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Monday, November 26, 2012

Primary Source Nexus

Primary Source Nexus is a blog that focuses on teaching with primary sources—especially resources from the Library of Congress’s American Memory Project.

For the most part, it is probably most useful for folks teaching American history (rather than local history/Montana history). Its website has three main sections:
  • Primary Source Picks.  Recent “picks” have included antislavery and women rights activist Sojourner Truth, actress Lillian Russell, and the Civil War Battle of Chattanooga.
  • Tech Tips & Tutorials.  This section is my favorite: it includes entries as varied as tips on oral history tips for students and Civil War era photographic techniques, including how photographers faked photos long before photoshop.
  • Teaching and Learning. This section offers sample project ideas and connected primary sources. I confess that most of these did not excite me—I’d be really interested to hear about it if you find one that works well in your classroom since I’m always looking for good models to copy.
One entry under Teaching and Learning I did find of particular interest was “Connecting to the Common Core: Analyzing Primary Source Images.” This post looks at how “the skills required to extract information from visual content are similar to those required to extract information from text.” It also argues that  “practicing these skills using primary source images provides students with a great scaffolded learning opportunity.” My favorite part is the table that “shows how the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Reading Anchor Standards map to primary source image analysis skills.”

As an aside, I wonder a little if I’ve become too Common Core obsessed.  (Please do let me know if you find the information I’m providing on Common Core useful and relevant or if you’d rather I write about something else for a while.) I think the reason I’m so interested is because these standards do seem to get at much of what we really want students to be doing—especially when they work with primary sources, be they text or images. For example:
  • Determining what the text/image says explicitly and making logical inferences from it
  • Citing specific evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text/image.
  • Assessing how point of view or purpose shapes content and style
  • Analyzing how two or more texts/images address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches creators take.
More detail on this at Primary Source Nexus—and much else besides. Happy hunting.

P.S. Interested in reading even more on teaching with primary sources? Check out one of these earlier posts: “Teaching with Primary Sources,” “More on Teaching with Primary Sources,” or “National Archives Resources for Teaching with Primary Sources.” Or scroll down the blog until you see the heading “Labels” on the right hand side of the page, and click on the label “teaching with primary sources” for a list of all the relevant posted articles. 
 

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