Random Thoughts: Change, Primary Sources & Other Stuff

Posts Tagged ‘Elementary students

Last September I introduced the recently published Student Discovery Sets from the Library of Congress. These ebooks are collections of primary source sets designed to provide interactive, inquiry learning while introducing students to primary sources on common curricular topics. I was curious about how teachers and media specialists are using these hands-on materials in their classrooms. Tom Bober, a school media specialist in Missouri shared his experiences with elementary students in his blog and for “Making Learning Interactive,” the NEW Media Center column in March/April Internet at Schools.

When Tom Bober was looking for resources to help 5th grade students understand a science topic, he used Understanding the Cosmos, an ebook primary source set from the Library of Congress. The Missouri media specialist realized students didn’t understand different models of the solar system; he thought specific examples depicted in primary sources would help them better grasp selected geocentric models. He downloaded the ebooks to iPads and assigned each student a specific primary source to examine. They marked and annotated the image using built-in tools and recorded handwritten notes on paper copies f of the Library’s Primary Source Analysis Tool. Continue reading  about Bober’s experiences, downloading the ebooks, and other ideas for using these and other resources for elementary students.

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

DepressionImages

Thumbnails of selected primary sources in the Dust Bowl Primary Source ebook collection.

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Under_Wide_Starry_SkyUnder the Wide and Starry Sky is compelling historical fiction about the life of Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife Fanny.  Based on extensive research of primary sources, the novel takes us around the world, chronicling a life of adventure, love and friendship. We meet an array of intriguing and accomplished people throughout Europe, North America and the South Pacific where Stevenson was buried on the island of Samoa. I was fascinated by much RLS wrote in his short life and the unique life Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson lived in the Victorian age. Also a writer, she published a book based on the diary she wrote during a voyage to the South Pacific. After Stevenson’s death she devoted her time to promoting his legacy.

Author Nancy Horan used eight published volumes of letters, Stevenson’s papers and Fanny’s unpublished letters as her chief source, but read and used countless others.  I always go to primary sources to do the real research, because I want to get it right and draw my own conclusions.   Excerpts from diaries and real letters are included. Horan followed the couple’s  “footsteps by visiting many of the places they lived in the U.S. and Europe. . . different landscapes and cultures exerted powerful influences on both of them, so it was useful to experience those places.”

I reconnected with a favorite childhood book, Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses through the novel. As I read I pictured the brown patterned cover, tattered pages, illustrations, and how I wrote my name in the front cover. I knew its exact location on my bookshelves. Revisiting the book was not disappointing. The second half of my book has fewer worn pages. Most likely I never completed many attempted “re-reads.” A short poem is a favorite.

Rain
The rain is raining is all around,
It falls on field and tree,
It rains on the umbrellas here,
And on the ships at sea.

The forward describes Stevenson’s childhood illness and dependence on his nurse Cummy, who also has a role in the novel.  Nancy Horan imagines the adult Stevenson defending his interest in writing for children to his friend Henley, a critic and writer.

When I suffer in mind, stories are my refuge; I take them like opium.. . . . Frankly, it isn’t Shakespeare we take to when we re in a hot corner, is it? It’s Dumas or the best of Walter Scott. Don’t children, especially children, deserve that kind of refuge? Even it’ poetry.

In a later chapter the fictional Stevenson recites The Land of Counterpane a  poem about the power of imagination.

Land_of_Counterpane

When I was sick and lay abed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay,
To keep me happy all the day . . . .

And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
Complete poem

A Child’s Garden of Verses was the first book of poems for children told through a child’s world. Multiple digital editions are available through the Library of Congress. My favorite is Scribner’s 1895 edition From the Rare Book and Special Collections Division. View poems and illustrations online or download a PDF.

Childs_Garden_Verses_songs
References
~ Horan, Nancy. Under the Wide and Starry Sky Ballantine, 2014
~ Stevenson, Robert Louis, A Child’s Garden of Verses, World Publishing 1946, illustrated by Alexander Dobkin.
~ Stevenson, Robert Louis, A Child’s Garden of Verses, Scribner, 1895.
~ Songs from A child’s Garden of Verses.  Poems   paired with music by Natalie Curtis.
Wa Wan Press, 1902
How can I Use Primary Sources with Elementary Students?
children_teeter_totter

Phelps Kindergarten students on teeter-totters, Winona, Minnesota

Of course!  It’s all about finding the right resources, starting small, and creating connections. Photos are an ideal starting place. For example, children can relate to pictures of other children their age and want to talk about what they see. I love this 1920 photo of children on a teeter totter!

The Library of Congress Teachers’ Page has several “ready to use” primary source sets that will help busy teachers looking for ideas. Children’s Lives at the Turn of the Century has photos of children at work and play, “1904 Baby Parade” (movie) and an image of a game depicting cities.

School_Children_Thanksgiving

School Children’s Thanksgiving Games 11/27/11. Library of Congress

Thanksgiving has photos and documents appropriate to the day. Symbols of the United States has posters, sheet music, cartoons, and photos with recognizable symbols of the United States.

Many State Memory Collections have teachers guides that will work in classrooms everywhere.  The Field Trip to the Pumpkin Patch and Families Then and Now from Minnesota Reflections are two examples that could be paired with the primary source sets or used alone. Visit your State’s Memory Project!

Kindergarten Historians: Primary Sources in an Early Elementary Classroom from the Teachers Page Blog explains how students were hooked by two old movies.

Picture books or early reader chapter books and primary sources complement each other well. Kate DiCamillo: Stories Connect Us, also a blog post,  includes book titles and related primary sources. There are some ideas for connecting primary sources with picture books  in Primary Sources–Enriching the Study of Historical Fiction (Internet@Schools, Nov. 2014)

A great way to gather an arsenal of ideas is to subscribe to the Teacher’s Page blog.  Weekly updates are full of ideas! Subscribe by RSS or email!

Making Learning Interactive (The New Media Center, Column,  Internet @ Schools, March/April 2015)

 


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