NCSS Online Teachers' Library

NCSS has selected a collection of classroom activities, teaching ideas, and articles from Social Education, Middle Level Learning, and Social Studies and the Young Learner. Browse the collection, or search by historical period and grade level using the search function below.
(Collections on other disciplines are under development.)

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Frederick Douglass Changed My Mind about the Constitution


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By James Oakes
Like Frederick Douglass, this historian had originally viewed the Constitution as pro-slavery. Yet a close look at Douglass’s writings revealed a Constitution that empowered the federal government to abolish slavery.

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Letters from George Washington and Samuel Cabble, and Speeches by Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy


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By Lee Ann Potter
Students will grapple with what it means to “embrace the future” when they study primary documents related to four noteworthy individuals who embraced the future in distinct ways.

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The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (Teaching with Documents)


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By Kahlil Chism
The Freedmen’s Bureau was one of few agencies established to improve the lives of former slaves. Four documents highlight for students the bureau’s efforts to help African Americans acquire land, secure jobs, legalize marriages, and pursue education.
* http://publications.socialstudies.org/se/7001/700119.pdf

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"In the Midst of Strange and Terrible Times": The New York City Draft Riots of 1863


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Bárbara C. Cruz and Jennifer Marques Patterson
The riots that shook New York City more than a century ago can provide contemporary students a useful framework for studying such complex issues as race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and immigration.

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Learning about the Civil War through Soldiers’ Letters


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—Joseph Hutchinson
Letters home from young soldiers give students a close-up view of the Civil War; their sense of empathy further deepens when they must use their imagination and write their own letters home.

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Documents and Civic Duties (Teaching with Documents)


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—Lee Ann Potter
A one-sentence letter from school boy Anthony Ferreira to President Ford stating, “I think you are half right and half wrong ” is one of several primary sources featured in this article that highlight for students the value of responsible citizenship.

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The Garbers: Using Digital History to Recreate a 19th-Century Family


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Cheryl L. Mason and Alice Carter
An online archive, "Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities during the American Civil War", provides primary sources for elementary students.

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Harriet Jacobs: Using Online Slave Narratives in the Classroom


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--Cheryl Mason Bolick and Meghan M. McGlinn
With digital libraries, valuable documents become readily available, such as the writings of a former slave, Harriet Jacobs, who became an outspoken opponent of slavery.

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1863 Letter from Ralph Waldo Emerson about Walt Whitman (Teaching with Documents)


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--Lee Ann Potter
During the Civil War, poet Walt Whitman was eager to work for the government. Though federal jobs weren’t easy to come by, a letter of recommendation from Ralph Waldo Emerson was able to push open government doors.

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Robert E. Lee's Demand for the Surrender of John Brown (Teaching with Documents)


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--Daniel F. Rulli
John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry--considered treasonous by some and heroic by others--helped strengthen the anti-slavery movement. Students can gain a deeper understanding of this event by studying General Lee’s demand for Brown’s surrender.

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