Past Events & Activities

Primary Sources


Lesson Plans

Links and Resources


Online Primary Source-Based Lesson Plans and Activities

These sites offer activities, ideas and fully-developed lesson plans on a range of topics in American History. Each has been included because of its emphasis on and inclusion of primary sources.

In the Classroom - American Centuries

The highly-acclaimed website "American Memories" makes available digital versions of over 1,800 historical objects and documents from the collection of the Memorial Hall Museum in Deerfield, MA and offers a range of classroom activities and curricula which make use of them. The "In the Classroom" portion of the site includes both classroom activities/lessons and comprehensive grade-specific curricula based on primary sources. The curriculum materials include detailed background essays and resource lists. Although the focus of the collections is on New England, the activities and lesson topics tell broad and significant stories about American History. Activities and lessons are innovative and interactive. Many are teacher-created. Activities are searchable by grade and content area (including math, language arts, and science as well as US history.)

The Learning Page - Library of Congress

This is a section of the Library of Congress' website especially for Teachers. It is designed to provide a "teacher's eye view" of the American Memory Collections, and help teachers make use of these in a classroom. The site offers lessons, features, activities, and tips for using the collections. It also includes a section with practical ideas for how to integrate a range of primary source types in the classroom: objects; images; audio; statistics; text sources; the community. The lessons available on this page are searchable by theme, topic or historical era. Note that there are some lessons specifically designed to teach students about and how to analyze primary sources. In addition, for worksheets on how to help students analyze a few different types of primary sources, see the "Media Analysis Tools" link on the site.

EdSiteMent History and Social Studies Lessons - National Endowment for the Humanities

The National Endowment for the Humanities has created a fully searchable website with hundreds of lesson plans (for k-12) related to History and Social Studies. Lessons (all with National Standards correlations) make use of a wide range of source material including those from literature and art, as well as more traditional historical sources. Lessons are searchable by grade, topic, or period. From the EdSiteMent home page - - you can access Lesson plans tied to three other major categories: "Art & Culture," "Literature & Language Arts," and "Foreign Language". All lessons are cross-referenced with related lessons from across the website which allows teachers to create interdisciplinary classroom experiences.

Modules on Major Topics in American History - The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

Offers over 20 modules related to topics that cover all major periods in US history. The modules, created by a well-known historian, correlate with national history standards are geared toward use with high school students. Each module includes a background essay, activities, and primary sources from the Gilder Lehrman collection.

Our Documents

This website offers a limited number of lesson/teaching ideas when visitors click on "Tools for Educators." As a cooperative effort among the National Archives and Records Administration, National History Day, and USA Freedom Corps, the Our Documents initiative explores and makes available the original versions of 100 milestone documents of American History. As a whole, the documents (which include such items as the Declaration of Independence (1776), the Louisiana Purchase Treaty (1803), Plessey v. Ferguson (1896), the Social Security Act ( 1935) and Aerial Photograph of Missiles in Cuba (1962)) aim to "reflect the diversity and unity" of the United States. Each of the documents is accompanied by an introductory/contextualizing essay and a transcript of the document. Digital technology allows site visitors to look closely at and move around within the document simply by moving the mouse across it on a computer screen. Documents can be downloaded.

Smithsonian Education

This site is "the central education website for the Smithsonian Institution" and it makes available teaching/learning ideas and items from the 16 Smithsonian museums. The "Educators" portion of the site is divided into four broad content areas - including "History and Culture," "Science and Technology," Art & Design", and "Language Arts" - to help focus your use of the site. Features include nearly 1,000 educational resources, searchable by grade, subject and museum, and lessons, activities, and teaching tools aligned with national education standards. Site also includes links to and ideas about using the Smithsonian's numerous online exhibitions.

Teaching with Historic Places

As a joint effort of the National Park Service and the National Register of Historic Places, Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) "uses properties listed in the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places to enliven history, social studies, geography, civics, and other subjects." This site offers a variety of activities and over 100 lessons which bring historic places into the classroom and connect them - and lessons about them-to national standards. Lessons are searchable by location/state, theme, time period or by standards. The range of locations and topics covers the scope of American history and the geography of the United States. The lessons are designed for the middle school level, but most can easily be adapted for elementary and/or high school students. Primary sources are included in each lesson but are not searchable independent of those lessons.

Teaching With Documents- U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

On the "Teaching With Documents" area of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) site teachers will find lesson plans and activities that make central use of primary sources from the NARA collection- on topics correlated to the National History Standards and the National Standards for Civics and Government. Document sets are grouped by topic and are easy to access and use. NARA is an independent Federal agency that preserves United States history and oversees the management of all Federal records-a wide category which includes records of prison systems, infrastructure initiatives, immigration centers, taxes, and courts, among others. In addition to this wide set of materials, the collections also include the cornerstone documents of the government, including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights.

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