Recollection Wisconsin in the Classroom: An Introduction

Recollection Wisconsin supports K-12 educators by offering resources and inspiration for teaching Social Studies and English Language Arts. provides access to a growing collection of primary source materials from libraries, archives, museums, and historical societies across the state. This wealth of content includes photographs, postcards, maps, books, newspaper clippings, magazine articles, letters, diaries, artifacts, oral histories, and more.

These materials are ripe for all kinds of classroom uses, including original research projects and creative writing activities. For more on teaching with primary sources, see “History and Critical Thinking: A Handbook for Using Historical Documents to Improve Students’ Thinking Skills in the Secondary Grades” from the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Social Studies

Social Studies and the Common Core State Standards

The Common Core State Standards set requirements for Disciplinary Literacy in Social Studies. Disciplinary literacy in the context of the Common Core emphasizes the ability to critically read and sort through a staggering amount of available information, to engage in reading high-quality informational texts, and to use evidence to support reasoning. In the History classroom, this means an emphasis on historical inquiry and the concept of “thinking like a historian.” The classroom activities provided in these pages use primary sources to support disciplinary literacy in Social Studies and History in a variety of ways, including:

  • Using period newspaper articles, period photographs, and other primary sources as evidence to support a historical argument
  • Reading original letters and diaries from Wisconsin settlers, immigrants, and soldiers in order to experience multiple perspectives
  • Understanding change over time by examining historic maps, photographs, and artifacts
  • Discovering secondary sources such as books and magazine articles in order to learn more about a research topic and understand historical context

View guidelines and activities for Disciplinary Literacy in Social Studies

Wisconsin Model Academic Standards for Social Studies

According to the Wisconsin Model Academic Standards for Social Studies, “[s]ocial studies helps young people develop the knowledge and skills necessary to make informed and reasoned decisions as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.” To facilitate this, the Wisconsin content standards contain five strands – Geography, History, Political Science and Citizenship, Economics, and Behavioral Sciences – in which students of all levels need to develop proficiency.

Many of the primary source materials available through Recollection Wisconsin directly support teaching of the History strand of the Wisconsin content standards, including the historical areas and themes outlined for students studying Wisconsin history in grades 4-12. Recollection Wisconsin also provides resources and ideas for social studies teachers that support the performance standards focusing on Wisconsin in any of the five strands. For example, the Map and Atlas Collection and other historic maps available through Recollection Wisconsin can enhance the teaching of Geography. Documents and other resources from Wisconsin politicians, such as the Senator Joe McCarthy: Audio Excerpts, 1950-1954 collection, the Senator William Proxmire Collection, or the Tommy G. Thompson Collection, support the Political Science and Citizenship strand.

View digital collections aligned with the Wisconsin content standards for History

English Language Arts

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts

Within these pages, teachers will find ideas for integrating Recollection Wisconsin content into research units, presentation strategies, creative writing, and many other ways to use primary sources to support select English Language Arts Standards of the Common Core. The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts include Anchor Standards in Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Language. Each anchor standard is a skill that high school graduates should have in order to be ready for work or postsecondary education.

Recollection Wisconsin supports specific anchor standards within the Common Core standards for English Language Arts by providing a vast database of primary sources for students to research, read, write about, and reflect upon. The exercises suggested in these pages include:

  • Using historic newspapers to encourage close reading and identification of key themes and ideas in a text
  • Reading across genres in order to understand multiple perspectives
  • Using historic photographs to inspire creative narrative writing
  • Gathering multiple sources and evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source
  • Developing speaking and listening skills by conducting oral history interviews
  • Presenting knowledge and ideas in new ways using a variety of digital technologies

View guidelines and activities for Common Core — English Language Arts