Our job as social studies teachers is not to give our students the answers. Our job is to create great questions and then train kids to be able to address those questions. To model and facilitate the practice of reading, writing, and thinking like historians.
Rather than passively receiving information from us or our textbooks, students should be actively engaged in the activities of historians — making sense of the stories, events and ideas of the past through document analysis.
And one of the tools that every history / social studies teacher should be using to help with all of this is the incredible National Archives site DocsTeach. I first wrote about DocsTeach when it debuted six years ago in 2010. The idea of the site at the time?
the project is designed to provide useful document-based lesson plans and activities created by both NARA staff members and classroom teachers.
And it was awesome. Tons of primary sources from the National Archives. Activities that focused on and supported historical thinking skills. The ability to create your own activities, save them, and share them digitally with your students. For 2010, it truly was cutting edge.
But it debuted before mobile devices and iPads. Before national standards such as the NCSS C3 Framework and Common Core Lit standards. Before Wineburg’s Reading Like a Historian and SHEG. Before online primary evidence archives were commonplace. So even though it was an incredible idea put into practice, it was a bit clunky and not super user friendly in 2016.
But not anymore. DocsTeach just got a massive upgrade. And now there is no excuse not to use it. Because not only can you still access thousands of primary sources, borrow from an ever-expanding collection of document-based activities, and create your own online activities, there are some very sweet changes and additions to the site.
Buried within the millions of documents housed at the National Archives are some truly special treasures from the First Congress that highlight how the ratification of the Constitution necessitated the creation of the Bill of Rights. And how the creation of that document completed the Constitution. The remarkable story of the relationship between the Constitution and its Bill of Rights is told in the NARA project called Congress Creates the Bill of Rights.
Congress Creates the Bill of Rights consists of four elements: an eBook, a mobile app for tablets, a print version of the the mobile app for students without that access, and online resources for teachers and students. Each element provides a distinct way of Read more