Sunday, January 3, 2016

Here's your best resource for skills-based daily warm-ups

Skills!  Skills!  Skills!

We keep hearing how we shouldn't spend class time instructing our students on things like content that they can look up or read themselves.  Instead, we should be helping them do and learn the things they can do only when they are with us.  That means that we should be helping our students develop their historical thinking skills.

One key skill in this area would certainly be how to read a primary source.  Developing this skill is imperative for higher-level analysis, and can best be practiced in a classroom under a teacher's careful tutelage.

An easy way to make sure that you practice the skill of reading a primary source daily would be to include it in your warm-up.  And a terrific daily resource for engaging and historically significant primary sources is the Today's Document feature prepared by the National Archives.
Image result for today's document national archives
There are a lot of reasons why this is a superior resource.  First, the type of primary source varies daily, and includes everything from photographs to political cartoons to financial ledgers to petitions to handwritten notes to typewritten reports.  Second, the sources themselves are exceptionally clear so that they could be displayed on a projector screen or printed and copied.  Third, the explanatory reference clearly explains what the students are looking at.  Fourth, the curators have a clever sense of humor.  They extensively retweeted tweets from the FDR Library on Dec. 23 to coincide with Festivus (the fictional "holiday" from the Seinfeld "The Strike" episode.)

Once you have the perfect primary source you now need the perfect tool to decode and interpret it.  Of course you could use the Library of Congress's own primary-source interpretating tools or your could use your own.

Follow Today's Document on Twitter @TodaysDocument.

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