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Program Teachers

Primary Sources and Standards

Working with primary sources builds a wide range of student skills, from reading complex texts to assessing the credibility of sources to conducting research. The teacher resources created and shared by the Library of Congress support primary source analysis practices that align with key concepts found in the most widely used educational standards.

Common Core State Standards

Primary sources from the Library’s collections offer myriad examples of complex informational text from diverse sources, including letters, diaries, newspapers, and America’s founding documents, as well as other formats such as maps, photographs, charts, and oral histories. Immersive explorations of these items support student learning and developing skills, including:

  • Evaluating varied points of view,
  • Analyzing how specific word choices shape meaning,
  • Assessing the credibility of sources,
  • Conducting research projects based on focused questions, and
  • Gathering evidence from literary and informational texts to support a claim.

Social Studies

Using primary sources builds student skills related to generating meaningful questions, considering multiple perspectives, and evaluating sources. All of these are a natural fit for teachers working with social studies standards such as the NCSS C3 Framework, particularly in such areas as:

  • Determining helpful sources in answering compelling and supporting questions,
  • Describing how people’s perspectives shaped the historical sources they created, and
  • Gathering relevant information from multiple sources while using the origin, structure, and context to guide the selection.


Primary source analysis provides opportunities for exploring concepts related to the nature of science and to science and engineering practices found in such frameworks as the Next Generation Science Standards.  Examples include: 

  • How ideas evolve over time, in light of new evidence,
  • How science and engineering is performed by human beings in social contexts, and
  • How science and engineering solutions respond to and impact actual societal needs.

The use of primary sources also provides the opportunity to extend a study of cross cutting concepts to multiple disciplines. 

Finally, the Library of Congress primary source analysis pedagogy also aligns well with the 5E Instructional Model.


Carefully chosen primary sources can support student learning by providing opportunities for:

  • Making sense of the world through a mathematical lens,
  • Identifying and understanding assumptions and definitions,
  • Making conjectures, constructing viable arguments to support those conjectures, and communicating thinking,
  • Recognizing and applying mathematics in other contexts.

The use of primary sources also provides opportunities to connect mathematics ideas and history across disciplines.

Finally, the Library of Congress Primary source analysis pedagogy also aligns well with the Notice and Wonder instructional model.


Library of Congress primary sources are a natural fit to support skills taught in school libraries, such as:

  • Inquire: gather evidence and make real-world connections;
  • Include: various points of view and perspectives;
  • Explore: spark curiosity and  reflect to identify possible misconceptions; and
  • Engage: evaluate information for accuracy and place it in historical and cultural context.

Whether students curate their own resources or research from pre-curated sets, helping students analyze primary sources can guide them toward higher-order thinking and better critical thinking and analysis skills.


Primary source analysis provides opportunities for meeting the 2014 National Music Standards, particularly in such Responding areas as:

  • Analyze - Analyze how the structure and context of varied musical works inform the response.
  • Interpret - Support interpretations of musical works that reflect creators’/performers’ expressive intent
  • Evaluate - Support evaluations of musical works and performances based on analysis, interpretation, and established criteria.

As a Library of Congress Consortium partner, the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) external linkhas developed curriculum aligning to help music teachers connect Library of Congress digitized resources to these standards.