Picture This – With DocsTeach!

Connect students with historical photos to stimulate creative thinking and writing. Today’s post comes from Ang Reidell, education specialist at the National Archives at Philadelphia.

Girls working on activities

DocsTeach is an amazingly versatile educational tool. I was reminded of that this summer when I had the opportunity to teach a “Girl Power” workshop series for Philadelphia’s Mighty Writers.

The goal of the sessions, for girls ages 8-12, was to tap into participants’ curiosity and imagination, and stimulate creative thinking and writing. I did this by connecting participants with historical photos of girls from the records of the National Archives. And thankfully, there are many photos to choose from, right on DocsTeach!

Each week I led the girls through close examination of the photos from different times and places. Together we would discover more information about the who, what, when, where, how and why of the image. I created writing prompts based on each photo and asked the girls to write in their own voices and imagined “voices of history.” We wrapped-up each session with a connected hands-on activity.

For those of you who are interested in using DocsTeach in this or a similar informal way, here are the historical photos, writing prompts and activities from each week, along with photos of participants from the workshop. (Talk about Girl Power!)

Here’s to remembering the best of Summer 2017!

Week 1

Historical Photo: Girl at March on Washington

Girl with pennant

Writing Prompts: 

  1. Your Voice: Write a letter to this girl, telling her what you thought when you saw her picture
  2. Voices of History: Write a diary entry (or Facebook post) that the girl might have written about her experience.

Activity: Make a pennant that shows something you believe in, like Edith had at the March on Washington.

Week 2

Historical Photo: Immigrant children at Ellis Island

Girl with welcome sign

Writing Prompts: 

  1. Your Voice: What might you want to carry/hold on to (like the girl did with the doll) if you had to move to a new country?
  2. Voices of History: Write a diary entry from the perspective of one of of the girls in the picture.

Activity: Make “welcome” signs in the languages of the immigrants to the United States at the time of the photo and now.

Week 3

Historical Photo: Girls Delivering Ice (World War I)

Girl creating a poster

Writing Prompts: 

  1. Voices of History: Imagine you are one of the girls in the picture. What might you be thinking about while the picture was being taken?
  2. Your Voice: Have you ever been told that you can’t do something simply because you are a girl? What was it? How did being told that make you feel? What happened next?

Activity: Create an inspirational poster for or about girls.

Week 4

Historical Photo: Girls (and others) watching a parade for African-American soldiers, World War I

Girls with bookmarks

Writing Prompts: 

  1. Your Voice: Make a list of words you think of when you look at the photo.
  2. Voices of History: Write a diary entry from the perspective of one of the girls in the picture, talking about how she felt being at the parade.

Activity: Create a bookmark using words we talked about in the discussion.

I’d love to hear your feedback, so I welcome comments at andrea.reidell@nara.gov or below!

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Constitution Day Resources

September 17 is designated as Constitution Day to commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787. The National Archives in Washington, DC, is the permanent home of the original United States Constitution.

Here are a few resources that you can use to talk about the Constitution with your students on Constitution Day or any time.

The Constitution on DocsTeach

Bring the Constitution to LifeHelp your students understand ideas like checks and balances, separation of powers, amendments, the Bill of Rights, slavery and the Constitution, and more through primary sources and online activities on our special Constitution page on DocsTeach.org.

Students can connect primary sources that span the course of American history to the principles found in the Constitution. For example, in “The Constitution at Work” they will match historical documents to specific wording in the Constitution to understand how our government’s actions are guided by this document.

New Constitution Distance Learning Programs

Students in a distance learning programDistance learning programs are free of charge and are offered for 4th-8th grades. A National Archives facilitator will connect with your class for a fun and interactive experience via traditional videoconferencing equipment or through a web-based platform. (Programs must be scheduled at least two weeks in advance.)

  • The Constitution at Work: Elementary Edition, for grades 4-5
  • The Constitution at Work: Middle School Edition, for grades 6-8

Congress Creates the Bill of Rights

Congress Creates the Bill of Rights eBook

You and your students can explore how the First Congress proposed amendments to the Constitution in 1789 in “Congress Creates the Bill of Rights.” This package, including eBook, mobile app for tablets, and online teaching resources, shows how the ratification of the Constitution necessitated the creation of the Bill of Rights, and how the creation of the Bill of Rights, in turn, completed the Constitution.

Constitution eBook and iTunes U Course

Learn about the Constitutional Convention, drafting and ratifying the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the three branches of our Federal government, and how the National Archives is preserving our Constitution in a Constitution course on iTunes U. Or read “Exploring the United States Constitution,” an eBook that explores the Constitutional roots of the three branches of our government while featuring connections to historical documents in the holdings of the National Archives.

The Original Constitution at the National Archives Museum

Inside the Rotunda for the Charters of FreedomAnyone can visit the Constitution in person at the National Archives. And online visitors can learn about the creation and history of the Constitution.

The Constitution-in-Action Learning Lab

Kids at Computer in the Constitution in Action Learning LabYou can plan a trip to the National Archives in Washington, DC, to participate in a Constitution-in-Action Learning Lab. School groups, families, and other groups of civic-minded individuals can take on the roles of archivists and researchers completing a very important assignment: providing the President of the United States with real-life examples of our Constitution in action.

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You’re Invited to Our Annual Educators Open House!


Download the Flyer (PDF)

Announcing the fourth annual Educators Open House at the National Archives! You and your colleagues are invited to explore the National Archives and learn about our classroom resources for educators and students.

Thursday, September 21, 2017
5:30 – 8:30 p.m.
National Archives Museum, Washington, DC

Registration is appreciated.

Join National Archives education specialists for a night of fun and learning about our education resources. Our specialists will be available all night to chat, answer questions, and give suggestions for using primary source documents in your school and classroom. In addition, explore our learning labs and hear more about our distance learning programs and DocsTeach.org, the online tool for teaching with documents from the National Archives.

Be sure not to miss a special keynote presentation at 7 p.m. by Anne Harrington from WETA. She will discuss educational material accompanying Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s new documentary, The Vietnam War.

Learn about our many teaching resources, including:

You’ll be welcome to visit our exhibitions, including Records of Rights, the Public Vaults, and the Rotunda, which houses the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

Heavy hors d’oeuvres will be provided. Educators will receive a 10% discount in the Archives Store.

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New Constitution Day Distance Learning Programs for Students and Educators

Students in a distance learning programSeptember 17th is Constitution Day! On September 17, 1787, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention met for the last time to sign the document that they had spent weeks creating: the Constitution of the United States. To help students throughout the country understand the importance and relevance of this document, we’re offering two brand new K-12 distance learning programs and a webinar for educators!

K-12 Distance Learning Programs

These programs are free of charge and are offered for 4th-8th grades. A National Archives facilitator will connect with your class for a fun and interactive experience via traditional videoconferencing equipment or through a web-based platform.

Each program has been designed to enhance content knowledge of the Constitution and to strengthen critical thinking skills by analyzing primary sources from the holdings of the National Archives.

Programs are available Tuesday-Thursday and must be scheduled at least two weeks in advance. For more information please email us at distancelearning@nara.gov or visit our distance learning page.

The Constitution at Work: Elementary Edition

Letter with drawing of flag

Letter from Sheryl Byland to President Eisenhower with Flag Suggestion, 10/1958; Collection DDE-WHCF: White House Central Files (Eisenhower Administration). Online at: www.docsteach.org/documents/document/sheryl-byland

  • For grades 4-5
  • 45-60 minutes

Guiding Question: How is the U.S. Constitution relevant to the daily lives of American citizens?

What does the board game “Monopoly” have to do with the U.S. Constitution? How about the letter you wrote to the President when you were in elementary school? The answer to both questions is: plenty–if you know your Constitution.

This program provides a unique opportunity to learn, via analysis of primary source documents, about the content, impact, and perpetual relevance of the U. S. Constitution to the daily lives of American citizens.

Request your program today.

The Constitution at Work: Middle School Edition

Uncle Sam driving a team of three horses

This Is the Team That Will Win Every Time, 3/27/1898; (H-100); Berryman Political Cartoon Collection, 1896 – 1949; Records of the U.S. Senate, Record Group 46; National Archives Building, Washington, DC. Online at: www.docsteach.org/documents/document/team-win

  • For grades 6-8
  • 45-60 minutes

Guiding Questions: How does the Constitution create a strong central government? How does the Constitution separate and share powers?

During this program, students will review some of the problems created by the Articles of Confederation and how these issues led to the creation of the U.S. Constitution and a new central government.

Prior to the program, students will be divided into groups to analyze primary sources that show historical examples of the Constitution at work. During the videoconference, students will use these documents to determine how the Constitution creates a stronger central government compared to the Articles of Confederation. They will also discover how it shares and separates powers between the three branches of government and between the Federal Government and state governments.

Request your program today.

Professional Development Webinar for Educators

Teaching the Constitution with Political Cartoons

Bill ringing the White House doorbell

Anyone Home?, 2/24/1920; (M-023); Berryman Political Cartoon Collection, 1896 – 1949; Records of the U.S. Senate, Record Group 46; National Archives Building, Washington, DC. Online at: www.docsteach.org/documents/document/anyone-home

September 13, 2017, 7-8 p.m. ET

Register today.

Join the Center for Legislative Archives to discover how to use political cartoons to teach about the United States Constitution. This webinar will draw from the collection of Clifford K. Berryman cartoons from the U.S. Senate. Berryman’s career as a political cartoonist in Washington, DC, spanned five decades and his cartoons are a rich resource for history and civics lessons.

During this interactive webinar, you will practice techniques for helping students evaluate visual content and explore ideas for how to use political cartoons to illustrate the “Big Ideas” of the Constitution, such as separation of powers and representative democracy. You will also explore additional resources from the National Archives for integrating political cartoons in the classroom, such as DocsTeach.org. This webinar is designed for middle school and high school educators.

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NHD 2018 Theme Webinar

Update: The recorded theme webinar is now posted on National History Day’s YouTube channel!

Kick off this year’s NHD theme on September 12th! Today’s post comes from Lynne O’Hara, Director of Programs for National History Day.

Join us on Tuesday, September 12, 2017 at 7pm ET / 4pm PT to learn more about the theme on a live webinar with NHD, the National Archives, and the White House Historical Association.

Register at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/843219150155499009.

This year National History Day (NHD) students will delve into a topic based on the theme, Conflict & Compromise in History. They will ask questions that lead down the path of discovery of not just what occurred, but how it occurred, and, most importantly, why it occurred and what the consequences were. As they research they will discover the basic facts about their topic first and then they will look deeper. They will examine the factors that contributed to the development of the event, its influence on history, and the effect it had on the community, society, nation, and the world.

Conflict & Compromise in History is complex and requires students to view history through multiple perspectives. Compromise can sometimes prevent a conflict, but what happens when it does not? If a conflict occurs, how can compromises help to end the conflict? What happens if a failed compromise leads to an even larger conflict?

For this year’s theme, students address the theme based on their topic. While many NHD topics will naturally fit both sides of the theme, it’s not necessary to force the other side. At the same time, students should not ignore obvious connections. Often topics that include both sides will be more conflict or more compromise – and that is fine! History is not a neat 50/50 split most of the time.

To learn more about the NHD theme, download a free copy of the NHD themebook at www.nhd.org/themebook. To learn more about NHD resources and programs, sign up for the NHD newsletter at www.nhd.org/newsletter.

For resources related to National History Day and information about researching at a National Archives or a Presidential Library facility, visit: www.archives.gov/education/history-day.

You can also use the special NHD DocsTeach page from the National Archives to help your students prepare for NHD 2018. Choose teaching activities to get them thinking about conflict and compromise; and share primary sources for possible NHD topics.

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Using the Remembering WWI App in the Classroom

Today’s post comes from Kerri Young of Historypinapp developer and partner on Remembering WWI.

Teachers present about using Remembering WWI to help students explore a WWI topic, at a workshop on August 2nd at the National WWI Museum and Memorial.

Teachers present about using Remembering WWI to help students explore a WWI topic, at an August 2nd workshop at the National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City.

Remembering WWI is an iPad and Android tablet app for exploring, collaborating, and engaging with our extensive collection of WWI photographs and moving images, along with contributions from national partners at the Library of Congress, Smithsonian National Museum of American History, and the National WWI Museum and Memorial.

The app commemorates the 100-year anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War I, and is available in the iTunes and Google Play stores.

Creating a profile

For teachers creating a free profile in the app, which allows you to keep track of favorite collections and create your own, make sure to check the box next to “I’m a teacher.” This will help to populate the dedicated “Teachers” section of the app with teacher-created collections only. You may wish to make your Username the name of your class, e.g “Mr. Smith’s Class.”

Ideas from teachers

We built Remembering WWI specifically with teachers in mind, and solicited feedback from teacher testing groups when creating the app. Here are some ideas for classroom use from our participants:

  • Students can explore one collection before a class to get them into the feel and context of WWI and a particular topic.
  • Students can create their own collections using the app and then critique them in front of the class.
  • Teachers can create thematic collections for their students to explore as part of a lesson.
  • “I have several lessons that could utilize existing [National Archives] collections. My students all have 1:1 access, so they could spend time exploring these collections, asking questions about photos, writing stories, etc.” – Carol Huneycutt, 5th and 6th grade teacher
  • “I like the created collections. I could see using that in the classroom, directing them towards one of those and giving them questions to answer.”- Colin McGinnis, middle school social studies teacher
  • “I would explore each of the collections to see which might fit with existing lessons.” – Kelli Andrascik, 10th Grade history teacher
  • “Getting to add captions is great — [I] can add discussion questions instead of just captions and go through them with my students together.” – Anne O-Renick, 7th Grade civics teacher

    Curated WWI collections

    A closer look at ready-to-use curated WWI collections within the app, featuring topics teachers recommended during the design process

Breaking it Down: Teacher Workshop Feedback

In the first week of August we held a teacher workshop with our friends at the National World War I Museum and Memorial and the National Archives at Kansas City to introduce Remembering WWI. Participants had the opportunity to explore the app, and brainstorm with fellow teachers about how to use it in the classroom.

Teachers explore the WWI collections

Teachers explore the WWI thematic collections within the app during the teacher workshop in Kansas City. “Pigeons of Valor” was a popular collection.

We asked participants to provide context around using a specific thematic collection within the app, and how they might build a lesson around it. Below are their results. (Note that all collections linked to on Historypin also appear for reuse within the app itself.)

Topic chosen: Chemical Warfare

App collection examples: Chemical Warfare Training, Military Technology in WWI, Occupation of the Luneville Sector

Learning goals: What tactics did soldiers use to defend themselves? What led to chemical warfare (what role did technology play in trying to break the stalemate)?

Who is using the app? Teachers and students


  1. Overview of WWI in class
  2. Read a document about life in the trenches.
  3. Using collection topics in the app, explore a collection on chemical warfare.
  4. Students create a document, poster, slideshow, or other media to help answer the aforementioned learning goal questions.

Topic chosen: Refugees

App collection examples: Refugees of War – France and Belgium, Refugees of War – Middle East

Learning goals: To connect the past with the present day

Who is using the app? Teachers, then students


  1. Teachers provide a list of collection choices and sources in the app relating to the topic.
  2. Students create presentations, in a slideshow program on the computer or within the app.
  3. Students view other classmates’ collections in the app or slideshow. Students each present on their collection and critique one another’s presentations.

Topic chosen: Minorities in WWI

App collection examples: The Famous 369th, Native American Indians during WWI, Anti-German Sentiment in America during WWI

Learning goals: To what extent were minorities involved in WWI? What roles? Which groups? How were German and other immigrants encouraged to fight against their countries of origin?

Who is using the app? “I would love for our kids to be able to self-explore; build their own project/ideas. But we only have laptops in the classroom [not tablets], so teachers would have to use the app [teachers have tablets] and share it with their students.” Historypin is another option for allowing students to explore WWI thematic collections created for the app.

“We would love our kids to have access to the app so they can learn to do their own research instead of just being fed by their teachers.”

Option 2: “So we [teachers] would use the app to build a collection for our kids. We could also collaborate with other [history, social science] teachers to create one place to share resources on using the app.”

No tablets in the classroom?

Like the participant above, not all teachers have access to tablets in the classroom. As an alternative, you can access all of the National Archives and other institutional WWI thematic collections on Historypin. Use Historypin’s map for geographical discovery of the featured primary sources.

In addition, our DocsTeach WWI page provides additional primary sources from the National Archives and WWI activities that you can use to supplement your teaching in the classroom.


App collections as seen on Historypin, and the DocsTeach WWI page


Become a Featured Participant

As a Featured Participant, we will feature how you’ve used the app with your students on our blog and social media channels, and send you a commemorative WWI app poster to hang up in your class. If you would like to sign up to be a Featured Participant, please do so here: http://bit.ly/2wvz7ts

Need further help?

If you’d like to host Historypin to help run a webinar on using the app in your local area, email rememberingww1@nara.gov.

For additional resources specifically for teachers on using the app, visit the History Hub discussion page.

To download brochures and posters for the app to share with colleagues and friends, visit our Remembering WWI app page on archives.gov.

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“Remembering WWI” App Workshop in Kansas City

Join us at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City on Wednesday, August 2nd, for a free educator workshop to learn about our new World War I app: Remembering WWI. Register on Eventbrite.

Remembering WWI App Welcome screen

Remembering WWI is an iPad and Android app for exploring, collaborating, and engaging with our extensive collection of WWI photographs and moving images, along with contributions from other organizations and individuals. It commemorates the 100-year anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War, and is available in the iTunes and Google Play stores.

In this how-to session, participants will have the opportunity to explore the app and brainstorm with fellow educators how to use it in the classroom.

App developer Historypin will introduce how the app was created to help people explore, use, and reuse newly digitized WWI photographs and moving images. Stacie Petersen from the National World War I Museum and Memorial will highlight the Museum’s primary source contributions to the project.

Workshop Date & Time:
Wednesday, August 2nd
9:30am-11:00 am

National World War I Museum and Memorial
2 Memorial Drive
Kansas City, MO 64108

This workshop is free. Register on Eventbrite.


John Bull, the mascot of the 77th Aero Force (Photograph 165-WW-472A-049, National Archives Identifier 45274232)

We hope you can join us for a fun workshop (pastries and coffee will be provided) to learn about the ways you might use some of our nation’s most interesting WWI content in your curriculum.

Please bring an iPad (minimum requirements iOS 9) or Android tablet (minimum requirements Android 5, minimum width 4.3 inches) if you own one, and have the Remembering WWI app downloaded if you can. We’ll have a few tablets available for use.

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Summer Programs at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

This summer, teachers and students can join us for workshops and programs at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum in Simi Valley, California.

Today’s post comes from education specialist Carina Morgan at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

Film This! 2017

Film This logoJuly 24-28

For: High School Students – any student who will be enrolled in 9-12th grade in the Fall 2017 semester
Cost: $200, scholarship applications available on request
To Register: Email us at reaganeducation@nara.gov with the subject line: Film This

High school students will shoot and edit an original documentary film with the help of film-industry professionals in this week-long film-making workshop. The students will be taught by professional animator and college instructor Eric van Hamersveld, graphic designer and college instructor Sue van Hamersveld, with assistance from actor Atticus Shaffer.

Participants of Film This 2016

Film This! 2016

At the end of the week the students will screen their five-minute films, created using primary source resources from the National Archives collections along with their original footage.

In December they’ll return for the Reagan Library Student Film Festival when awards are given out in categories including Best Overall, Best Editing, and Best Use of Historical Resources. Find more information on the Reagan Library website.

Media Literacy Teacher Workshop

Media Literacy: How to Read the News

July 20

For: Secondary School Teachers, grades 7-12
Cost: Free
To Register: Email us at reaganeducation@nara.gov with the subject line: Media Literacy Teacher Workshop

Elizabeth Smith, Ed.D., Assistant Professor of Communication at Pepperdine University, and Mira Cohen, Director of Education at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, will present a workshop for teachers including lesson plans and curriculum. The curriculum includes materials developed by the Reagan Library Education Department as well as the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum in Austin, Texas.

Dr. Smith will present a lecture on the history of the media in the United States to help teachers prepare their students to understand the context in which contemporary media practices evolved.

The curriculum and lesson plans presented by Cohen will empower teachers to develop their students’ analysis skills as students learn how to look for bias and inaccuracy in reporting.

Teaching History through Artifacts: Titanic at the Reagan

Titanic FlyerAugust 7 & September 30

For: Primary School Teachers, grades K-6
Cost: Free
To Register: Email us at reaganeducation@nara.gov with the subject line: Traveling Trunk Program

The Reagan Library is introducing a traveling trunk program about the Titanic for K-6 educators. These workshops are designed to highlight best practices for teaching with the included primary sources.

Trunks include a complete curriculum for grades K-6​ based on the new CA HSS Framework​. By using the trunk program curriculum, educators will learn how to use the National Archives resources in their curriculum to develop activities and experiential exercises for their students.

Educators may reserve a trunk for their classroom, school or district at this workshop; though you do not have to attend a workshop to reserve a trunk.

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Native Warriors on Both Sides of the Battle of Little Bighorn

As part of our document spotlight series, today we bring you primary sources related to the Battle of Little Bighorn.

One hundred and forty-one years ago, from the evening of June 25, 1876, to dusk on the 26th, General Armstrong Custer and his troops engaged in battle with the Sioux and Cheyenne at the Battle of Little Bighorn in Montana Territory.  As was often the case from the colonial through the expansion eras, Native Americans aligned on both sides of the battle; although in this case, only a few Army Scouts were involved with Custer.

Access Primary Sources in the National Archives Catalog:

Sioux & Cheyenne Leaders at the Battle:

U.S. Army Scouts:

Several detailed accounts of this event and events following can be found across the internet, including:

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Equal Pay for Women

The struggle for women’s rights and equality have been the basis for much legislation through the years. Some have passed the House and Senate, while others have failed. Issues of improving working conditions, entry into occupations formerly held by men, and equal pay for equal work have been addressed by this effort, among many others.

Although tremendous strides have been made in all areas, women’s wages in 2013 still stood at about 79 cents on every dollar when compared to wages for men.  Just a few records from the National Archives and the White House provide a glimpse of this still-continuing process.

Telegram from Ben Woodward to Carl ShipleyNovember 9, 1943 07646_2007_001

Telegram from Ben Woodward to Carl Shipley November 9, 1943 07646_2007_001

The Equal Pay task force report to the President of June 2013 gives a good review of the background of this continuing struggle since 1963, when the Equal Pay act was passed.

Many significant materials can be found in DocsTeach documents and the National Archives Online Catalog that illustrate this ongoing struggle.

Among them are just a few of the materials available:

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