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THE NEW MEDIA CENTER: Classroom-Ready Materials on the Library of Congress Teachers Page

By Mary Alice Anderson - Posted Sep 1, 2013
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This is so overwhelming! I have no clue how to find what I need. I don’t have time!


Classroom Materials, available on the Library of Congress (LC) Teachers page, are “created by teachers for teachers. [They are] ready-to-use materials [that] provide easy ways to incorporate the Library’s unparalleled primary sources into instruction” ( Many are ready for immediate use. All were created to help time-strapped teachers find and use digital primary sources to support common K–12 curriculum topics. Media specialists will discover that knowing how to find and use these classroom materials will help them help busy teachers. We’ll preview samples from each category for an overview of the purpose and format.

• Primary Source Sets?

• Lesson Plans

Presentations and Activities

Themed Resources

Collection Connections

Primary Source Sets are ideal for busy teachers who want to use primary sources but are short on time for searching and selecting resources. More than 30 sets provide “ready to use” PDFs and MP3 files of primary sources on specific topics. Sets include Abraham Lincoln, Japanese Internment, the Dustbowl, the Harlem Renaissance, Civil War Music, the Spanish American War, and Symbols of the United States. Teachers’ guides for each set provide background information, teaching ideas, links to related classroom materials, and other Library of Congress resources. Here’s a peak at three sets.

Baseball: Across a Divided Society is represented by photographs, baseball cards, sheet music, lithographs, posters, and motion pictures. Thumbnails and citations for each artifact make it easy to quickly review the materials and choose what is appropriate. The Teachers Guide explains the historic development of baseball in the early 1900s along with background information about minorities in baseball. Teachers can select from student activities appropriate for the student level. Suggestions include writing captions for a photo, primary source analysis using analysis tools provided, and evaluating social classes represented in the resources.

Assimilation Through Education has unique resources that may be more challenging to locate through an independent search. Photographs, primary source documents, articles from historic journals, and maps support the study of Indian boarding schools and the U.S. government’s attempts to “make Indian children patriotic and productive citizens.” Reports from the schools and “Hethu’shka Song,” an audio file of Omaha music, are some of the more unique primary sources included. 

Mexican American Migrations and Communities has contemporary and historical artifacts representing Mexican Americans during the past 200 years. In an LC blog post, education specialist Stephen Wesson explains: “This set is an especially good match for Common Core teachers, who will find informational texts in multiple formats, from newspapers and pamphlets to maps and oral histories, along with ripe opportunities to explore point of view and persuasive strategies.”

All Primary Source sets have suggested teaching ideas that are easy to implement and adaptable for many grades and many content areas. Teachers can check for standards alignment. Teachers will easily come up with many creative ideas for these very useful and good-to-go collections.

Presentations and Activities are media-rich; many are interactive. Presentations draw from across the LC’s American Memory collections to investigate curricular themes. They include historical background, helping to tell the story behind the theme.

Looking Into Holidays Past Through Primary Sources invites students to learn about holidays and significant events occurring during each of the four seasons. Digital artifacts include audio files, documents, images, and movies that tell each season’s story. Fall holidays Thanksgiving and Armistice Day are represented in news articles, interviews, photos, and music. Students can also learn about fall customs in “Storing for winter” by listening to an oral interview (1996), view drawings of “Autumn Fashions” (1850), or enjoy a movie clip of a Princeton versus Yale football game (1903). Holidays Past is interactive with an abundance of unique resources, making it well suited for differentiated teaching and giving students a choice for a paired or collaborative activity. Students will enjoy engaging with a season that represents their birthday. Each season has teaching ideas and an easy-to-use graphic organizer that asks: “What do you observe? What do you think you know? What do you want to find out?”

Immigration is a popular curriculum topic represented in several categories of classroom materials including presentations. Interviews With Today’s Immigrants is a compilation of interviews written by upper elementary and high school students who interviewed an immigrant who came to the U.S. during the last half of the 20th century or early 21st century. Library staff have done some editing of the written interviews, but the work is largely as is. Select an interview from a region of origin listing. The Great American Potluck is another presentation related to immigration. Open a virtual spiral book to use a collection of recipes “by the American people” arranged by title, category, and region. It’s useful for students and teachers looking for ethnic recipes. Interviews and Potluck can be used as stand-alone activities, as an introduction to a larger unit of study, or as a model for creating your own interview or cookbook.

Activities offer hands-on experience focusing a specific topic; teacher direction is required. The Declaration of Independence: Rewriting the Rough Draft is highly interactive, suitable for grades 4–12. Students view Thomas Jefferson’s original text with his edits. Transcripts are provided to make for easier reading; students choose between Jefferson’s original text and the edited text to create a new draft of their own. They can they compare their work with the final version. Related teachers’ resources include an online exhibition, lesson plans, and an LC webcast.

It’s No Laughing Matter is suggested for grades 5–12. Students dissect cartoons to find the message by discovering irony, analogy, symbolism, and exaggeration. Additional resources including audio files and detailed bibliographic records will help understand the meaning. The activity is appropriate for individual or group work. An extensive teachers’ resources section has historical and contemporary political cartoon resources.

Teachers and media specialists should review technical requirements of activities and presentations to be certain the materials are compatible with their technology.

Lesson plans are teacher-created, fully developed, and ready for use. The topic list (see Figure 3) gives an idea of diverse content areas the lessons support. Browse for lessons by topic, era, or grade level. Each detailed lesson follows the same format and includes standards alignment, an overview, preparation, procedures, and evaluation; some have student section. There are links to extensive primary sources, analysis tools, and step-by-step activities. These lessons are intended for an in-depth study on a topic; suggested time allotments range from 2 to 3 days to 1 or 2 weeks.

The Great Gatsby: Primary Sources From the Roaring Twenties and Baseball, Race Relations and Jackie Robinson are timely and will be helpful for teachers who want to make connections between recent movies and popular curriculum topics. Teachers will find it easy to pick and choose the activities and resources that meet their needs and determine what state, common core, and national organization standards the lesson meets.

Many lessons were developed by teacher-media specialist teams that participated in the American Memory Fellows program, but others are recent additions. Browse the A–Z list of more than 125 lessons for a complete list of lessons that save busy teachers time. There are multiple lesson plans on some topics.

Collection Connections provide insight into the 100 thematic American Memory collections. Connections are about the collections and what and how much information is provided. All have a collection summary; others have extensive teaching resources and ideas. Connections help teachers learn about the focus of the collection, how to search, and the appropriateness of a collection before using it as a classroom resource.

For example, the connection accompanying Born Into Slavery: Slave Narratives From the Federal Writer’s Project, 1936–1938 has materials that explain the interview process, language, and potential biases in the interview. The Woody Guthrie and the Archive of American Folk ?Song: Correspondence, 1940–1950 connection has an overview of the collection, highlights of special features (the life and times of Woody Guthrie and a timeline), information about historic eras represented in the collection, links to related collections and resource, and search tips.

Classroom Connections are not ready-to-use classroom materials; rather, they are materials to help teachers get ready to use primary resources. Are you in a hurry? Save any connection you want to use a single file.

Themed resources combine it all together! Themed resources are broader in scope than an individual presentation or lesson plan. They include an extensive variety of the library’s artifacts, exhibits, teaching materials, and related materials in one place, making in convenient for teachers who want to add a new dimension to lessons and provide extensive resources for students.

War and the Home Front supports instructional activities about the American home front during several wars. Themed resources include primary source sets, lesson plans, links to LC online exhibitions, search terms, and a student section. Themed resources on literature and poetry include convenient access to primary sources about major authors, the Harlem Renaissance, photos intended to inspire students to create poetry, links to lesson plans, numerous collection collections, an extensive list of search terms, and links to resources for students of all ages. The latter includes links to information about authors such as Laura Ingalls Wilder and Edgar Allan Poe from America’s Library.

Themed resources help teachers by providing a lot in one place, lessening the time needed for searching preparation.

Wrapping Up

Primary source sets, presentations, and activities are plug and play. They are ideal for teachers who want to support a lesson with primary sources but who really don’t have a lot of time to prepare or much time for students to complete the lesson. Students could use many of them independently. Lessons take longer to become familiar with and implement, but they still save time. They are easily adaptable to meet diverse needs. Classroom Collections and Themed Resources are teacher resources designed to help teachers find a wider range of resources, and discover or search for available teaching materials and primary resources. National History Day students will also benefit from content and ideas.

The samples described here represent only a tiny portion of these free materials. Many broaden our concepts of where and how primary sources can be used in the curriculum. They are media-rich, offering extensive opportunities to support learning. The best way to get a true understanding is to simply start exploring. Media specialists will love discovering what’s available, so they help teachers and make classroom connections!


Contact MaryAlice at



Library of Congress Teachers Page

Teachers Page Classroom Materials

Frequently Asked Questions About the Teachers Page

Mexican American Migrations and Communities, May 6, 2013 Teaching With the Library of Congress ?

Anderson, Mary Alice, “The Power of Primary Sources,” Multimedia & Internet@Schools, November/December 2009

Anderson, Mary Alice, “The Power of Primary Sources Part 2: Build Your Own Professional Development,” Multimedia & Internet@Schools, January/February 2010 

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