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Tip of the Week: It’s official. Zoom In just went live.

It’s official. Zoom In just went live. And you and your kids so need this.

I know that I’ve mentioned Zoom In before. But a year ago, the tool was still in beta. The signup process was a bit clunky and the lessons were still in development. So I was incredibly excited to find out that last month, Zoom In is officially official. The site has been remodeled, signup is a snap, and all 18 lessons are ready to go.

If you missed my earlier excitement about Zoom In, here’s a brief recap. Zoom In is a free, web-based platform that helps students build literacy and historical thinking skills through “deep dives” into primary and secondary sources.

Zoom In’s online learning environment features 18 content-rich U.S. history units that supplement your regular instruction and help you use technology to support students’ mastery of both content and skills required by the most recent state and national social studies standards:

  • Reading documents closely and critically
  • Identifying author’s point of view and purpose
  • Engaging in higher-order, text-based discussions
  • Writing explanatory and argumentative essays grounded in evidence

In a nutshell? You and Zoom In provide a historical problem for kids to solve – such as “How did the tactics of César Chávez and the United Farm Workers union involve the public in the fight for fair working conditions for farmworkers?”

zoom in chavez

Kids use Zoom In’s scaffolding tools to access, evaluate, and collect evidence. They then use the embedded writing tool to organize their evidence to create a written response to the prompt. Throughout the process, you provide support by accessing their work, leaving comments, giving suggestions, and sharing ideas.

chavez note 1

chavez essay

This is exactly what our state standards are asking teachers and students to do. This is exactly what the NCSS national standards are asking teachers and students to do. In an earlier post, I said that

Zoom In is a game changer.

I still believe that. Teachers who have used the tool say the same thing.

This is exactly the type of thing that students will have to do on the Kansas state assessments. I really think it helped them to prepare for this.

Whitney Woodward

I gained a much better understanding of the writing strengths and weaknesses of my students. Now when I create my own lessons, I keep the Zoom In structure in the back of my mind.

Casey Grady

Each lesson comes with a detailed teacher’s guide that provides everything you need to walk through the process with your students. You can pick and choose which parts of the lesson you want to use. It would be a bit more difficult but if your classroom is lacking the necessary tech access, you could even use the teacher guides to complete the process off line.


Right now, the 18 lessons are focused on US History. But I think World and even government / econ folks could adapt some of the lessons to fit their specific scope and sequence. And even if the content is not specific to your needs, the process is incredibly powerful. Use the scaffolding questions, use the idea of having kids collect information in the Notes section, adapt the essay outlines to focus on your content. Because, yes . . . the foundational content is important. But so is the historical thinking process – training our kids to ask good questions, to organize information, and to develop well-thought out solutions to problems is what we need to be doing at all levels, in all contents.

That’s the beauty of Zoom In. It’s not just for students. Zoom In is also embedded professional learning. Too often, PD is disconnected from what teachers do in the classroom. With Zoom In, your professional learning is practice-based.

Each Zoom In lesson is an opportunity for teachers use, reflect on, and build on high-quality, research-based instructional practices:

  • Posing higher-order questions
  • Helping students read and comprehend challenging texts
  • Facilitating effective classroom discussions
  • Using formative assessment and timely feedback to focus student improvement
  • Building students’ skills as academic writers

As you teach, print and on-screen resources give you clear rationales for each instructional move, and specific prompts to use with students. Videos demonstrate the moves in clear ways. Built-in assessment tools help you identify and address gaps in students’ knowledge and skills. Use Zoom In within teams or with ELA teachers. Team-teaching with Zoom In helps your ELA teachers gain skills in teaching informational / historical texts and helps you perfect skills in teaching close reading and writing.

You’ve got some time yet this summer to explore Zoom In. So create an account. Walk through the teacher guides. Explore the evidence. And decide exactly how you’re going to use it. Because . . . seriously. This is a no brainer. It will change how you do your job.

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. nataliekatona #

    Reblogged this on art + education + museums.

    July 13, 2015
  2. nataliekatona #

    Wow, Zoom In looks amazing, thank you for sharing although I teach in the UK it’s really useful to see how it works.

    July 13, 2015
    • glennw #

      Thanks for the comment! Helpfully you’ll find something useful you can take away from it.


      July 13, 2015
  3. So glad I came across your blog and found your assessment of Zoom In. As a mom of kids fastly approaching their teens, this will be a huge help to them.

    Becky S.
    JAB Project Solutions, LLC

    July 16, 2015
    • glennw #

      I love Zoom In! Would love to hear how things go when you introduce it and use with your kids.


      July 17, 2015
  4. Ryan #

    This site looks great. I can see this one being a game changer in my classroom. Stuff like this and SHAG are the types of resources us Social Studies instructors need. Thanks Glen


    July 30, 2015
    • glennw #


      Thanks for the comment! Zoom In really is a tool that can change how we do school. Would love to hear how it works for you – feel free to contact me later this year and let me know how it goes.


      July 31, 2015

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