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Hi Kelly -
NARA has a few great resources for teachers. Your starting place should be the Teachers' Resourcespage on Archives.gov. This page has links to online exhibits, information about student visits, professional development, and more.
The biggest resource on this page is going to be a website called DocsTeach. Here you can use digitized National Archives records to create different types of activities. There's a variety of types of files - audio/video, charts/graphs/data, images, maps, and written documents are the types you can search by. In addition to searching by type, you can search by historical era, or just keyword search.
You don't need to create an account to browse the documents and photographs, or print them. To create activities, however, you'll need an account. It's 100% free though!
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Thanks for your question! We’re glad you’re interested in getting students working with primary sources. We’ve been promoting their use in the classroom for decades because we believe that when we ask students to work with and learn from primary sources, we transform them into historians. Rather than passively receiving information from the teacher or textbook, they’re making sense of the stories, events and ideas of the past through document analysis. Primary sources can motivate students and pique their curiosity, help them make connections between past and present, and inspire them because they provide new avenues for learning about the past.
Here's one of our favorite documents to teach with — Mrs. E. Jackson wrote this letter to Congress the day after TV news broadcast graphic footage of “Bloody Sunday,” when peaceful voting rights marchers in Selma, Alabama, were violently suppressed by state troopers. She starts with "For God sakes help those poor innocent people..." This can really hook students, who are immediately curious as to what event would elicit such a reaction.
On www.archives.gov/education you can access links to and information on special topics and tools, student visits to our locations around the country, professional development opportunities, distance learning programs, National History Day resources, and education programs at our Presidential Libraries.
DocsTeach.org is our online tool for teaching with documents from the National Archives. You can find, customize, and create primary source-based student activities that promote historical thinking and build inquiry skills. You'll find thousands of letters, photos, speeches, posters, political cartoons, maps, patents, videos, audio, court documents, amendments, executive orders, census records, and more — covering a wide variety of historical topics. You can browse over 100 activities created by National Archives education staff. And if you create a (totally free!) account, you can access thousands more activities created by fellow educators around the world — as well as create your very own. DocsTeach activities are all online; and you can involve your whole class or assign students to complete activities individually or in small groups on either the website or our DocsTeach App for iPad. All activities align with Bloom’s Taxonomy and National History Standards.
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In addition for iPad classrooms, the National Archives has free courses and books in iTunes U. I was involved in gathering resources from the National Archives on the Chinese Exclusion Act. Those primary sources are now available in a Multi-Touch book and iTunes U course. All of those documents are also available as well in DocsTeach for access on other platforms.
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Hey there everyone! I have another online resource from the National Archives to add to the excellent ones already mentioned. Take a look at Founders Online at http://www.founders.archives.gov for fully transcribed versions of the papers of six prominent Founders - Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, and Hamilton. There are over 174,000 documents included thus far, and we are adding more regularly. As one educator wrote us: "This resources is breathtaking in its scope and value. I already have students accessing it for their class projects. It defies description. Powerful, powerful resource."
The site is easy to search, whether a student or a scholar. And Founders Online includes links to fully developed lesson plans for teachers/students - there are eight lesson plans so far, with more coming. Or develop plans on your own, based on the resource.
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The Truman Library has a database of over 300 lesson plans on its website at http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/lessons/index.php. These lesson plans were developed by teachers attending the Library's annual summer teacher conferences. While many of them are specific to Harry S. Truman and his administration, not all of them are, as the teacher conferences tend to cover broad topics that touch on many administrations. We also have thousands of pages of documents on our website, which you can search for here: http://www.trumanlibrary.org/archivesearch/. Plus, we have many documents and photographs in the National Archives Catalog!