Social Studies Dimension 2: Applying Disciplinary Concepts and Tools

Explore digital resources that you can integrate into your civics, economics, history, and geography classroom.

Grades K-12 20 min Resource by:
Listen to this article

Dimension 2 of the C3 Framework from the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) focuses on academic content. Specifically, it breaks the discipline of social studies down into four key subtopics: civics, economics, geography, and history. While some might break this down differently or add additional categories, we’ll use this format to organize social studies resources. In this article, you’ll find online materials specifically aligned to these four content areas. We’ll also share a list of more general resources that may be applied to any subject related to history or social studies. These sites are useful for finding subject-matter content, open-source textbooks, digital learning activities, and more. Although you may already have access to quality curriculum and textbooks in your classroom, the content on this page can offer excellent supplements to your existing materials while providing the many benefits that come with digital materials, such as interactivity, multimedia, and the ability to customize. As with other lists on AVID Open Access, these links are not all-inclusive. Rather, they are intended to be both a starting point for your digital integration work as well as a catalyst for extending your journey.

 

Civics

  • 60-Second Civics: Use this site to access a daily civics quiz and a 1-minute podcast. This is part of a larger website sponsored by the Center for Civic Education.
  • Annenberg Classroom: This site offers free classroom resources for teaching about the Constitution. The videos on this site have won over 70 awards. You will also find a guide to the Constitution, lesson plans, games, and more.
  • Digital Civics Toolkit: This site has won awards from Common Sense Media and connects the concept of digital media to civic participation. The five modules include participate, investigate, dialogue, voice, and action.
  • iCivics: This site uses a series of online civics games to meet its mission of providing civic education and preserving democracy. Students can play simulations about branches of power, voting, counties, courts, rights, executive command, and more. The site also provides support for English language learners. It was originally founded by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
  • KidCitizen: Explore Congress and civic engagement through historical primary sources. The site is supported by a grant from the Library of Congress and targets younger learners.
  • Street Law: This site is dedicated to teaching about the justice system, including the Supreme Court. There is a dedicated section for educators. It’s slogan is: “Teaching about law. Advancing justice for all.”
  • Youth Leadership Initiative: This site is sponsored by the University of Virginia Center for Politics. Teachers can sign up for free, and along with its free content, the site hosts a national E-Congress event.
  • Zinn Education Project: This site contains resources aimed at a more inclusive version of U.S. history. There are sections for teaching materials, news, and more. The project explains that it “has introduced students to a more accurate, complex, and engaging understanding of history than is found in traditional textbooks and curricula.”

Economics

  • 10 Free Financial Literacy Games for High School Students: Edutopia has compiled this list of 10 free games that you can use with high school finance students. Each site is linked and includes a brief description.
  • Biz Kid$: This site is targeted to grades 6–12 and focuses on entrepreneurship as well as other money-related topics. It is based on an Emmy Award-winning TV series and includes learning materials, videos, resources, teacher materials, and games.
  • calculator.net: Interact with web-based financial calculators. Choose from a variety of calculators, including mortgage, auto loan, amortization, salary, inflation, and more.
  • Compound Interest Calculator: This is a simple calculator embedded into EconEdLink. Enter your age, interest rate, and monthly savings, and then click the “calculate” button.
  • EconEdLink: This page is packed with personal finance and economics resources for grades K–12. Resources are filterable. Find lessons, activities, videos, and more.
  • Economics: View over 500 videos from PBS Learning Media. You can view by topic, including interdisciplinary dynamics, international economics, macroeconomics, microeconomics, and personal finance.
  • Financial Calculators: This is another site featuring free, interactive online calculators. Choose from multiple options in a variety of categories: finance and investment, loan/mortgage, retirement, credit card, auto loans and leases, stocks, and more.
  • The Stock Market Game: Students can play this popular stock market simulation developed by the SIFMA Foundation, starting with a hypothetical cash amount of $100,000. Students get up-to-date information for managing their portfolio.

Geography

  • GeoGuessr: In this geography game, students try to guess a location. It includes explorer mode, country streak, battle royale, map browsing, a daily challenge, pro leagues, and a map maker. One free game is available per day with the free version.
  • Maps: Maps have long been a core resource in the study of geography. One area that digital resources especially thrive in is maps, as they are often dynamic, colorful, interactive, and filled with multimedia.
    • Google Maps: View satellite imagery, aerial photography, street maps, street view, traffic conditions, and route planning. The site is interactive, robust, and versatile.
    • Google Earth: Tour anywhere on earth by browsing, searching, or entering coordinates. Create stories and maps, too. With the integrated creation tools, draw on the map, add photos and videos, share, and collaborate.
    • ArcGIS: Create story maps with this interactive tool.
    • Scribble Maps: Create maps with place markers, text, polygons, image overlays, and more. The final product may be exported in various formats.
    • Tripline: Create and save travel paths on a virtual map. Sequence the segments of your trip and add dates.
    • HistoricAerials: Compare aerial imagery by choosing different years. Several overlays are available.
    • Library of Congress: Search or browse this collection of maps cataloged by the U.S. Library of Congress. Filters are available for date range, location, and more.
    • National Geographic MapMaker: This is a free and easy-to-use mapping tool that offers a variety of base maps and data layers. Drawing tools are available to annotate and personalize your map. There are also example ideas and lessons for teachers. You must set up a free account and login to save maps.
  • National Geographic Education Resources: Explore this collection of education resources (activities, articles, collections, infographics, photographs, videos, and more) as well as MapMaker Interactive and Black Line Maps.
  • playGeography: This is a free set of map games. Choose from countries, flags, capitals, and provinces. Google Classroom integration is available.
  • Population Education: This site includes resources to teach and study all-things population-related. Filter by grade, subject, topic, and resource type (lesson plan, reading, video, tool, and more). Some content requires a premium account.
  • Seterra: This resource is self-described as “the ultimate map quiz site.” Study countries, capitals, cities, rivers, lakes, and more.
  • World Geography Games: Choose a game and challenge your geography knowledge. Narrow the list of options by selecting a subcategory such as world, Africa, America, Asia, Australia and Oceania, and Europe.

History

  • Chronicling America: Explore this historic archive of American newspapers. Search from 1777 to 1963. Newspaper pages are zoomable and searchable. Sponsors include the National Endowment for the Humanities and the U.S. Library of Congress.
  • Documenting Digital History: This site offers resources and teaching ideas for exploring what history looks like in the digital age. Explore student projects, essays, interviews, and more.
  • Facing History and Ourselves: Explore lessons and resources for teaching racism and prejudice. An account is needed to create playlists. Topics focus on racism, antisemitism, and prejudice at pivotal moments in history.
  • Histography: Engage in this timeline connected to Wikipedia articles. Explore timelines featuring literature, music, wars, politics, construction, inventions, riots, women’s rights, disasters, art, discoveries, empires, and more.
  • History Explorer: Search lessons, activities, interactives, media, museum artifacts, and more on this Smithsonian-sponsored website. Content can be filtered by K–12 grade level, resource type, and historical era.
  • History’s Mysteries: This site fosters historical inquiry in elementary classrooms. History’s Mysteries has recently partnered with iCivics.
  • Mission US: Engage in mission challenges to learn history with this public media project. Games include 1770: The American Revolution, 1848: The Antebellum Era, 1866: Westward Expansion, 1907: The Immigrant Experience, 1929: The Great Depression, and 1941: World War II. Free accounts are required to play.
  • National Museum of African American History and Culture: This site is sponsored by the Smithsonian and offers stories and media dedicated to African American history. Search the collection by topic, data, name, object type, or place.
  • Simulations and Instructional Games: This collection of online resources is maintained by the Washington State Council for the Social Studies. Lists include articles, online simulations, and classroom simulations.
  • Social Studies Central: This site is a directory of online simulations, interactive websites, virtual museums, and more.
  • Teachinghistory.org: This resource created by the Center for History and New Media offers teaching materials, history content, and best practices. Filter by level (elementary, middle school, or high school). A few features include the history quiz, digital classroom, and thinking like historians.
  • Zoom In: Use these online U.S. history lessons to empower “students to think deeply and write critically about pivotal moments.” Choose and assign a lesson. Track student progress.

General Lesson Planning and Course Content for Social Studies and History

  • CK-12: Access free, open access content and activities for math, science, social studies, English, photography, and health. This site also features customizable FlexBooks that can be used to create your own personalized textbook.
  • EDSITEment: This site sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities features lessons, teacher guides, and media resources for the humanities. History and civics content can be found on this page.
  • Freckle: Differentiate instruction across math, ELA, social studies, and science. Students join with a class code. Basic level analytics are free.
  • Khan Academy: Find social studies courses and materials. Courses include US History, AP US History, US Government and Civics, World History, Art History, Economics, and more. The site includes a teacher dashboard for tracking student progress.
  • OER Commons: This is a collection of open educational resources for students of all ages. Search by age, subject, or academic standard. Use Open Author to create or remix these resources to meet your needs. Search these curated collections to save time.
  • OER Project: Access complete open access history courses. Teachers register, and students join a class with an access code. Content is targeted to grades 6–10.
  • PBS Learning Media: Access standards-aligned videos, interactives, and lesson plans for social studies, ELA, science, arts, math, preschool, health, PE, engineering and tech, and more.
  • Project Zero: This is a compilation of thinking strategies from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Choose a thinking type, subject, or project, and get ideas for your classroom.
  • Seesaw Activity Library: Review the integrated activity library for premade learning activities. Activities are teacher-created and vetted by the Seesaw review team.
  • Smithsonian Learning Lab: Explore media resources organized into collections. Use collections as they are or create your own. Browse by content type or conduct a search.
  • Social Studies Links: Browse this curated list of social studies links and resources compiled by Control Alt Achieve. The list is updated regularly.
  • TeachersFirst: This site features a collection of teacher resources and lesson plans. Search by grade level, keyword, or subject area. Find K–12 classroom resources, professional learning materials, and more.
  • YouTube Channels for Social Studies: This blog post from Control Alt Achieve suggests 20 social studies video channels available for free on YouTube.

Review Games and Activities

  • Bingo Baker: Create paper or online bingo cards. Find a premade option and customize it, or create your own. Print or play virtually. This tutorial can help you get started.
  • Classtools.net: Create games, quizzes, activities, and more with these templates.
  • Flashcard Factory: Use this site for collaborative flashcard creation. Students pair up and work together to create dynamic and engaging flashcards. Students can illustrate and define vocabulary terms.
  • Flippity (AVID Open Access Tips): Create learning activities and games from 25 different templates. Modify the spreadsheet templates to create flashcards, quiz shows, scavenger hunts, board games, matching, bingo, word searches, crosswords, and more.
  • Kahoot!: Answer multiple-choice questions in a competitive format. Compete against other players as well as the clock. Leaderboards are published after each question. Multiple game modes are available.
  • myfreebingocards.com: With this site, you can create print or virtual bingo cards.
  • Quizlet: This is a flashcard-based review platform that includes several review options, such as quizzes, flashcards, and games. Once you have created the initial set of flashcards (or chosen a premade one from the gallery), all the activities are ready and available. You can also have students play the highly engaging Quizlet Live, where they must collaborate with team members to determine which answer is correct.
  • Quizizz: Play quiz games live as a group or assign individually as homework. Find premade games or create your own. View the teacher dashboard to see individual student reports.
  • Pink Cat Games: Review for any subject. Filter by grade and subject. Choose premade games or create your own.
  • Socrative: Create polls, quizzes, and exit tickets for a live audience. Create instant questions (multiple-choice, true/false, short answer), or create and save them ahead of time. Participants can vote up submission ideas or play a competitive space race game.
  • ThatQuiz: Find quizzes for math, world language, geography, and science. Accounts are used to set up classes to assign tests to students. Students join with a code, and the teacher can view results.
  • Wisc-Online: Build your own games using one of 20 different game formats. Add your own content. You’ll need to navigate around the advertising that is quite heavy on this site.
  • Wordwall (AVID Open Access Tips): Make custom activities, like quizzes, matching, and more. Create five activities for free. Some are formatted for digital and others for print. Log in for premium access.

Virtual Field Trips and Guests

So much of social studies is understanding and connecting with people of varied cultures and backgrounds. If we could, many of us would take our students on a yearlong trip throughout the world, so they could visit historical and cultural places and meet diverse people in person. While we all know that this is not possible, there are realistic alternatives. We can travel virtually. Through the powers of technology, we can stream live video, conduct videoconferences, attend virtual museums, engage in interactive maps, and experience 360-degree videos. To learn more about how you can use technology to connect with the world, explore our AVID Open Access collection, Break Down the Classroom Walls. It’s packed with great resources divided into these three articles:

 

Explore additional ideas for virtual field trips by reviewing this extensive list from Matt Miller at Ditch That Textbook.