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John Stone performing Anglo-American fiddle music on August 5 and 6, 1939, collected by Sidney Robertson Cowell in Columbia, Tuolumne County, California. From the online presentation: California Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties

Lesson Plans & Classroom Materials

Ways to Use Primary Sources from the Library of Congress
in the Classroom

The following linked pages offer a wide range of teaching strategies and learning activities for K-12 classes in American and world history, civics, politics, the visual arts and literature. Activities and lesson plans contain a wealth of primary source materials and are also designed to teach students the skills and techniques that folklorists, historians, anthropologists, and librarians use in the course of conducting research, interpreting their findings, and presenting the results of their research to the public.

Along with AFC-specific products and guides, we have highlighted some of the Library's many educational activities and lesson plans that focus on our collections. The online presentations, produced by the Library's Learning Page, indicate some of the ways in which educators can adapt and integrate the digital collections of the Library in their teaching.

Image of Explore Your Community Poster

Poster: Explore Your Community

A colorful presentation that encourages students to research their own community heritage. Complete with project suggestions and tips for beginners. Especially for middle and high school students.
Image of Folklife and Fieldwork

Folklife and Fieldwork: A Layman's Introducton to Field Techniques

View and print out this comprehensive guide (also available in .pdf format) to conducting field and archival research, with step-by-step instructions from preparation to publication.
Image of Joe Williams Ginsinging

Finding the Invisible: Folklore in Sense of Place

"From place names to local legends, traditional music and crafts to religious practices and foodways, every place may be experienced through all our senses...Folklore opens windows into other times as well as today, making history come alive and connecting students to community and to the past. In this workshop, we explore Sense of Place through the folklife and traditions of participants' own lives and regions as well as the American Memory collections. "
Image of collage: Cultural Rituals

Exploring Cultural Rituals: Nanci Douglas & Mary Ruddy

"Using photos, documents, and music from American Memory and other resources, students in a communications skills class investigate rituals and customs of various cultures."
Image: Grapes of Wrath Scrapbook

The Grapes of Wrath - Scrapbooks and Artifacts

"Students will show how cultural artifacts from The Grapes of Wrath support one of the book's many themes.  The objectives for this project are:
To create museum exhibits of literary symbols
- To show how cultural artifacts act as literary symbols
- To use the ethnographic research process as tool for literary analysis"

Image: California Gold

California Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties

"During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Work Projects Administration (WPA) was created by the U.S. Government to provide jobs of all kinds including work for artists and historians. The WPA California Folk Music Project was organized by Sidney Robertson Cowell, and California Gold covers several topics for historical exploration including the Works Project Administration, the immigrant experience, and the methodology used to gather folkways."
Image: Southern Mosaic

Southern Mosaic: The John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip

"In 1939, John and Ruby Lomax traveled the southern United States, recording nearly 700 examples of folk music and oratory which, along with photographs and fieldnotes, comprise the online collection, Southern Mosaic. Together, these materials portray life in the rural South from the late nineteenth century through the 1930s. For folk songs, transmitted orally, are communally created and re-created through time and generations and thus reflect multiple time periods."
Image: Voices from the Dustbowl

Voices from the Dust Bowl: the Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Worker Collection, 1940-1941

"The ethnographic materials in Voices from the Dust Bowl, 1940-1941 can launch studies into U.S. social, agricultural, labor, and economic history. The songs, notes, clippings, and photographs of the collection add a human face to investigations of migration, farm labor, and social welfare programs during the Great Depression and the World War I eras."
Image: Quilts and Quiltmaking

Quilts and Quiltmaking in America, 1978-1996

"Using excerpts from the collection, students study social history topics through interviews that recount the lives of ordinary Americans. Based on these excerpts and further research in the collections, students develop their own research questions. They then plan and conduct oral history interviews with members of their communities."
Image: Oral History

Learning About Immigration Through Oral History

"Students engage in visual and information literacy exercises to gain an understanding of how to identify and interpret primary historical sources. We identified immigrants in our community who reflect the ethnic diversity of our student body, enabling students to compare and contrast the stories of these contemporary immigrants with those researched in the thirties reflected in American Life Histories, 1936-1940 and other American Memory collections."
Image: Using Oral History

Using Oral History

"This lesson presents social history content and topics through the voices of ordinary people.   It draws on primary sources from the American Memory Collection, American Life Histories, 1936-1940."
Image: Learning Page

Using Primary Sources in the Classroom
American Memory Learning Page

"Educators ... throughout the country know that history comes alive for students who are plugged into primary sources. These suggestions for student activities can help you enhance your social studies curriculum using authentic artifacts, documents, photographs, and manuscripts from the Library of Congress Historical Collections and other sources."


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  October 29, 2007
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