By Mary Mueller, a librarian at Rolla Junior High in Rolla, Missouri.
Many librarians are interested in finding new ways to encourage more students
and teachers to use library materials and do high level research. Their efforts
are often limited by available time or unfamiliar subject matter. For that reason,
librarians should be excited about the teaching possibilities available through
the Our Documents initiative. This program offers school librarians ideas
and materials to improve use of their collections. Here are some suggestions
for using Our Documents in a school library.
- Create a bulletin board using laminated printouts from the website. Since
the milestone documents are available
in PDF format, they can be easily printed on standard 8½" x 11"
- Create a book display relating to the documents. Choose biographies of
the people who wrote or were involved with the issues in the documents, and
nonfiction books that expand or describe each historical era. Historical fiction
titles would help reluctant readers learn more about many of the themes represented
in the documents. Change the display when new documents are highlighted on
- Prepare bibliographies of books and audio-visual materials about the documents.
Distribute them to teachers and students.
- Help students answer the perpetual “What should I write my research
paper about?” question by creating a list of research topics related
to the documents. While some of the topics would be best suited to history
classes, many of the featured documents could be used to explore currents
events topics such as equal rights, civil rights, and limitations on governmental
- Put links to the National
History Day (www.nationalhistoryday.org), Our
Documents (www.ourdocuments.gov) and National
Archives and Records Administration (www.archives.gov) websites
on your district or library website.
- Encourage teachers in subjects such as art, drama, computer science, and
video production to use the documents as the basis for cross-curricular assignments
with English and history classes.
- Display an Our Documents poster
and ask students and teachers to vote on
what they believe are the 10 most important documents in American History.
This is a great way to get students to discuss the documents and understand
the importance of voting.