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Making the Case with Primary Sources

Location: Posters; Level 3, Skyline Ballroom Pre-function, Table 2

Participate and share

Participate and share : Poster

Monday, June 25, 11:00 am–1:00 pm
Location: Posters; Level 3, Skyline Ballroom Pre-function, Table 2

Patricia Proutt   Karla Thompson  
Discover how to make America’s library a part of student learning. Explore free, inquiry-based resources that engage students with Library of Congress content. The Case Maker tool allows students to make evidence-based arguments for civics-themed projects. Inquiry kits offer students a springboard to develop historical research projects.

Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: Windows, Android, iOS
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Focus: Digital age teaching & learning
Topic: Project-, problem- and challenge-based learning
Grade level: 6-12
Subject area: Social studies
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.
For Students:
Knowledge Constructor
  • Students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.
  • Students evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data or other resources.

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

The purpose of this poster session is to introduce middle and high school educators to a gateway of rich resources and tools that are designed to improve critical thinking and document analysis skills using Library of Congress primary source materials. Maryland Public Television is a partner on two Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources grants. MPT will present the FREE robust tools and resources developed under this program.

Teachers find themselves faced with many challenges, including meeting Common Core and C3 standards, preparing students for related assessments, providing service learning activities, and teaching evidence-based writing and document-based analysis. They have to do this while still teaching content and keeping students engaged. Primary source analysis has become more and more important as students are tested on their ability to close read non-fiction texts. It can be hard to work with primary sources in many classrooms, though. Many sources are not accessible, whether because of illegible text, high reading level, or simply a lack of interest on the part of students. Many school systems are also moving toward a model of authentic assessment and project-based learning. These trends are encouraging more and more teachers in Social Studies and other disciplines to assign historical research projects to their students; however many feel overwhelmed by the prospect. They do not know how to help students find and analyze appropriate primary sources, craft research questions, or present conclusions. Many teachers feel that their English Language Learner (ELL) and Special Education students are not able to take on a task as large as a research project or even basic document analysis. The Inquiry Kits have been developed with particular attention to meeting the needs of these learners and helping all find success.

Developed under two Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) grant projects, Maryland Public Television will showcase civics and social studies curriculum resources that leverage digital media tools and web-based delivery to support student engagement and learning . Our goal is to provide online resources that are accessible to students of varied abilities throughout Maryland and beyond.

Case Maker is an interactive tool that encourages middle school students to engage in civics education through a story-driven challenge, analysis of evidence and ultimately an interactive platform to make their case. Through relevant scenarios, the Case Maker tool provides 20 diverse civics lessons that build inquiry, media literacy and critical thinking skills. Case Maker is flexible and provides teachers the ability to use the pre-crafted resource bundles, or customize collections to meet the needs of their curriculum while still having the advantage of robust functionality that leads students through the inquiry process of learning and discovery.

TPS Inquiry Kits supports middle and high school level research projects where students can choose from curated collections of primary sources that support 120 different United States and world history topics. By summer 2019, there will be 180 topics, including United States government. The web-based delivery of TPS Inquiry Kits provides students with the starting blocks for developing a basic research project, including themed primary sources, research tools, and four interactive lessons that provide step-by step guidance on how to define and analyze sources, write an argument and ultimately create a research project.

All resources are available for free at, Maryland Public Television’s education website.
Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources grant partners include: For Case Maker - Bean Creative, Maryland Public Television, CIRCLE at Tufts University, and Digital Learning Group. For Inquiry Kits - Maryland Humanities, Maryland State Department of Education and Maryland Public Television

At the end of this session, participants will be able to:
1. Locate free digital content aligned to Common Core State Standards in ELA/Literacy and College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards in History for middle and high school students and teachers.
2. Identify how to use Library of Congress primary sources in a social studies and civics curriculum.
3. Guide students through a project-based learning experience, using digitized primary sources from the Library of Congress, which aligns Common Core State Standards in a meaningful and coherent fashion.
4. Explore techniques for encouraging primary and secondary historical source analysis in the classroom.
5. Support students in building higher order thinking skills


This poster session will demonstrate that educators and students across the country have a "one-stop shop" for free tools and resources relating to document analysis, evidence-based writing and research projects. We will share the online experience and provide a hands-on opportunity for interested participants to explore. Teachers can ask questions while we will highlight best practices and classroom success stories.

Case Maker is a robust tool that challenges middle grade students to think and explore deeply and critically about civics topics. The tool provides a system focused on challenges, evidence and making a case to promote inquiry-based learning. Twenty challenge topics are offered covering a range of civics issues. Through a storytelling style, students will be presented with a scenario selected by their teachers. Following the guidance of the Library of Congress Analysis process-- to observe, reflect and question-- students will review prebundled primary sources, choose those most relevant and make annotations. Interactive prompts and teacher notes will further drive deeper thinking. Students will complete their learning experience by making an evidence-based case. The flexibility of the tool allows teachers to customize a civics based challenge as well.

TPS Inquiry Kits are organized by social studies curriculum units into 120 topics. Each topic is relevant to the curriculum, yet also appealing to students. An Inquiry Kit has five primary sources, mostly from the Library of Congress, and one secondary source. Many of the primary sources are images, maps, audio, or video to support accessibility by students of any reading level. When available, text-based sources have transcriptions, translations, or read-aloud functions to eliminate as many barriers to comprehension as possible. Once students learn the process of document analysis, teachers can provide scaffolding that helps them analyze increasingly challenging documents.

Each Inquiry Kit also includes three thinking questions to help guide students as they analyze the documents. Ideally, students will use the kits as a starting point for project based learning. With a curated selection of documents to work with, students can create exhibits, performances, documentaries, websites, or papers. Teachers might choose to simply use one document and one question as a warm up at the beginning of class, use all five primary sources as a set, or even arrange them into a gallery walk.

Supporting research

View summaries of and links to online resources—articles, research reports, web sites, and white papers—that provide research and current thinking related to the following topics from The Teaching with Primary Sources Journal published by the Library of Congress:

1. Assessing Historical Thinking Skills Using Library of Congress Primary Sources, Vol. 6, No. 1, Spring 2013 - Research and Current Thinking

2. Primary Sources and the Common Core State Standards, Vol. 5, No. 2, Fall 2012 - Research and Current Thinking

3. Project-Based Learning, Vol. 3, No. 2, Spring 2010 - Research and Current Thinking

4. Technology Integration, Vol. 2, No. 2, Spring 2009 - Research and Current Thinking

5. Accessibility, Vol. 2, No. 4, Fall 2009 - Research and Current Thinking

More [+]


person photo
Karla Thompson, Maryland Public Television

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