5 Ways to Teach With Primary Sources

Posted by Kaitlin Smith on October 21, 2021

How do we help students make sense of the past? During American Archives Month this October and every month, the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration suggests that archival materials—also known as primary sources—ought to be an important part of this equation. At Facing History, we agree; primary sources materials are a key component of our pedagogical approach and our classroom resources. In historical study, the term “primary sources” refers to historical evidence produced contemporaneous to the time captured or described in the source. These sources may take the form of images, letters, diaries, speeches, audio recordings, video recordings, and more. Selecting primary sources and making them accessible to students can be challenging, but there are numerous benefits to teaching with them. 

In addition to exposing students to secondary sources that offer their own analyses of these historical objects—sources like textbooks, for example—inviting students into the world of the historical subject through primary sources is an excellent way to build their capacities for critical thinking, expand their understanding of a given historical moment, and humanize the historical actors in question. This is not only important for promoting academic understanding of a historical time period but it also has the potential to help the student understand their own small actions as those that have the potential to play a role in history as it is narrated in the future.

We invite educators to check out these 5 time-tested teaching strategies designed to incorporate analysis of primary sources into educator lesson plans:

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Topics: History, primary sources, archives

Combating Bullying with New Data

Posted by Facing History and Ourselves on October 19, 2021

Every October is National Bullying Prevention Month--an important time to call attention to the fact that bullying affects 20% of young people ages 12 to 18 across social groups. Research also reveals that most of this bullying takes place in school environments. Due to the pervasiveness of bullying and its lasting negative impacts on victims throughout their lifespans, preventing and disrupting bullying behavior ought to remain important areas of priority within middle and high schools.

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Topics: Cyberbullying, Bullying

Latinx vs. Hispanic: A History of Terms

Posted by Kaitlin Smith on October 15, 2021

“This is what our teachers must understand: that language is never neutral.
That no matter how skilled we can become in understanding the complexities of language,
we cannot forsake the liberating or oppressive power of language.”

Paulo Freire, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970)

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Topics: Latinx History

5 Reads for Teachers on LGBTQIA+ History

Posted by Kaitlin Smith on October 12, 2021

Each October, LGBTQ History Month offers an important opportunity for educators to ensure that LGBTQIA+ histories are getting their due in the classroom all year long. But before any educator can meaningfully embark upon that task, they must commit to their own ongoing learning about LGBTQIA+ histories. History as we understand it is in a constant state of expansion and retelling and, as a result, all history teachers gain from maintaining the mindset of the student even as they teach.

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Topics: LGBTQ

5 Virtual Events for Indigenous Peoples' Day

Posted by Kaitlin Smith on October 7, 2021

As a result of the vision and tireless mobilization of a large network of Indigenous activists across the United States, many communities now celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of or alongside Columbus Day on the second Monday of October each year. In addition to being an occasion that invites a deeper reckoning with the violence at the heart of the nation’s founding, Indigenous Peoples’ Day is also a time to witness and engage with the resilience, insights, vision, and ongoing struggles of Indigenous peoples in contemporary America. Alongside the array of local and regional gatherings that may be taking place near you, there are many rich virtual opportunities for learning, unlearning, and celebration on and around Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Consider the following 5 free virtual eventsfilm screenings, panel discussions, and educational presentationsdesigned to engage participants in the work of bringing Indigenous experiences and truths from margin to center.

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Topics: American History, Indigenous History, Indigenous Peoples' Day

10 Must Watch Films on LGBTQIA+ History

Posted by Kaitlin Smith on October 6, 2021

LGBTQ History Month each October offers an important opportunity to expand our knowledge of LGBTQIA+ histories and ensure that they are being addressed in the classroom. One great way to tackle the task of expanding our own knowledge as educators is to turn to the medium of film. Below is a list of 10 documentary films and television series that we are diving into here at Facing History and that we invite you to explore alongside us. 

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Topics: LGBTQ

Facing History From Day One: An Interview with New Haven Academy

Posted by Kaitlin Smith on September 30, 2021

I recently had an opportunity to sit down with Greg Baldwin and Meredith Gavrin, the husband-wife team who co-founded the Connecticut school New Haven Academy in 2003. 

Recently profiled in The Wall Street Journal as an excellent example of purpose-driven schools, New Haven Academy is a highly innovative public high school that serves a diverse student population in a state where disrupting school segregation has remained a challenge into the 21st century. 

In this interview, Baldwin and Gavrin discuss their path to founding the school, the challenges they faced, and the vital role that Facing History’s targeted support, professional development, and classroom resources have played in shaping their distinctive school culture, curriculum, and pedagogy since their inception.

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Topics: Social and Emotional Learning, Explorations, Whole School Work

Teaching Resources on Latinx History, Art, and Culture

Posted by Kaitlin Smith on September 28, 2021

In addition to the growing pool of curricular resources that we offer at Facing History for teaching about Latinx history and contemporary life, there is a wide array of cultural institutions offering meaningful learning opportunities for both teachers and students. As we wait for the construction and opening of the forthcoming National Museum of the American Latino on the National Mall, there is a rich array of resources that can aid teacher and student learning about Latinx histories and contemporary life.

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Topics: Latinx History

Remembering Little Rock

Posted by Kaitlin Smith on September 24, 2021

The desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas exactly sixty-four years ago this weekend remains a flashpoint in American history, the history of the Civil Rights Movement, and the history of education in the United States. Following the Brown v. Board decision of 1954 which rendered racial segregation of schools unconstitutional, the NAACP devised a plan to desegregate Central High School as a test case within the new legal environment created by the Brown decision. A group of nine Black students were selected to integrate the school and, upon their arrival, faced immense violent opposition from white mobs and armed forces deployed by Arkansas’ governor. Historian Taylor Branch described the event as “the most severe test of the Constitution since the Civil War” and the level of conflict it engendered seems to lend further credence to this comparison. 

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Topics: American History, little rock 9, Black History

5 New YA Books on Latinx Life

Posted by Kaitlin Smith on September 23, 2021

Hispanic American Heritage Month each September and October offers a valuable opportunity to evaluate the kinds of reading materials we are sharing with young people throughout the year, and to consider how the experiences of Latinx people can have a greater presence in classrooms. We know that it can be challenging to sift through the large body of reading material, pinpoint texts written at an appropriate reading level, and that speak to key themes in ways that are relatable to adolescent readers so we have curated some rich new titles for educators seeking to expand their pool of resources.

Below are five young adult (YA) books capturing Latinx experiences that educators can consider sharing with their students. These books with young Latinx narrators cover significant thematic ground including the true story of how a Mexican American student sparked the first legal battle led by immigrants to the U.S.; a young gay Latinx man’s pursuit of deeper belonging in his new community; being on the front lines of contentious immigration debates as a young Guatemalan American immigrant; the concept and concrete realities of borders and border crossing as understood by Mexican American youth; and navigating toxic masculinity and gentrification in addition to Latinx identity.

Below, the publisher of each title offers a glimpse of what is contained in each book:

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Topics: Reading List, Latinx History

At Facing History and Ourselves, we value conversation—in classrooms, in our professional development for educators, and online. When you comment on Facing Today, you're engaging with our worldwide community of learners, so please take care that your contributions are constructive, civil, and advance the conversation.


Welcome to Facing Today, a Facing History blog. Facing History and Ourselves combats racism and antisemitism by using history to teach tolerance in classrooms around the globe.

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