Using Primary Texts to Promote Inquiry and Enrich the Learning Experience

Professional Development
Graduate Credits: 
Offered by: 
Professional DevelopmentEnglish Language Arts
Professional DevelopmentHistory and Social Studies


This workshop is offered free of charge thanks to a grant from the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Program at CES.  

This workshop features:

  • Access to top literacy trainers and Teacher-Consultants from the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, a local site of the National Writing Project that is based in the English Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • A focus on informational texts, as required by Common Core ELA standards
  • Use of the resources of one of the world's largest libraries - the Library of Congress - in support of literacy
  • Instruction regarding reading and writing in all disciplines

Informational texts abound in this Information Age, and educators must teach students explicitly how to read and interpret these texts in all subject areas. This course is designed to introduce educators to the wealth of resources in the U.S. Library of Congress digital archives and to showcase classroom instruction using primary sources.

The course will model an inquiry approach as well as writing-to-learn strategies.

Participants will: 

  • Get hands-on experience with the Library of Congress archives
  • Develop their own inquiry questions related to topics they would like to explore in their classrooms
  • Have the opportunity to conduct research and design curriculum, locating resources appropriate to the age groups they teach
  • Design (or redesign) effective, inquiry-based lessons for their own classrooms featuring informational texts and primary sources (including images, songs, maps, and more)
  • Learn strategies for engaging students with primary sources, while making Interdisciplinary connections
  • Learn and practice tools and methods for analyzing and synthesizing informational texts, including primary sources
  • Develop the capacity to find, access, and select well-crafted, age-appropriate informational texts, including primary sources, to support teaching and learning across disciplines
  • Strengthen their skills and strategies in research and writing
  • Reflect and refine current practices while interacting with colleagues to share resources


Classroom teachers of all subject areas, Grades 3 - 12.


22.5 PDPs or 1 graduate credit in partnership with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project at UMass Amherst. To earn PDPs or Graduate Credit, participants must complete all assignments by the last class, details of which will be provided by the instructors. Graduate Credit from UMass Amherst costs $145, payable to UMass Amherst. Registration for Graduate Credit takes place in the first class, with payment accepted by credit card or check.


Future training dates will be announced here. If you have questions or are interested in offering this training on-site, please contact us.


  • Lisa Lamothe photo

    Lisa Lamothe teaches 9th grade English and is the Library Media Specialist at Tantasqua Regional High School in Fiskdale, Massachusetts. Lisa has always made writing a priority throughout her teaching career, she and has been involved in many of the Western Massachusetts Writing Project programs, as both a participant and presenter.

  • Kevin Hodgson photo

    Kevin Hodgson teaches sixth grade English Language Arts at the William E. Norris Elementary School in Southampton, Massachusetts, and is the co-director of technology with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project. Kevin writes on a regular basis, both with his students and at his own blog, Kevin's Meandering Mind, and is active on Twitter under the handle @dogtrax. 

  • Rich Cairn

    Rich Cairn has directed the Emerging America program since 2006. Emerging America includes Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Program at the Collaborative for Educational Services, and the National Endowment for the Humanities Landmarks of American History Institutes: "Forge of Innovation: The Springfield Armory and the Genesis of American Industry."

  • Bruce M. Penniman, Ed.D., a teacher-consultant for and Director of the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, taught for 36 years in the Amherst Regional Schools and was 1999 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year. He is lead writer of a new DYS English Language Arts Curriculum Guide and co-creator of this online course. Bruce is author of Building the English Classroom: Foundations, Support, Success, 2009.

For more information, contact:
Events Coordinator
413.586.4900 x5981