LoC STI Day 1

Day 1 of the Library of Congress Summer Teacher Institute has wrapped up. A few quick reflections…


I’ve got a few pages left in John Dewey’s Experience and Education. In it, he says, “teachers need to plan intelligently, considering the capacities, needs, and past experiences” of their students. Design of learning is so important in both the classroom and professional development. Even in the first day of the STI, I’ve been impressed by the design of the sessions. A small, but important, example…

We began the day by choosing from a series of primary source documents. We wrote on a post-it why we chose the particular document and what connection we felt to it. We then grouped up with others with related documents and drafted a newspaper headline that could encompass all our primary source documents. Then as a group we introduced ourselves, shared our headline, and the connection we made to our document. Starting like this gave participants a means for sharing and self-disclosure but set that sharing within the frame of a collaborative exercise. I despise pointless ice breakers, but an activity like this accomplished what icebreakers attempt to do, minus the needless embarrassment factor.

In the afternoon, we toured the Library’s Civil War in America exhibit. Much of the information wasn’t new to me, but there were two highlights. The first was the content of Lincoln’s pockets from the night he was assassinated. I love that he’d fixed his broken glasses with a tiny string. That kind of detail makes you feel a connection to a historical figure who feels kind of mythical in US history.


The second was an alphabet book produced in the South to teach students, not only their ABCs, but as a way of inculcating a particular set of values from an early age. I think it might be a fun model/mentor text for student projects.


One of the things that I’m hoping to think about while I’m at the LoC STI is the interplay of primary and secondary sources in the classroom. I wrote a bit about that here. Some of the questions I’m pondering…

Should primary sources be “primary” in the classroom? Are there dangers in relying too heavily on primary sources? How do we teach about bias and reliability in primary sources? In what way do primary and secondary sources interact? How can they best be used in tandem in the classroom?

Gorgeous floor of the Great Hall after the Library was closed to the public for the evening
Gorgeous floor of the Great Hall after the Library was closed to the public for the evening

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