LeAnn Potter and Megan Jones from the National Archives are sharing some cool stuff about American authors and how to use their NARA stuff in class.

The National Archives are designed to hold and maintain the records of the American government. But NARA also has some incredibly interesting things relating to authors that many of us have read. The key? NARA has them because they did other things besides write books.

They started with a cool activity asking us to look at list of traditional American authors and work to figure out why their stuff would be in the National Archives and where it might be housed. They shared some of the documents that connected the authors to NARA and led a fun discussion.

Your turn. What do you think?

A couple of examples. Poe was kicked out of West Point. Pearl Buck, John Steinbeck, and Thornton Wilder (among 35 other authors) sent a telegram to FDR urging him to respond to the Nazi Party’s KristallNacht attack on Jews in 1938.

The idea is that American authors have lives and values and interesting stories beyond their work. We can use these things to engage our kids in historical context.

They also shared a bit about the very cool NARA tool called DocsTeach.

DocsTeach has thousands of primary sources and uses those documents to create activities that encourage high levels of thinking. The cool thing is that the ed specialists at the Archives have created tons of these activities already but teachers can use the same tools to create their own activities.

These activities can then viewed and used by all the other teachers who use the site. You can search by type of activity, by keyword, and by time period. Megan highlighted the process by sharing an exercise based on the discussion on American authors.

Get more info on DocsTeach here. One other great place for lesson plans and primary sources created by Lee Ann Potter is the NCSS Teaching with Primary Sources page.

Both are truly no-brainer sites for social studies teachers. And it’s free. What’s not to like?