TeachersFirst's National History Day Resources

Other TeachersFirst Special Topics Collections

Whether your students actually compete in National History Day or not, the annual themes and the challenge of hands-on, primary research wrapped into the History Day project format is an engaging way for students to participate in their own learning and produce rigorous, meaningful projects they will never forget. This collection of TeachersFirst resources pulls from our offerings on primary sources -- a requirement in the national history day competition.  Check the official National History Day site at the start of each school year for the specific theme of the year. Then search TeachersFirst for more resources related to that year's theme. Explore and share these offerings as you plan a "history day" type event for your school or to assist students participating in National History Day.

 

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Dream of Flight - Library of Congress

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6 to 12
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Highlighting the incredible courage, ingenuity, and determination of Orville and Wilbur Wright, this Library of Congress site traces the importance of flight through history as it chronicles...more
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Highlighting the incredible courage, ingenuity, and determination of Orville and Wilbur Wright, this Library of Congress site traces the importance of flight through history as it chronicles the brothers' amazing achievement in Kitty Hawk, NC. Rich in text, photographs, and primary source documents, this electronic exhibit could form the basis for a teacher-created Web hunt, or serve as a visual supplement for a unit on American history and inventors.

tag(s): air (163), aircraft (24), aviation (38), flight (35), wright brothers (24)

In the Classroom

Within the section entitled "the dream" is a collection of primary resources that reflect society's obsession with flight. Print out or download these images separately on the interactive whiteboard or projector. Once students are in groups, assign each student a resource - with each group analyzing and interpreting the meaning of the pieces of art. After each group has dissected their resource, have a classroom debate as to which is the most reflective of human desire to fly? Which is the most inspirational? Which was the most scientific? Not only will the debate explore each of the sources but it will depend on students background knowledge of the history of flight. Because of this, this activity is probably best served at the end of a unit when it can be used as an informal review.

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Ohio River Valley - 1750-1820 - Library of Congress

Grades
9 to 12
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Based largely on historical documents, the Library of Congress unit on exploration of the Ohio River valley could offer secondary history teachers useful resources for specific topics,...more
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Based largely on historical documents, the Library of Congress unit on exploration of the Ohio River valley could offer secondary history teachers useful resources for specific topics, especially if they are in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. The resources include a number of maps of the period showing the distribution of "plantations" throughout this "first west."

In the Classroom

Use these primary sources to both show students what the "wild frontier" was actually like, and how to interpret firsthand accounts appropriately. Separate students into groups and assign each a different primary source from this site. Have the groups analyze and interpret their results, with the intentions of presenting their findings to the class. Have students use a tool such as Woices (beta) (reviewed here). This site allows students to create audio recordings AND choose a location (on a map) where the story takes place. This way students can put their findings into perspective concerning the geography of the frontier. (Make sure when assigning sources you choose ones that connect to a geographic area AND detail what the experience was like) At the end, students not only understand what they are presenting but also garner the sense of how rough it was to settle the pioneer.

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Washington State Pioneer Life - University of Washington

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3 to 12
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Washington State's pioneer life database includes lots of archival photos presented in a searchable format that's light-years ahead of many similar efforts in other states. Teachers...more
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Washington State's pioneer life database includes lots of archival photos presented in a searchable format that's light-years ahead of many similar efforts in other states. Teachers and students will likely find the sections on early Alaska, the Klondike, and the Yukon of particular interest. There's great term-paper fodder in this one!

tag(s): alaska (25), gold rush (19), washington (36)

In the Classroom

Use this site to search for primary sources during a unit on the Gold Rush that brought so many people to the Alaskan frontier. Primary sources could be used to teach both the content and historical thinking skills in your classroom. Divide students into 5-6 groups, with each group assigned a different primary source to read and evaluate. (Sources should come from various perspectives to make the game more interesting) Have the groups present quick summaries of their source to the class, making sure to mention who the author is and whether or not there could be bias. After all have presented, have each team pick a representative to argue in front of the class as to why their source is the most reliable and valid. After all have made their argument, have the class vote off the least reliable "survivor style" until you are left with just one!
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Travels in America - Library of Congress

Grades
9 to 12
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Observations of foreigners (especially Alexis de Tocqueville) have long been a staple of secondary American history classes. This Library of Congress resource offers a searchable collection...more
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Observations of foreigners (especially Alexis de Tocqueville) have long been a staple of secondary American history classes. This Library of Congress resource offers a searchable collection of reflections by other authors, including Hector St. John de Cr?vecoeur and Charles Dickens. While their observations are not always flattering, these writings can be a great way to get students to "think outside the box" when discussing American institutions.

tag(s): dickens (13), states (162)

In the Classroom

Use the primary sources in this site in a "survivor" activity that not only teaches the content how teaches students how to analyze primary sources too. Separate students into groups and assign each group a different primary source to analyze and interpret with the intentions of presenting their findings to the class. After presentations, have a representative from each group go to the front of the class and present an argument why their source is the most reliable and why it presents the clearest picture of the early US government. Have the class vote off the least reliable in rounds until there is just the one left! Students will leave the class understanding the content AND how to analyze sources for future reference.

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Great Lakes Maritime History Project - Wisconsin Historical Society

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6 to 12
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Created by the Wisconsin Historical Society, this site gives users access to a database of images of commerce on the Great Lakes over the past 150 years or ...more
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Created by the Wisconsin Historical Society, this site gives users access to a database of images of commerce on the Great Lakes over the past 150 years or so - primarily dealing with Wisconsin. The contents include photographs, digitized documents, advertising posters, and other material that chronicles traffic on the lakes. Both the search and keyword features are more awkward than they should be, and this likely will relegate this site to use by interested teachers only. It's a pity; there are interesting items here.

tag(s): wisconsin (3)

In the Classroom

Use this site to teach about the evolution of transportation in the US and how that affected areas such as the Midwest and the Great lakes regions. Search this site for primary sources that could be incorporated into your classroom, illustrating the content. These primary sources could be used to teach both the content and historical thinking skills in your classroom. Divide students into 5-6 groups, with each group assigned a different primary source to read and evaluate. (Sources should come from various perspectives to make the game more interesting) Have the groups present quick summaries of their source to the class, making sure to mention who the author is and whether or not there could be bias. After all have presented, have each team pick a representative to argue in front of the class as to why their source is the most reliable and valid. After all have made their argument, have the class vote off the least reliable "survivor style" until you are left with just one!

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Teach Vietnam - The Learning Experience - Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Fund

Grades
6 to 12
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Created by the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Fund, the full title of this site is "Echoes From The Wall: History, Learning and Leadership through the Lens of The Vietnam War Era." ...more
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Created by the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Fund, the full title of this site is "Echoes From The Wall: History, Learning and Leadership through the Lens of The Vietnam War Era." The approaches the Vietnam War era with a focus on history, leadership, citizenship, and civic responsibility. The site has good primary source research materials and an interactive timeline, as well as a detailed teacher's guide with teaching modules.

tag(s): 1960s (30), memorial day (13), vietnam (36)

In the Classroom

Take advantage of the free lesson plans and activities offered on this site! All are related back to standards of learning, and provide great resources for teachers who need to cover the Vietnam War. Save the site as a favorite on your classroom computer and refer to it when in need of fresh ideas.

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Nationalism in the U.S. - 1815-1850 - National Humanities Center

Grades
9 to 12
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Developed as part of the National Humanities Center's Online Professional Development "Toolbox" series, this site offers history and government teachers a wonderfully succinct resource...more
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Developed as part of the National Humanities Center's Online Professional Development "Toolbox" series, this site offers history and government teachers a wonderfully succinct resource kit for building one or more lesson units. Divided into five sections: religion, domesticity, common man, expansion, and America - 1850, the site offers introductions and a set of primary source readings for each, along with presentation guidelines and discussion suggestions. This one encourages students to draw their own conclusions.

tag(s): civil war (145)

In the Classroom

Use this site to allow students to dramatize the events that occurred in 1850, leading up to the civil war. Sharing the site on an interactive whiteboard or projector, open up the section entitled "America in 1850," and assign students roles, by the documents have provided. Once students have read their "parts," or appropriate reading guides, encourage them to re-enact their character's words. Re-enacting the events will show all sides of the argument, and provide a more tangible learning experience. Extremely useful in any American History or Civics class!
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Living the Revolution: America - 1789-1820 - National Humanities Center

Grades
7 to 12
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Developed as part of the National Humanities Center's Online Professional Development "Toolbox" series, this site offers history and government teachers a wonderfully succinct resource...more
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Developed as part of the National Humanities Center's Online Professional Development "Toolbox" series, this site offers history and government teachers a wonderfully succinct resource kit for building one or more lesson units. Divided into five sections: religion, predicaments, politics, expansion, and equality, the site offers introductions and a set of primary source readings for each, along with presentation guidelines and discussion suggestions. Lots of critical analysis opportunities here.

tag(s): constitution (79), courts (15), evolution (100)

In the Classroom

This site provides both excellent discussion questions and the primary sources needed to base it on. To begin with, copy down some of the recommended topic questions on the front page of the site before opening it on an interactive whiteboard or projector. For the students, share the primary documents available by clicking on the topic, and then selecting the one in desire. After the class has read them, begin your discussion with the questions copied earlier!
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History Writing Guide - Bowdoin College

Grades
9 to 12
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This college-level writing guide for history papers from Bowdoin College may be beyond the scope of some secondary students. But for those who can already compose a cogent paragraph,...more
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This college-level writing guide for history papers from Bowdoin College may be beyond the scope of some secondary students. But for those who can already compose a cogent paragraph, it offers great suggestions on research process and assembling a paper that uses primary resources. AP history and social studies teachers may want to review this one and suggest or adapt it for their students. There's a wealth of information here.

tag(s): primary sources (86)

In the Classroom

Open this site on the interactive whiteboard or projector and have students read the information before beginning their first big research paper. (Teachers can also print the information, but why not save some trees?) The short introductory essay offers some great tips for paper writing and has reference points for students with more questions. Have students look at the rest of the information on their own or refer students with questions to it. Save this site as a favorite on the class wiki or webpage so students can access it both in and out of the classroom.

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Chinese in California - Library of Congress

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8 to 12
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The American Memory Project at the Library of Congress offers this collection of documents on the experiences of Chinese immigrants in California. Though they faced severe discrimination,...more
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The American Memory Project at the Library of Congress offers this collection of documents on the experiences of Chinese immigrants in California. Though they faced severe discrimination, the Chinese were an invaluable source of labor, especially for the construction of the transcontinental railroad. The collection includes many archival photos. As such, it could be a great teaching tool for the use of original historic resources.

tag(s): california (27), chinese (48), immigration (58), migration (59), railroads (10)

In the Classroom

Too often students are lacking in their understanding of historical thinking and processes, including the importance of primary sources. Select 5-6 different primary sources from this site, with varying authors and perspectives. Divide students into 5-6 groups, with each group assigned a different primary source to read and evaluate. (Sources should come from various perspectives to make the game more interesting) Have the groups present quick summaries of their source to the class, making sure to mention who the author is and whether or not there could be bias. After all have presented, have each team pick a representative to argue in front of the class as to why their source is the most reliable and valid. After all have made their argument, have the class vote off the least reliable "survivor style" until you are left with just one! At the end of class students will not only have learned the content within the sources but an additional skill.

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Photos from the Chicago Daily News: 1902-1933 - Library of Congress

Grades
4 to 12
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Historical images always fascinate, and this searchable collection from the Library of Congress' outstanding American Memory collection offers students and teachers a wonderful look...more
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Historical images always fascinate, and this searchable collection from the Library of Congress' outstanding American Memory collection offers students and teachers a wonderful look at daily life in American during the early twentieth century. While elementary students may enjoy looking at the images, older students will find this a great source of illustrations for research projects.

tag(s): chicago (5), illinois (9), primary sources (86)

In the Classroom

Teachers will need to supply their own context and creativity in using this site, but it's a rich resource nonetheless.

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Wisconsin Pioneer Experience - University of Wisconsin

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6 to 12
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Here is a collection of original letters and other manuscripts written by those who settled the farms and prairies of Wisconsin. Secondary teachers teaching Wisconsin state history...more
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Here is a collection of original letters and other manuscripts written by those who settled the farms and prairies of Wisconsin. Secondary teachers teaching Wisconsin state history may want to make use of some of these first-hand accounts of pioneer life. The site would also be a great resource for teachers building an interdisciplinary "life on the frontier" unit.

tag(s): pioneers (8), primary sources (86), wisconsin (3)

In the Classroom

Use these primary sources as a way to teach students what it was like to be a pioneer during the period of Westward expansion in the United States. Select documents that are at the appropriate reading level for your class, and have groups read and analyze assigned ones. Have groups present their findings to class in order to portray what life was like from all different perspectives. This can be easily used in either a Wisconsin History course, or a US history class.

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Reclaiming the Everglades - Library of Congress

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6 to 12
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This unit from the Library of Congress could be interesting to secondary students examining the history of Florida in the early twentieth century. It would also provide an interesting...more
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This unit from the Library of Congress could be interesting to secondary students examining the history of Florida in the early twentieth century. It would also provide an interesting assignment in working with primary source materials. In this case, these might be part of an assignment on ecology, history, or management of natural areas. Even secondary students will likely need some guidance at using this one, however.

tag(s): florida (11), states (162)

In the Classroom

Use this site as a point of reference when covering the everglades or a unit on evolving ecosystems. The information offered is text heavy, but the site allows one to search through the collection where teachers can find primary documents and timelines that could be used to compliment lesson plans. Save this site as a favorite on your desktop and refer to it when in need of ideas and material.

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Campfire Stories with George Catlin - Smithsonian

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7 to 12
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Art, artifacts, and primary source documents frame this exploration of American Indians during the early 19th century. Through the eyes of artist, ethnologist, and showman George Catlin,...more
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Art, artifacts, and primary source documents frame this exploration of American Indians during the early 19th century. Through the eyes of artist, ethnologist, and showman George Catlin, students can take a virtual journey through time to meet American Indians of the 1830s. Contemporary experts provide commentary that raises provocative questions regarding the intersection of Native American and European. This searchable, award-winning site also includes lesson plans with cross-curricular connections and links to relevant standards. Created by the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Quicktime required.

tag(s): painting (66)

In the Classroom

History, social studies, and art teachers will find this site useful, but it will take some planning to use effectively.
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AMDOCS - Univ. of Kansas

Grades
6 to 12
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Created at the University of Kansas, this collection of primary sources offers coverage from the 15th century through the present, making it useful for both early and contemporary history....more
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Created at the University of Kansas, this collection of primary sources offers coverage from the 15th century through the present, making it useful for both early and contemporary history. Many of the documents are on third-party sites, so expect some level of change over time.

tag(s): american revolution (86), history day (23)

In the Classroom

Take advantage of the hundreds of available primary sources on this site. History teachers can use these documents for a variety of activities, from supplementing the text to using them to teach students how to analyze the validity of sources. The documents are organized by date, and can benefit both World History classes in addition to American History.

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History Matters - George Mason University

Grades
9 to 12
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George Mason University has created what is almost a one stop shopping site for American History. This is a rich resource of primary source materials, introductions to historical analysis,...more
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George Mason University has created what is almost a one stop shopping site for American History. This is a rich resource of primary source materials, introductions to historical analysis, factual material, and much more. The site concentrates on both historical content and the craft of teaching history. This makes it an ideal starting point for social studies or history teachers interested in a fresh approach to their curriculum.

tag(s): states (162)

In the Classroom

This site offers a treasure trove of primary sources that would be useful for any history classroom. Teachers can either use the sources to supplement their lectures, or can use them to start a debate with students on the qualities of effective primary sources. Separate students into groups, and provide each group with a different primary source, although from the same time frame you are studying in class. Have the groups analyze the sources, and a list of reasons as to why or why not their source is a reliable source. From then on, have the groups debate in class which is the most reliable by way of class debate. Not only will the kids synthesize the important information within the sources, but they will also get a handle as to what makes a source reliable.

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World War II Resources

Grades
9 to 12
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This is a collection of primary source documents from American and Allied sources. This site includes pre-war assessments and intelligence, cryptography studies, and even the actual...more
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This is a collection of primary source documents from American and Allied sources. This site includes pre-war assessments and intelligence, cryptography studies, and even the actual German and Japanese surrender documents. It would be a great starting point for students interested in using primary sources.

tag(s): world war 2 (142)

In the Classroom

Primary sources could be used to teach both the content and historical thinking skills in your classroom. Divide students into 5-6 groups, with each group assigned a different primary source to read and evaluate. (Sources should come from various perspectives to make the game more interesting, but should have the same general topic) Have the groups present quick summaries of their source to the class, making sure to mention who the author is and whether or not there could be bias. After all have presented, have each team pick a representative to argue in front of the class as to why their source is the most reliable and valid. After all have made their argument, have the class vote off the least reliable "survivor style" until you are left with just one!

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Photos from the Library of Congress - Library of Congress

Grades
4 to 12
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This site offers examples from the Library of Congress collection of civil war photos by Matthew Brady and other photographers of the era. ...more
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This site offers examples from the Library of Congress collection of civil war photos by Matthew Brady and other photographers of the era.

tag(s): civil war (145)

In the Classroom

Useful as an introduction to the use of primary source materials in teaching history.

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Oral Histories of World War II

Grades
6 to 12
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This is a collection of oral histories from people involved in the war. Most of the material has been transcribed, but there are a few bits that can be heard ...more
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This is a collection of oral histories from people involved in the war. Most of the material has been transcribed, but there are a few bits that can be heard as RealAudio clips. Many of the segments could use some additional context, but they effectively capture the scope and intensity of the experience.

tag(s): primary sources (86), veterans (19), world war 2 (142)

In the Classroom

Use this site on a projector or interactive whiteboard to discuss and informally assess prior knowledge as you start your study of WWI. Open the site on the interactive whiteboard or projector to have students hear some of the interviews from veterans of the Great War. Play the interviews following a lecture, and have students write down their responses at the end. This will insure students are listening and provide direction for a classroom discussion afterward.

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Early Motion Pictures - Library of Congress

Grades
7 to 12
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Download film clips of American Factories, The McKinley Era, New York circa 1900, San Francisco before and after the earthquake, and other indexed historical early films. The clips...more
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Download film clips of American Factories, The McKinley Era, New York circa 1900, San Francisco before and after the earthquake, and other indexed historical early films. The clips are long, so take a few minutes to download, but the results could illustrate a history lesson or a communications study. This site also links to Edison's early motion picture and sound recordings. Students can also use these for primary research for National History Day or other major projects.

tag(s): movies (65)

In the Classroom

Use this site as an anticipatory set or "activator" to introduce a unit or lesson on a projector. Because the clips are long, make sure to preview them to help decide whether to play the whole thing or just portions. This videos would be great to use during a study of Edison, or even the content covered in the videos. It could lead to a very interesting conversation as to the value of videos as resources, and what criteria we should judge them by.

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