Pop’s Finger

The Lyda Hill Texas Collection of Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. https://www.loc.gov/resource/highsm.26720

In his November editor’s message, Carl Harvey shares a story to remind us of the importance of primary sources. If you’re sharing Thanksgving with relatives this year, be sure to ask them about their stories, look for the primary sources that go with those stories, and be sure to ask about that jar at the back of the cupboard!

Our November issue is all about primary sources. All kinds of primary sources. Subscribers can view the issue online here. Not a subscriber yet? Click here for information on how to become one. 

When I was in high school and college, my mother and I used to work on our family genealogy. In the years that have followed, we’ve continued to do that but jobs, family, and life seem to keep us from spending as much time on it as we might like. Through all our searching, primary sources have been so powerful. We’ve been able to prove—and disprove—so many myths and legends in the family because of the information we’ve uncovered.

One of my favorite stories (and the kids at school always got a kick out of this one) was the story of Pop’s finger. Fred S. Cogdill, who we all called Pop, was my great-grandfather. He passed away at the age of 96 in 1987. Pop was a very old man by the time I was born, but I still have memories of going to visit him in the nursing home. My Mom commented once that Pop was missing a finger, and he always told his grandchildren (there were thirty-three of them) that a lump of coal had fallen on it when he worked in the coal mines in the early 1910s.

Continue reading “Pop’s Finger”

Using Primary Sources in the School Library

How frequently do your teachers/students use the library to access different types of primary sources? This month we asked this question about the primary sources teachers and students are using in the library. The results reveal the popularity of textual sources, but also yield some surprises and inspiration. In her One-Question Survey column, Dr. Maria Cahill discusses these results and encourages readers to use primary sources as an avenue for collaboration.

We hope you use these surveys to help you reflect on your own practices. Subscribers can view our archive of past surveys here.

survey-3We’ve all heard that a picture is worth a thousand words; thus, it’s not surprising that images are one of the two most frequently accessed primary sources along with written documents.

While it stands to reason that teachers and students in elementary schools would access fewer primary sources than their middle and high school counterparts, as the chart illustrates, the minimal use of visual sources (i.e. images, maps, and video files) in the elementary grades is unexpected. School librarians at any grade level, including elementary, should consider using images, maps, or objects to launch an inquiry unit as Kristin Fontichiaro (2016) proposes, and elementary librarians looking for additional approaches for using primary sources with students should be sure to check out the recently released SLC video workshop “Primary Sources for Elementary” presented by Tom Bober. Continue reading “Using Primary Sources in the School Library”

Civic Learning and Primary Sources


capitol-three-rights-clearElection Day is the perfect time to remember the importance of teaching students about citizenship and civic responsibility. In this article from our November issue, Noorya Hayat and Abby Kiesa with the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement discuss ways school library practitioners and K-12 educators can work together for high-quality civic learning linked to primary sources.
Subscribers to SLC can read more articles like this by visiting School Library Connection.

Engaging Students in High-Quality Civic Learning

Civic learning is an important mission of schools, and school library and media educators can and should play key roles. Not only do these educators play a role in what information and media youth are exposed to, but engagement with information, news, and other media also creates the opportunity to emphasize and develop literacy skills needed in many parts of life, including civic life and democracy. At the core of civic life is the ability to research issues and candidates to understand policies and related discussions, as well as finding and developing solutions. As such, the skills developed through interaction with and communication about information on public issues is a critical piece of civic learning.

In 2011, the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools published the “Guardian of Democracy” report, which outlines a comprehensive view of civic learning outcomes with six proven practices as inputs and civic outcomes focused on building knowledge, skills, and dispositions. These involve in-class and out-of-class activities that can all use primary sources to provide holistic civic education. These six promising practices for civic learning are:

  • Classroom instruction for knowledge in government, history, economics, law, and democracy;
  • Discussion of current events and controversial issues in the classroom;
  • Service-learning connected to school and class curriculum;
  • Simulations of democratic processes;
  • Extracurricular activities in school and the community; and
  • Student participation in school governance.

These practices can be used simultaneously in an activity or integrated over the course of a semester to teach powerful civic lessons. Coordination between educators in different roles and subject areas deepen and connect lessons for students. These practices can ensure high-quality civic learning outcomes in K-12 students—including through the integration of digital primary resources. Continue reading “Civic Learning and Primary Sources”

Sneak Peek: Tips for Using Primary Sources with Elementary Students

You can use primary sources with even your youngest students. Just in time for our November issue, “Get ‘Em Hooked with Primary Sources,” we have a new video workshop from Tom Bober on using primary sources with elementary school students.

Take a sneak peek:


In this six-minute lesson from his new video workshop “Primary Sources for Elementary,” Tom Bober offers ideas for using primary sources in science and literature classes and shares practical advice specifically for working with K–5 students.


If you love primary sources, or want to know more about using them with your students, be sure to visit School Library Connection. Subscribers can see the entire workshop, along with the rest of the new issue, here. Not yet a subscriber? Click here to learn more.

boberheadTom Bober is an elementary librarian at RM Captain Elementary in Clayton, MO, a former Teacher in Residence at the Library of Congress, and a Digital Public Library of America Community Rep. He has written about the use of primary sources in classrooms in Social Education magazine and the Teaching with the Library of Congress blog. Bober also presents at regional and national conferences, runs workshops, and has presented in Library of Congress webinars on a variety of strategies and topics for students’ use of primary sources in the classroom. Follow him on Twitter @CaptainLibrary.

Using Images as Scaffolds for Reading Complex Text

Nov_coverApril at School Library Connection has been all about inquiry—but we’ve got inquiry on the brain all year long! In case you missed it, check out this great article from our November 2015 issue by Nicole Waskie-Laura and Susan LeBlanc on using images to scaffold learning as we move students toward the goal of reading complex texts.

Picture this: a class of students with a wide range of reading levels and abilities engaging deeply with the same introductory text. The topic and text are unfamiliar, yet the students that typically struggle to read are leading the text-based conversations. As the lesson progresses, the room buzzes with conversation as students grapple with the information in the text, ask inquisitive questions of their peers, and provide evidence-based answers.

How is it possible that all students across reading levels are independently accessing the same text? Because the introductory text is an image, allowing for the engagement of all learners. Visual texts sustain interest and help build understanding, scaffolding the reading of complex, printed text. Continue reading “Using Images as Scaffolds for Reading Complex Text”