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AmericaInClass.org: Primary Source Documents and More

America In Class, an extensive collection of primary and secondary documents, seminars and lessons, provides history and literature teachers with a wide array of materials to help them plan engaging instruction. All materials are designed to align with the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and literacy in history and social studies.

Though the site contains a very large number of essays, artwork and other texts, all the materials are well-organized. Teachers will likely find the site easy to navigate as they search for resources.

The site’s home page.

Primary Source Documents

The Primary Sources section includes historical documents, literary writing and artwork, organized by theme. Resources are also loosely organized by date.

The site features several collections of documents.

Primary Sources is the most developed part of the site. Selecting one of the collections leads to theNational Humanities Center, which oversees AmericaInClass. The collections are further broken down thematically. For example, the collection “Making the Revolution” is subdivided into topics which include Crisis, Rebellion, War and Independence. Framing questions for each topic provide teachers with additional lesson planning tools.

Framing questions help teachers select topics.

Though most of the focus is on documents, artwork is also given attention. For example, the “Crisis” section, addressing the lead-up to the Revolutionary War, includes questions on documents and a painting.

A series of questions addresses both documents and artwork.

Most of the collections include guidelines, broken into four steps, for discussing the artwork.

Scholarly Essays

Secondary source texts are hosted by TeacherServe, which is also part of the National Humanities Center. This resource has three main concentrations: Divining America, which focuses on the role of religion in history; Nature Transformed, which addresses the environment; and Freedom’s Story, which focuses on African American literature and history. These resources are primarily essays as well as discussion questions and additional content.

TeacherServe has essays by leading scholars.

A closer examination of Nature Transformed shows a broad range of essays covering topics which includes an environmental perspective on the Civil War and environmental justice.

Teachers have several options to choose from.

Lessons and Teaching Ideas

The site’s excellent organization continues through to the Lessons page. At this time, the collection of lessons is small, with a current total of thirteen lessons. Half of those are categorized under the 19th Century.

Lessons are categorized by century.

Despite the small number, all lessons show evidence of extensive planning. Each one emphasizes primary and secondary documents. In addition to general teaching suggestions, the lessons also include discussion questions, vocabulary, and ideas for follow-up lessons.

A lesson on slavery is organized around an essential question.

Artwork is also addressed in several of the lessons, helping students to visualize the events they are reading about. Several suggestions for incorporating art are included.

Helpful tips for incorporating art into social studies and ELA lessons.

Professional Development

In addition to its wide assortment of free educational materials, AmericaInClass.org also offers low-cost online seminars for teachers seeking inexpensive, easily accessible professional development.

The site offers low-cost seminars on teaching with primary source documents.

AmericaInClass.org is a high-quality collection of important resources. Teachers of social studies and English will find plenty of materials to incorporate into standards-based lessons.

Written February 23, 2013 by Tracy Derrel

Social Studies , Art

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