The Social Studies Digital Content List

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.

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.

Bill of Rights Institute

Grades 9-12

The Bill of Rights Institute has lesson materials for our founding documents such as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and Bill of Rights.  They also have some more US History content such as Civil Rights. The Bill of Rights Institute created a free online course  teachers can help themselves to, Documents of Freedom.

Choices Program

Grades 9-12

Brown University’s Choices program has mostly paid and some free Common Core aligned resources for current issues, US History and World History. I have long been a fan of their products.  Each curricular unit PDF they sell is $37 and comes with good reading passages and a simulation in which students argue for one of four choices. A great bang-for-the-buck use of PTA mini-grant funds. Thank you, Jessica Riley, for sharing the Choices Program with me.

Crash Course Curriculum

Grades 6-12

Crash Course is one of the best educational YouTube channels. Check out their free Common-Core aligned (opens PDF) curriculum for US History and World History.

Digital Breakouts

Grades 6-12

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:

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.

Image links to the Shirley, Chisholm, Unbought, Unbossed, & Unlocked! digital breakout.
US II Teachers: Please use this digital breakout!

Speaking of game-based learning, have a look at Spent. Usually, gamification should be avoided when addressing serious topics. Spent addresses poverty in a way that builds empathy and understanding. Students can only benefit from playing it.


Grades 6-12

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

Grades K-8

Common Core aligned freemium differentiated activities and assessments. 

History of Philly

Grades 9-12

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

Grades K-12

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

Grades 6-12

Common Core aligned freemium website that uses public radio content to help students practice listening comprehension. A good resource for current events.

Miller Center

Grades 9-12

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

Grades 9-12

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.

New York Times Learning Network – Social Studies

Grades 7-12

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.


Grades 2-12

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

Grades PreK-12

Common Core aligned free lessons from PBS.

Read Like a Historian

Grades 9-12

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

Grades K-8

Common Core aligned free reading passages and comprehension activities. Thank you, Joshua Howard, for sharing ReadWorks with me.

TED-Ed Social Studies

Grades 4-12

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

Grades K-12

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

Grades 6-12

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:

The Living New Deal

Grades 6-12

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.

So what did I miss? How long after September 2017 August 2018 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.


Use My Ted-Ed Lesson to Teach Your Students About the French Revolution


I am excited to share my Ted-Ed lesson about the French Revolution. Use it to engage your students. Questions or comments? Please comment below or tweet me @TomEMullaney.

Five Strategies for Using Video in the Classroom

Five Strategies for Using Video in the Classroom

Strategy 1: Never Project to the Whole Class

Student devices and simple strategies render whole-class video projection obsolete. When students view video individually, they can watch at their own pace by pausing and rewinding. They can be assessed and engaged at their own pace.

A video projected to the whole class lives in the recesses of students’ memories where it can be forgotten or misremembered. A video shared for individualized viewing will live on a teacher website, LMS or, preferably, Google Classroom. There students can access it anywhere, anytime. The time for whole-class projection is over. No 1:1 devices? Try a computer lab.

Strategy 2: Take Advantage of YouTube Beyond Pressing Play

Teachers can make their own videos for free using their device’s built-in webcam and Screencastify. Beyond simply uploading and sharing videos, there are four components of YouTube teachers should take advantage of:


Teachers can add text boxes to their videos using annotations. This is a great opportunity to point students to further resources or scaffold content conveyed in video. This is what it looks like:


Adding annotations when uploading video or adding them to old videos is easy.


Cards appear in the upper-right corner of a video. They link to other videos. This is a great way to point students to another resource. Notice the use of an annotation and a card in this video:


Making cards is simple. They can be added when uploading videos or to old videos.

Here I demonstrate adding cards and annotations to a YouTube video:

Custom Thumbnails

A YouTube video thumbnail appears when a video comes up in search results or is embedded on a website. YouTube gives users three thumbnails to choose from when uploading a video. Each is a paused moment from the video. They rarely look good. Users can also upload a custom thumbnail.

It is helpful to students to have an image and title on a custom thumbnail. I design mine using Google Slides (keeping the default 16:9 ratio in page setup) and then screen capture them to create an image. Google Drawings works too. I have made custom thumbnails for the first video in each of my playlists:

Screenshot 2015-12-07 at 7.54.11 PM

Here are steps to add custom thumbnails to your videos.

Watch as I demonstrate how to add a custom thumbnail to a YouTube video:


My playlist, Student-Centered and Future Ready, contains videos created by others. YouTube users can make playlists using all videos on YouTube, not just their own. This is a great way to easily curate and share videos with students. Creating playlists and adding videos to them is as easy as clicking “Add to” in any YouTube video:

Adding to or Creating a Playlist

Strategy 3: Use DragonTape to Edit and Curate YouTube Videos

Is there a great video for your next lesson that has a moment of inappropriate content? Do you want students to watch that video with the offensive content magically removed? That’s what DragonTape does. DragonTape lets users make mix-tapes using YouTube videos.  The magic is that users can crop videos and insert clips from the same video over and over again. This means a YouTube video can be cropped in infinite ways. Teachers can also use DragonTape to curate videos like they would playlists in YouTube.

DragonTape allows users to make mix-tapes with YouTube videos. Additionally, users can crop videos and use the same video multiple times.

Strategy 4: Use TED-Ed to Add Assessment and Engagement

TED-Ed is a great tool to add assessment questions, discussion prompts, and links to further resources after students watch a video.

TED-Ed Plain
A YouTube video in TED-Ed. “Think” questions are multiple choice. “Dig Deeper” leads students to further resources. “Discuss” questions give students a discussion prompt and opportunities to comment on responses.

Here is a tutorial to help you get started using TED-Ed.

Don’t have time to create a TED-Ed lesson? Search through their more than 150,000 lessons to see if they have what you need.

Strategy 5: Use EDPuzzle to Add Assessment and Engagement

EdPuzzle allows teachers to add assessment questions and their own voice to videos as students watch them. This is what a student sees when watching a video in EdPuzzle:

EdPuzzle Answer a Question
Student view of a video in EdPuzzle. The yellow mark shows where a student has to listen to a voice recording of their teacher.

Here is a tutorial to help you get started using EdPuzzle.

Don’t have time to create an EdPuzzle lesson? Search through the many lessons other teachers have created!

If you would like to discuss these strategies further, please comment below or tweet me at @edtechtom. Thank you for reading.