Random Thoughts: Change, Primary Sources & Other Stuff

Overwhelmed by an abundance of digital primary sources?

Posted on: July 26, 2012

Overwhelmed!    It’s a typical response of first-time use of the Library of Congress American Memory Collections.   Educators want to use primary sources, state standards require their use, and they are a good match for inquiry learning and reading informational text.

But where should a short-of-time educator start?  Starting small using  a single resource that fits with the course content along with a primary source analysis tool is one easy way.

The American Memory Teachers Page has practical Teachers Guides and Analysis Tools that work with all ages of students and in all content areas.  A”generic” teachers guide describes a basic in a 3-step process: Observe, Reflect, Question.   A blank student tool is ready for you to download.

Tools are available for specific primary source formats including printed text, manuscripts, maps, motion pictures, oral histories, photographs, political cartoons, sheet music and sound recordings.

Primary source analysis is valuable in many ways:   1. It helps students  meet a content objective while using an authentic primary resource 2.  Analysis requires students to  apply skills that can be transferred to other situations 3. Analysis doesn’t have to take a lot of time!

Start small; encourage big thinking!

List of primary source collections (or select the tab at the top)

Learn more about primary source analysis.  Teaching Digital Media Literacy in the Content Areas: Using Primary Sources .


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