Author’s Note: This post was originally published on 9/4/17. I have updated it and it is accurate as of
8/25/18 9/7/19 9/14/20.
Back-to-school time always reminds me of my first days teaching history. I used the curriculum from my textbook and supplemented it here-and-there. It did not make for engaging instruction.
Textbooks are static, dated, and give learners one perspective. I constantly searched for supplemental content in addition to making some of my own. Over time, I found some great resources. Here are digital content resources I used in my classroom or found in my practice as an edtech coach. Not all listed resources are exclusively for digital use though all are useful for 1:1 classrooms. Grade bands are based on Common Sense Media reviews or my personal judgment from using the resource.
The 1619 Project
The 1619 Project is a Common-Core aligned program from the New York Times and the Pulitzer Center that aims to re-examine slavery in the United States. Have a look at the 1619 Project’s curriculum and reading guide to see what you can use in your classroom. Additionally, teachers can browse the 1619 Project lesson library and activities to extend student engagement.
Digital Breakouts are a great tool for adding game-based learning to Social Studies content. These websites use Google Forms to give students “locks” they have to crack. Have a look at the digital breakouts available for free:
- My world history breakouts
- My US history breakouts
- Even more! Filter by “History.”
If you use just one digital breakout with your US history classes, please make it my Unbought, Unbossed, & Unlocked breakout. It tells the story of Shirley Chisholm who became the first Black woman to run for president in 1972.
Common Core aligned free primary source documents and accompanying activities from the National Archives. Thank you, Jane Highley, for sharing DocsTeach with me.
Freckle – Social Studies
Common Core aligned freemium differentiated activities and assessments.
GIPHY – US National Archives
The US National Archives GIPHY page is not a lesson resource but it is a valuable resource for any teacher creating a document, slideshow, or website to share with students. What a great way to spruce up digital content and give students visual cues to help them learn. Thank you, Kathryn Greene, for alerting me to this great resource.
Google Earth Voyager Stories
Google Earth is not just a great way to view the planet, it also has very useful history content. Its Voyager Stories help students make connections between history and geography. Have a look at these voyager stories:
- Underground Railroad
- Congressional Redistricting
- Preserve Route 66
- Votes for Women
- Black History Month: The Journey of Us
- In Mandela’s Footsteps
- World War I: Around the Globe | Quiz: World War I
- Quiz: World War II
- Behind the French Revolution
- Historical Maps from Around the World
- Modern Human Migration
- Remembering Martin Luther King
- Agriculture Around the World
Google Expeditions is now web-based and available in Google Arts & Culture. It is definitely worth a look. For more information, please read my blog post, Getting Started with Web-Based Google Expeditions.
History of Philly
History of Philly is the website of the ongoing Philadelphia: The Great Experiment documentary series. Their free educational materials are great resources for teaching US History from 1600 through 1994.
Khan Academy – Arts and Humanities
Khan Academy was one of the first in the digital educational content space. Their Arts and Humanities section includes content for US History, World History, AP World History, and AP US history. Khan Academy is Common Core aligned and includes videos and practice questions.
Listenwise – Social Studies
Common Core aligned freemium website that uses public radio content to help students practice listening comprehension. A good resource for current events.
Free US History content from UVA’s Miller Center organized by president. The Miller Center is the go-to source for presidential speech transcripts often accompanied by audio and video. Thank you, Jessica Riley, for sharing the Miller Center with me.
Modern Money Basics
This is a great site for adding much-needed context to current events discussions. From tax cuts and war to Medicare for All and publicly funded college, the question is often asked, “How can we pay for it?” Modern Money Basics explains how US currency works. This is very helpful context for discussion of current events especially the national debt and deficit.
Ms. Greene’s World History Resources
The aforementioned Kathryn Greene recently tweeted that she is making many of her world history resources publicly available.
Have a look at her World History resources. So many wonderful resources for teachers.
New York Times Learning Network – Social Studies
Common Core aligned free resource that uses New York Times content in lessons that include writing prompts and quizzes. Social Studies content is broken out into sections for US History, global issues, Civics, and Social Studies skills. Additionally, there is a Current Events section.
Common Core aligned news articles with assessment questions. Newsela is freemium. The free version has some functionality, but there is much more with the paid version. Newsela has content covering Government and Economics, Geography, World History, and US History.
PBS Learning Media – Social Studies
Common Core aligned free lessons from PBS.
Read Like a Historian
Common-Core aligned free US History and World History lessons with primary source documents with questions and prompts. This website from Stanford University has primary source documents with modified versions as well. I have long been a fan of Read Like a Historian. Thank you, Adam Washam, for sharing Read Like a Historian with me.
ReadWorks – Social Studies
Common Core aligned free reading passages and comprehension activities. Thank you, Joshua Howard, for sharing ReadWorks with me.
TED-Ed Social Studies
Common Core aligned free videos with accompanying multiple choice questions, short answer questions, and discussion prompts. I’ve long appreciated TED-Ed’s concise but information-packed animated videos and platform for adding assessment and content to any YouTube.
Teaching Tolerance is a great asset for addressing diversity when presenting content. For example, when teaching slavery it is important not to whitewash it as a random occurrence of misbehavior by our otherwise valiant founding fathers. Teaching Tolerance’s Teaching Hard History resources help teachers address slavery and other uncomfortable topics. I have a special place in my heart for Teaching Tolerance because their site hosts one of the very best essays on education, Give the Kid a Pencil.
The Great War YouTube Channel
There is plenty of great Social Studies digital content on YouTube. Here are some of my favorite channels. However, The Great War stands out as an educational resource because of its depth and breadth. Beyond World War I, it has great content for teaching about World War II (Hitler in WW1) (Churchill in WW1) and the Russian Revolution (Russia Before the 1917 Revolution) (Czar Nicholas in WW1) (Rasputin in WW1) (Lenin and Trotsky in WW1). Other The Great War content especially relevant for Social Studies teachers includes:
- Prelude to World War I
- World War I Essential Knowledge
- Countries in World War I
- Arts and Culture of World War I
The Living New Deal
What’s the big deal about The New Deal? Who cares? The Living New Deal is the perfect resource for teaching high school students the why behind learning about it. The site meticulously documents how The New Deal affects our modern landscape. The site’s map currently has information about more than 15,000 New Deal sites. Users can browse by New Deal agency, state, or categories such as art, civic facilities, forestry and agriculture, and more.
Zinn Education Project
The Zinn Education Project tells the complex story of people throughout history. It is a welcome counterbalance to many textbooks that tell the story of history from the perspective of those who ruled the day.
So what did I miss? How long after
September 2017 August 2018 September 2019 September 2020 will this list be woefully out-of-date? Please comment below or tweet me at @tomemullaney. Thank you for taking the time to read this.
Great list! Thanks friend!
archive.org is a treasure trove of primary source documents. Need proof? check out the Philadelphia Directory from 1791 (http://tinyurl.com/ydevts8k). Need more? This scan of slave labor camp documents can be reviewed by students in an exercise which puts them in the authentic role of an historian. Historians use these materials – so could High School students (http://tinyurl.com/y8jqmaqw)
Have you heard of Mission US? It’s a multimedia project that immerses players in U.S. history content through free interactive games. http://www.mission-us.org/
Yelena, I had not! It looks pretty cool. Thanks for sharing!
Icivics.org has good content for civics education for middle and high school. They include free access to lesson plans, webquests, games and more.
Hey Kellye, thanks for sharing! I’ll check that out!
You might want to check out the New Visions Social Studies Curriculum. It’s an OER curriculum for Global and US History in Google Docs. Great for people that use Google Classroom!
History Simulations for the classroom by a practicing history teacher: https://www.historysimulation.com/
I have to add this World War II sources list from PBS: http://www.pbs.org/thewar/resources.htm
Should out to Jane Highley (https://twitter.com/highleyjane) for sharing that resource!