When my state adopted the Common Core Curriculum two years ago, it was a messy transition. But I couldn’t be more thankful because the change brought me back to the joy of teaching character, grit, and courage in the classroom.
While the Common Core Curriculum doesn’t require teaching such things, those ideas arise easily through the study of historical events. Using primary documents in the classroom, my students not only learn of historical events, they see and feel those events through the lives of the participants. Through the analysis of first hand accounts, newspaper articles, and personal journals, children discover the men and women who created the history.
The despair, hardships, and triumphs of enslaved people and their fight for freedom are brought to life in narratives and speeches. The subsequent struggle of African Americans for equality—highlighted through the work of Martin Luther King, Jr— demonstrates courage through leadership amidst difficult choices.
Students fascinated with the Titanic can read first-hand accounts written by the passengers and newspaper articles about the historic tragedy. The lives of the lost and the saved illustrate the human struggle and tragedy of the event.
Nothing highlights the thrill of discovery more than the unearthing of King Tut’s tomb in 1926. The following excerpt from the expedition leader’s journal is as exciting as any young adult novel:
At first I could see nothing, the hot air escaping from the chamber causing the candle flame to flicker, but presently, as my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues, and gold— everywhere the glint of gold.
Even after reading it for many years, I still get a thrill!
Primary documents in your classroom help you teach real lives and real people. Those people faced real problems and found concrete solutions. What better way to inspire your students to soar?