• “When we educate our young people about Congress and our representative democracy, we enrich their lives and enrich our country through their engagement.” ~Lee Hamilton


Find out how to use digital primary source materials of the Library of Congress and the Center on Congress.

Primary Sources Can Be...

Documents, photographs, maps, speeches, cartoons, letters, songs, journals/diaries, autobiographies, artifacts, and more.

Look Close: It’s Living History

Interested in getting the real story about historical events? You can do it with primary sources. Primary sources give you the individual viewpoint of an observer or participant.

  • 1 Exploring Primary Sources

    Explore primary sources - what they are and how they illuminate our understanding of civics and inform our view of history.

    • Exploring Primary Sources

    View Activities
  • 2 Citizen Participation

    Learn about ordinary citizens, like you, who have participated in our representative democracy and helped shape the laws we live by today.

    • Civic Quotes (iPad)
    • Citizens Unite! A Helpful Guide to Being a Better Citizen

    View Activities
  • 3 Impact of Congress

    Investigate a legacy of congressional legislation, and how it’s made a difference in many areas of our lives including: the environment, child labor, basic rights, the economy, and much more.

    • The Impact of Congress
    • Congressional Moments (iPad)
    • Congressional Moments (13 Videos)

    View Activities
  • 4 Critical Thinking

    Examine the main components of an effective, thoughtful argument in Congress, analyze examples of Congressional debates, and learn how to present a case on a particular issue.

    • Critical Thinking: Analyzing Congressional Floor Debates

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  • 5 Compromise

    Discover the historic and integral part compromise and consensus-building plays in the legislative process.

    • Consensus Building
    • Virtual Congress: The Legislative Process

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  • 6 Public Criticisms of Congress

    Get an historical perspective on the place of political cartoons in our representative democracy, explore public criticisms of Congress, and develop your own views about Congress.

    • Congress in the Public Eye: A Look at American Political Cartoons
    • Understanding Persuasion Techniques
    • Analyzing Political Cartoons
    • Expressing Political Opinions

    View Activities
  • 7 History of Congress

    Examine the key events and long-standing issues faced by Congress since its inception.

    • Enduring Issues

    View Activities
View All Activities

For Teachers

Lesson Plans

Explore the Teachers Page to review supporting Lesson Plans which guide teachers who use Teaching with Primary Sources in the classroom. Many Lesson Plans include integrated state standards which show how each activities aligns with your states educational requirements.

Also view related to the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources program as well as The Center on Congress at Indiana University.

Teaching with Primary Sources

About Teaching with Primary Sources

Teaching with Primary Sources online activities engage students as they learn about Congress, representative democracy, and citizen participation.

These resources help bring civics and history alive by providing teachers with easily accessible primary sources. Choose from over 25 interactive exercises to enrich your curriculum and deepen your students’ understanding of civics and history.

Read more about the program.

Teaching with Primary Sources