Today’s post comes from Chelsea Tremblay and Renee Rhodes, interns in our Education and Public Programs division.
On Wednesday, September 17, 2014, we celebrated the 228th anniversary of the signing of our nation’s founding document at the National Archives—the permanent home of the U.S. Constitution.
That morning of Constitution Day (commemorated on September 17th each year), we hosted a naturalization ceremony during which 35 new United States citizens swore their oaths of allegiance. Each one was so excited to become a citizen right in front of the Constitution.
We offered multiple family activities for visitors in our Boeing Learning Center. By participating in various activities, National Archives guests learned more about the Constitution’s creation and purpose.
In fact, many Constitution Day activities can be adapted to use in your classroom:
Write your own amendment to the Constitution.
Students took time to document the issues they find important enough to be added to the U.S. Constitution. For example, one visitor believed every middle school student should be given free shoes.
Additional proposed amendments included:
All Americans should pay equal taxes.
Every Friday and Saturday there should be free cheese.
“No smoking in the United States. Smoking can give you cancer and sometimes you can die. I would have smoking sensors all around the United States.”
Students used a fill-in-the-blank story-building activity to help them craft a silly, but educational, naturalization story about immigrants becoming United States citizens. Using this interactive method allowed them to be creative while also learning facts about the process.
This type of activity is flexible and can be adapted to any topic. Here’s an example (PDF) of how we combined humor and educational information in one activity. (You can download the PDF worksheet for your classroom).
Constitution Day included other fun events: from building a flag for 51 states, to writing with quill pens, to unscrambling the Preamble.
Crafts and games provide a good basis for lessons and, though some that we utilized may be too messy for a classroom, they are still options to inspire other ideas. You can see more of the activities in photos on Flickr!
You can also check out some of our many student-friendly resources available online:
Visit our online tool for teaching with documents from the National Archives: DocsTeach.
And if you’re in the DC area, keep an eye out for future family days, and come join the fun!
This National Archives program was supported in part by the Foundation for the National Archives through the generosity of John Hancock. The Boeing Learning Center was made possible in part by the Foundation for the National Archives through the support of The Boeing Company.
Primary sources are so important to include in National History Day (NHD) projects! Along with our partners at National History Day and the White House Historical Association, we wanted to share strategies for researching them with students.
This recorded webinar from October 7, 2014, addresses the differences in primary and secondary sources, how to use primary sources, how to find primary sources, and what judges are looking for in annotated bibliographies and process papers. David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States of America, introduces the topic.
Did you know the National Archives and Presidential Libraries have locations all around the country? Join us during October at one of our upcoming education programs—either on site or in conjunction with one of our partner organizations.
Documents—diaries, letters, drawings, and memoirs—created by those who participated in or witnessed the events of the past tell us something that even the best-written article or book cannot convey (excerpt from our website).
As all National History Day (NHD) students and teachers know, nothing in history happens in a vacuum.
For a student to fully understand the connections between their topics, the past, the annual theme, and the present, they must immerse themselves in researching not just the subject, but the context set by the time period.
Understanding not just their topic but the time period allows them to answer critical questions such as:
Why did my topic happen at this particular time and in this particular place;
What were the events or the influences that came before my topic; and
How was my topic influenced by and how did it influence the economic, social, political, and cultural climate of the time period?
Primary sources are the best means of capturing the words, the thoughts and the intentions of the past. Primary sources help you to interpret what happened and why it happened.
To learn more about how primary sources can be successfully utilized, join NHD, the National Archives, and the White House Historical Association for a free webinar on October 7, 2014 at 6:00 p.m. ET.
Today’s post comes from Kris Jarosik, education specialist at the National Archives at Chicago.
How do you use primary sources with your students?
DocsTeach activities, analysis worksheets, or perhaps even grouped together as DBQs may be a few techniques you employ.
But have you tried a poetry slam? A partner of ours in Chicago brought this technique to our attention, and we used it with much success during a professional development event. So we just had to share.
A Poetry Slam with Documents works best when you have multiple dense primary sources that are part of the same story. With this technique, students are able to build their literacy skill sets by practicing their skimming/reading-for-gist technique and learning content knowledge.
How does it work?
Each group of four students receives a different “meaty” primary source that tells one part of a larger story. In our workshop each group of teachers received a different document from the court case Gautreaux, et al. v. the Chicago Housing Authority. You can tap into DocsTeach.org to locate these primary sources.
Share an overview of the topic or story that the documents cover and the process of the poetry slam. In our teacher example, we provided an overview of the court case before we got started. This case spanned over 30 years and was the nation’s first major public housing desegregation lawsuit. The Gautreaux lawsuit charged that by concentrating more than 10,000 public housing units in isolated African-American neighborhoods, the Chicago Housing Authority and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development had violated both the U.S. Constitution and the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Distribute enough copies of each document within the group so that each member of the group has their own copy of the same document. Then, individually, students should skim and highlight key phrases and interesting sentences in their document. Only provide students with enough time to skim the document and not completely analyze it.
After time is called, each student needs to select 5 of the phrases s/he highlighted from the document and copy them directly onto large strips of paper with markers. Then, in their small groups, students should create a poem based on these exact document phrases. Encourage students to “play around” and re-arrange the strips on the floor. Each small group should use at least one strip from each group member. Then the group should write out their newly created poem on one large sheet of paper.
Performing – The Slam Part
Then the group decides how to perform their poem for the Poetry Slam. Provide students time to rehearse. Each small group will be able to learn from the other groups about the other documents. A discussion with the entire class (large group) can facilitate and ensure complete understanding, and pave the way for deeper exploration of this complex story.
If you are raring to give this a try, the supply list below can help you get started.
Poetry Slam Supply List
small groups of 4
a different document for each small group with enough copies of that document for each group member (each document should be related to one story or concept) DocsTeach.org is a great resource to tap.
highlighters and markers
large strips of paper — 5 strips for each class member
1 large sheet of sheet of paper for each group
tape, or provide a way to hang poems on the wall/white board when groups are performing
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