medicine
YouTube, Shoe Store Fluoroscope
Oak Ridge Associated Universities, Shoe Fitting Fluoroscopes
Susan Buss, June 2013
Photo: Shoe Fluoroscope, manufactured circa 1938, manufactured by Adrian Shoe Fitter, Inc. that was used in a Washington, DC Shoe Store. This machine is currently displayed at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, DC.

ISS America Staircaset’s a tiny museum in the corner of our store  was how the store employee at Lake Superior Publishing company described a collection of treasures from the S.S. America.  The  ship sunk near Isle Royale National Park in 1928.  Salvage work began in the 1960′s.  The little museum’s artifacts include the ship’s spiral staircase, dishes and a sink. Additional excavated artifacts will be on display in 2014.  It was a fun and interesting discovery. Learn more about the America and other Isle Royale Shipwrecks.

Another interesting discovery was the local history museum in Dows, Iowa, two miles off Interstate 35. Like many small town museums, the museum is in a restored railroad depot. The museum also houses the Iowa Welcome Center.   It was full of nicely displayed historic artifacts such as  an organ, military materials and railroad items. The trains still stop at Dow for grain. My favorite artifacts old telephone switchboard complete with plugs for connecting calls. I was alwaDowIoways fascinated by the local switchboards and “party lines.   Other museum properties in this town of 500 includes a blacksmith museum, a Mercantile, and  restored schoolhouse, all listed on the National Register of Historic places. The residents of this very small community can be proud of the rich access to their community’s right in their own backyard.

What’s in your backyard? How can we engage students in the study of local history?
Online class for educators: Teaching Digital Media Literacy in the Content Areas: Using Primary Sources

SS America_Newspaper

I can’t help it!  When I see historic artifacts online I think about how media specialists can use these resources in the media center when they instruct students or when they collaborate with teachers. When I saw the movie 42 I instantly thought of Baseball Across a Divided Society, a primary source set available as one of the classroom materials on the Library of Congress Teachers Page.  When I saw The Butler I thought about how I could have used The NAACP: A Century in the Fight for Freedom when I worked with social studies teachers. Or, I could have used From Slavery to Civil Rights; A Timeline of African-American History, a Teachers Page presentation.

Primary source sets are groups of photos, documents and other primary sources compiled to support commonly taught topics. Presentations are designed for guided student use; lesson plans are in-depth, on a vast range of topics, and aligned with common core standards. The bottom line: Someone else has found the resources and designed materials for you! They are ready to use now!

Read more about these helpful, time-saving resources in the current  NEW MEDIA CENTER: column “Classroom-Ready Materials on the Library of Congress Teachers Page,” in the September/October Internet@Schools.
Full Text, Internet @Schools Web Site.    Or, select the  Power of Primary Sources link  above for this and other articles about finding and using primary sources.
Media specialists will want to become familiar with these  wonderful material as you help  teachers and students make powerful curricular connections with primary sources.

Online class for educators: Teaching Digital Media Literacy in the Content Areas: Using Primary Sources


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