Students naturally look for connections between themselves and what they are learning. This project connects students to historical events that happened on their birthdays, helping them to recognize that each person is part of and contributes to the ongoing American memory.
To complete this project, students will . . .
- discover different types of primary sources.
- learn how primary sources inform us about events and people of particular time periods.
- understand that they are the subject and authors of primary sources.
- visit the Library of Congress website to learn about seminal historical events and people in American history.
- consider the legacy they would like to imprint on the American memory.
- document the connection between history and themselves.
Upon completing this project, students will be able to . . .
- recognize and identify different types of primary sources.
- explain how primary sources inform us about events and people of particular time periods.
- articulate how they are the subject and authors of primary sources.
- describe the legacy they would like to imprint on the American memory.
- summarize key points of seminal historical events and people in American history.
- create connections between history and themselves.
This project meets the following Common Core English Language Arts Standards for grades 3-5.
Reading Standards for Informational Text: 1, 2, 3, 7, 10
Writing Standards: 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10
Speaking and Listening Standards: 1, 2
Prepare materials for implementation: Each student will need a personal photo that can be saved or scanned into the computer; make sure you have tested all programs and/or technology tools before you implement the project.
Be flexible with implementation: Each student may complete the project on or near his/her individual birthday; students with birthdays in the same month may complete the project at the same time; or all students may complete the project at the same time.
Allow for sufficient time to implement: Working independently both online and offline, students will need three 40-minute sessions to complete the project.
American Memory timeline (.pdf)
Session 1: Primary Sources & Me
- Explain to students (or remind them) that primary sources are items that provide information about events and people from the past, helping us to understand what individuals or groups of people were experiencing, thinking, feeling, and talking about at the time they were created. Inform students that there are numerous types of primary sources, including photos, paintings, illustrations, sheet music, songs, interviews, videos, maps, documents, artifacts, and more.
- Pass out primary source investigator badges and inform students that this project will require them to serve as primary source investigators.
- Display or pass around copies of the Lincoln realia image (if you are using print copies, consider passing out magnifying glasses as well).
- Ask students to look carefully at the objects in the image and share what details they see and what significance they think these items have, noting student findings on a whiteboard, blackboard, or chart paper.
- Ask students if anyone has something in a pocket they could share with the class. (Be sure to have at least two items in your pocket or a work bag in case there is no student who can or wants to share.)
- Discuss what the items are and what information they provide about the owner(s) and the time we live in.
- Ask students to guess if they can approximate the date of the items from the Lincoln realia image. After, share with students that these items were all found in President Abraham Lincoln’s pockets on the night that he was assassinated.
- Direct students to fill out the All About Me information sheets.
Session 2: Today in History Research
- Inform students that the Library of Congress is the official library of the U.S. government but also the largest library in the world; the Library collects books and all types of primary sources to document and preserve the American experience as well as cultures around the world.
- Tell students they will be visiting the Library of Congress website to learn about seminal historical events and people in American history.
- Hand out the Today in History Research directions and Today in History Research note sheets and assist students, as needed, to complete them.
Session 3: Today in History Newspaper Creation
- Direct students to use the Everyday History News newspaper template (Microsoft PowerPoint®) or another program or tool to simulate a front-page news sheet that celebrates their birth, describes the legacy they would like to imprint on the American memory, and summarizes key points of a seminal historical event / person in American history.
- Assist students, as needed, to complete create and complete their newspaper pages. You may want to share the Everyday News story examples with students.
Project Display Options
Mapping the American Memory
- Post a large United States map on the classroom wall.
- Place the student’s newspapers on the wall in close proximity to the map. Alternatively, you can print the primary sources directly from the Library of Congress to post with the map.
- Connect the newspapers’ events with the appropriate locations on the map by colored yarn. The color will be determined by the time period in history (be sure to place a color key by the map). For example:
1600 – 1700 = red 1700 – 1800 = yellow 1800 – 1900 = blue 1900 – present = green
You could also represent the locations of the events digitally using Google Earth and digital copies of students’ newspapers (use different color fonts to represent different time periods).
Timeline of the American Memory
- Print and post the American Memory timeline in your classroom (cut to fit around doors, cabinets, etc.).
- Post each student’s newspaper at the appropriate place on the timeline. Alternatively, you can print the primary sources directly from the Library of Congress to post with the timeline. (To save on wall space, attach the papers to the ceiling directly above the proper places on the timeline.)
- Have students give oral presentations of their learnings.
You could also use a digital timeline tool to create interactive timelines.
- Timeline resource links Cybrary Man’s Educational Web Sites
- Best Timeline Creation Tools for Teachers and Students Educational Technology and Mobile Learning