Resources for Educators

crowd.loc.gov provides students of all ages with opportunities to explore unique historical documents from the collections of the Library of Congress.

Deciphering and transcribing these documents can build students’ skills in close reading, examining historical context, and building interpretive consensus.

Teaching Ideas

  • As students transcribe a document, urge them to pay close attention to the language used in the document. What does that language tell them about who the audience for the document was? Was it a close friend or family member? A powerful person? A complete stranger? If the document is a letter, what clues can they find in the greeting and closing?

  • Prompt students to speculate about what the document’s author was trying to accomplish. What strategies, persuasive or otherwise, did the author use to accomplish their goal?

  • Challenge students to recreate the document in their own words, using today’s communication tools. What did your students say differently? What did they say that was the same?

  • Ask students to identify clues about the time and place in which the document was created. What do they know about what was going on at the time? How can they find out more?

  • Ask students to research and describe what happened as a result of this document being created. If they can’t identify what happened, ask them to speculate about what might have happened as a result of the document.

  • As students complete the transcription-reconciliation process, encourage them to take note of the ways they compared the differences between different transcriptions of the same document. What similarities and differences can they find between this process and the process of evaluating sources for a class project or research paper?

Primary Source Analysis

The documents in crowd.loc.gov are primary sources — the raw materials of history and culture. Analyzing primary sources like these can give students a powerful sense of the complexity of the past, and can guide them toward higher-order thinking and better critical thinking skills.

Use the Library’s primary source analysis tool and teacher’s guide to analyzing manuscripts to guide your students through an analysis of any of the documents in crowd.loc.gov.

A note about content: The historical documents in the Library’s collections may include language or topics that aren’t appropriate for your students, or that your students might find especially difficult to engage with. You may want to review documents before assigning them, or to use some of the strategies explored here.

Campaign Specific Resources

Letters to Lincoln (Featured Challenge for 2018!)

Branch Rickey: Changing the Game

Civil War Soldiers: "Disabled but not disheartened"

Clara Barton: "Angel of the Battlefield"

Mary Church Terrell: Advocate for African Americans and Women