As an English teacher, I have always tried to incorporate primary sources to help my students build a foundation for the context of the literature we read. After the Common Core Learning Standards were published, primary sources, became that much more important in the classroom.
In my English II course, students look at the idea of fear through a historical and biographical lens to answer the following question: Has the idea of “freedom from fear” changed over time? To do this, we analyze two speeches. The first is a speech from President Franklin Roosevelt, “The Four Freedoms Speech” and the second is from President Barack Obama when he welcomed the British Prime Minister in 2012. As two primary sources about what can be a very nuanced topic, my students often struggle with this assignment so Thing 22 was a perfect choice!
To get some inspiration, I read Richard Byrne’s 5 Online Activities for Teaching with Primary Sources. Byrne suggests creating an online discussion of a primary source using Google Docs. While I like this idea, I’m not sure how I could make it work for students taking a self-paced course. Maybe it’s possible for me to have a document open for students to comment on that is grouped by students and groups can be made when students reach this module of the course. I could also consider using Padlet to have students write down their first thoughts. The Library of Congress recommends getting students to engage with primary sources by helping them see key details. I could post a question on Padlet similar to the ones they recommend: What powerful words and ideas are expressed? and What feelings and thoughts does the primary source trigger in you?
As part of my exploration for this task, I also browsed the World Digital Library. I like that the site gives you the ability to search by place, time period, topic, and medium. I searched for The Great Depression and found a photo and song recording by Charles Todd and Robert Sonkin.
Not only did I appreciate seeing such a wide variety of primary sources and source types, but I loved that the page could be read to students (double +)!