The mission of the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) program is to build awareness of the Library’s educational initiatives; provide content that promotes the effective educational use of the Library’s resources; and offer access to and promote sustained use of the Library’s educational resources. The Library achieves this mission through collaborations between the Library and the K-12 educational community across the United States. The program contributes to the quality of education by helping teachers use the Library’s digitized primary sources to engage students, develop their critical thinking skills and construct knowledge. Learn more about the Library’s TPS program and other resources available to teachers at loc.gov/teachers.
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National TPS Program’s Levels of Professional Development
Professional development activities under Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) progress along three program levels. K-12 educators have the option of taking workshops and courses, offered by TPS Consortium members, under all or some of these levels, depending on their interests.
Level I–Participants gain strategies for using primary sources to help students engage in learning, develop critical thinking skills and build content knowledge.
- What are primary sources;
- Why teach with primary sources; and
- How to teach with primary sources.
Level II– Participants evaluate, create and teach topic-specific, content-informed lessons that integrate primary sources from the Library of Congress and exemplify effective instructional practices.
- Gain a thorough understanding of effective instructional practices with emphases on inquiry-based and student-centered learning using primary sources
- Learn to identify exemplary learning experiences
- Create standards-based, content-informed learning experiences integrating primary sources from the
- Library of Congress that exemplify effective instructional practice
- Teach, assess and reflect on their experiences using primary sources in instruction
- Evaluate primary source-based learning experiences
- Investigate the effects of primary source-based instruction on student learning
Level III – Experienced educators advocate the use of primary sources and help disseminate the ideas, methods and products of the TPS program.
- Mentor colleagues on the effective instructional uses of primary sources
- Evaluate learning experiences for widespread dissemination and use
- Interact and collaborate with other teachers who are using Library of Congress primary sources
- Conduct research into the effective use of primary sources in education
- Contribute to the use of effective practices for using primary sources in instruction by leading professional development activities
What are Primary Sources
Primary sources are the raw materials of history — original documents and objects which were created at the time under study. They are different from secondary sources, accounts or interpretations of events created by someone without firsthand experience.
Examining primary sources gives students a powerful sense of history and the complexity of the past. Helping students analyze primary sources can also guide them toward higher-order thinking and better critical thinking and analysis skills.
Before you begin:
- Choose at least two or three primary sources that support the learning objectives and are accessible to students.
- Consider how students can compare these items to other primary and secondary sources.
- Identify an analysis tool or guiding questions that students will use to analyze the primary sources
1. Engage students with primary sources.
Draw on students’ prior knowledge of the topic.
Ask students to closely observe each primary source.
- Who created this primary source?
- When was it created?
- Where does your eye go first?
Help students see key details.
- What do you see that you didn’t expect?
- What powerful words and ideas are expressed?
Encourage students to think about their personal response to the source.
- What feelings and thoughts does the primary source trigger in you?
- What questions does it raise?
2. Promote student inquiry.
Encourage students to speculate about each source, its creator, and its context.
- What was happening during this time period?
- What was the creator’s purpose in making this primary source?
- What does the creator do to get his or her point across?
- What was this primary source’s audience?
- What biases or stereotypes do you see?
Ask if this source agrees with other primary sources, or with what the students already know.
Ask students to test their assumptions about the past.
Ask students to find other primary or secondary sources that offer support or contradiction.
3. Assess how students apply critical thinking and analysis skills to primary sources.
Have students summarize what they’ve learned.
- Ask for reasons and specific evidence to support their conclusions.
- Help students identify questions for further investigation, and develop strategies for how they might answer them.
Analysis tools and thematic primary source sets from the Library offer entry points to many topics.
Information Source: Library of Congress
Teaching with Primary Sources Program at Rockford University
Howard Colman Library–Lower Level
5050 E. State Street
Rockford, IL 61108
Content created and featured in partnership with the TPS program does not indicate an endorsement by the Library of Congress.