iCivics: Social Studies and Civic Learning

iCivics

iCivics.org is a great resource for secondary educators teaching social studies, government, and civics courses. Originally founded by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the non-profit site provides full-unit lesson plans, interactive activities and games to engage students on important topics such as the foundations of government, the Constitution of the United States of America, and the 3 branches of government. There are also a wide variety of interesting games to help students apply their knowledge in real-life situations. (The games are created in part by Filament Games – the same company who works with the JASON project and BrainPop!)

All of the materials on  the site are free, but there are additional resources and game-play options when teachers and students create free accounts. I forwarded the link to the Social Studies teachers on my campus, especially since a lot of the curriculum matches up with the 8th Grade curriculum here in the state of Texas. It seems like they have enjoyed using it so far – hopefully it can help you, too!

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Smithsonian’s History Explorer

I traveled to Washington D.C. for the first time this summer with my family, and I was amazed at expansive “The Smithsonian” actually is. It is much more than the name initially sounds like – it is actually the largest museum complex in the world with 19 museums, 9 research centers, and over 100 affiliate museums. We were only able to visit a few facilities on our short trip, but I could not believe how many awesome things there were to explore for free!

While doing research for another project, I came across the Smithsonian’s History Explorer website. From the About page on the site, the “Smithsonian’s History Explorer was developed by the National Museum of American History in partnership with the Verizon Foundation to offer hundreds of free, innovative online resources for teaching and learning American history.” I immediately forwarded the resource to my Social Studies teachers on campus!

The site includes easy-to-use search tools to sort resources by type, grade level, historical era, and cross-curricular connections (my favorite!) There are primary sources, videos, and even full lesson plans available for teachers. The page is very simple to navigate, and there are even tutorials to help users access all the features of the site. Even if you don’t teach a US History or social studies class, I think that there are some great resources for teachers of all  subject areas. Let me know if you find something that works for your classroom!

 

TEDEd – Lessons Worth Sharing

What Causes the Phases of the Moon Lesson Page

So I’ve been a fan of TED videos and the TED Radio Hour on NPR for both personal and teaching use, but I can’t believe I hadn’t explored the full lessons available on TEDEd before. We just finished studying the phases of the moon in my 8th Grade Science class, but I know this is a topic that many of my students struggle with. I am always looking for more lessons and different ways to address the topic, so I was excited when I found a link for this video on Twitter. When I got to the page, I was surprised to find that there was a whole “flipped” format lesson to go along with it, including assessment questions, supporting reading materials, and an open-discussion question. The format would be great to assign to students as an independent flipped lesson through something like Edmodo, but I could also see a teacher very easily using the materials in a whole class activity with face-to-face discussions, too. I love how it is a small chunk of information presented and assessed in a variety of ways – perfect for differentiated instruction in a junior high classroom!

There are hundreds of lessons organized by content area, and you can even see how many times they have been viewed or used by other people. Obviously, I am particularly excited to share that there are over 5 pages of videos for Science alone, but there are also interesting and engaging resources for math, literature, social studies, health, and psychology, among other topics.

Since the videos are short (usually 6 minutes or less) and the material is well organized, it would be easy to incorporate one of them as a warm-up or hook as you are starting a new lesson. Let me know if you find one that works for your class!

 

Big History

Big History

This site is described as a free, online social studies course for secondary students. Although social studies is mentioned initially, I found a great deal of connections and lessons that specifically match my 8th Grade Science standards, including life cycle of stars, relationships between ecosystems and living organisms, and basic chemistry. I love that it works to answer big questions about the universe and major developments that have occurred throughout its history.

The Big History site is extremely well organized, and includes all kinds of resources for teachers. There are PDF documents, lessons, notes, quizzes, and explanations on how units might be used complete or as parts added into an existing curriculum.  There are also a few extremely detailed PBLs (Project-Based Learning Assignments) in the Buck institute format. The PBL documents even have day-to-day guides and very helpful tips for implementation.

Teachers must sign up for an account, but it is completely free and I received my confirmation email immediately. I think that the resources available on Big History would be great for Pre-AP level Science and Social Studies at the middle school and high-school level.

Crash Course – US History

Crash Course – US History

Crash Course is a YouTube channel that takes major courses like US History, Biology, and Chemistry and breaks them down into 10-15 minute episodes on key topics. The videos are quick-paced explanations by narrators John and Hank Green and include graphics, important quotes, and plenty of sarcastic comments and jokes. Some of the content might be beyond the middle school level, but I know that I found some segments within the episodes that might be good for introduction or review of a key topic. I linked above to US History, but there are also currently crash courses in World History, Literature, Biology, Chemistry, and Ecology.