Sunday, August 2, 2009

LC-Primary Sources

I recently became more interested in exploring the Library of Congress both as a resource, an entity, and (because everything is right now) as a place to potentially work. Today I ran across this in my news feed: The Library of Congress Teacher's Page. It's intended to provide primary sources for the typical classroom lesson, and dabbles in most of the standard themes we all went through in school.

Several things struck me immediately. First, there are pre-constructed lesson plans available (there's not log in to the site, which is nice. Yay free information!). Now this may just be me, but I'd be irked if I knew my teacher was pulling something straight off the internet. However, using some of these for ideas and as support could be good. An example:

I'm interested in WWII, so I browse down the lesson plan list (by theme) to there, and find... mostly sources from the great depression. Hm. Actually there's nothing from the war in there, so I try "What is an American." This gets me a reference to de Crevecoeur (surprise), and some "life history" stories collected by the WPA. There's also an extensive, drawn out lesson plan, which (dear god) takes up classes from September to June! eesh. In any case, a teacher who knows what they want to present to the class could use the lesson plan themes to track down the sources. Kind of neat, but like most things on the internet, a lot of links to click through to find what you want.

A simple search using the search box on the front page brings up a few more hits for "World War Two", but it's still all within lesson plans and feels like it's being handed to me: This is what you should know! *ribbon on top* The point of the Teacher pages is primary sources, and if you dig a little you can get to a good chunk of information, but it can't possibly be everything the Library has. However, I do definitely support using primary sources for research, as they allow students to put more effort into reading and analyzing, unlike standard textbooks. Students will also get first hand perspectives and different voices from a primary source, which makes the experience of learning less monotonous, and hopefully more engaging.

Without the structure of a lesson plan, I think it's wildly entertaining to just browse the collections. And just in case everything the Library has isn't enough, they provide a nicely selected set of links from the outside.

1 comment:

  1. Finding things has always been a problem at LOC. My friend Dean once wrote a great search engine for them, but it seems to have been dumped by the bureaucracy.

    Anyway, try their American Memory collection for some good raw material: