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The 10 best social studies sites of all time

Last week at the Kansas state social studies conference, I got into the kind of conversation that really doesn’t have an end. You know the kind. Think best flavor of Thanksgiving pie. The discussion can go on forever.

And last week’s question? What are the best online sites and tools for social studies teachers?

Yup. No problem.

We obviously didn’t finish the conversation. But it was great hearing what others use and see as valuable. So today . . . I’m opening up the discussion to you. Here’s a list of my new top ten best social studies sites of all time, in no particular order. (And of all time, I mean the list as of today. I’m headed to the NCSS conference tomorrow. Trust me. The list will look different next week.)

What would you add or subtract?

Zoom In
I first ran across the folks in charge of Zoom In exactly three years ago at the NCSS conference and fell in love even before the final version came out. The goal is supporting historical thinking skills and quality instruction through the use of digital primary sources and questions. It’s free. It can be used online or with traditional paper and pencil. It supports the NCSS C3 Inquiry Arc. And it encourages reading and writing.

Common Lit
My good friend, literacy and ELA guru Robi Alstrom, shared this site with me several months ago. Great for social studies teachers or for building background knowledge in reading class, CommonLit’s text sets cover a range of historical, cultural, and political topics and include relevant reading passages from a variety of genres. CommonLit has an impressive list of partners and delivers high-quality, free instructional materials to support literacy development for students in grades 5-12. Their resources are flexible, research-based, aligned to the Common Core State Standards and created by teachers, for teachers.

Smithsonian Learning Lab

I’ve raved about the Learning Lab before. Millions of documents, artifacts, teaching tools, collections – all from the many different Smithsonian museums? What’s not to like? Added bonus? You and students can create class sets of stuff you find and create learning activities.

(Speaking of the Smithsonian . . . their Educators page is phenomenal. You can search for all sorts of lessons, activities, and teaching tools by grade level, content area, and keyword.)

TPS Teachers Network
The TPS Teachers Network is a social media platform that welcomes, connects, and engages teachers in a sustained conversation and ongoing professional learning within a community of peers to improve teaching and learning using Library of Congress primary sources. Great place to interact with other educators.

National Council for the Social Studies Notable Trade Books
Every year, the NCSS gathers together a core group of teachers who review hundreds of new trade books. They compile the best ones and publish a list. Looking for fiction and nonfiction resources? This is the place to start.

National Geographic Education
Great geo tools. Mapmaker. Lesson plans. Sweet photos and videos. This is another no-brainer.

DocsTeach
The project is designed to provide useful document-based lesson plans and activities created by both NARA staff members and classroom teachers. Tons of primary sources from the National Archives. Activities that focused on and supported historical thinking skills. The ability to create your own activities, save them, and share them digitally with your students. A recent upgrade makes it compatible with mobile devices.

Google My Maps
With Google My Maps, you have the option to create your maps directly from your Google Drive page so it’s even easier to create, access, share, and collaborate on your custom maps. The update also makes it easier to store and find your maps. Creating a custom map is just as simple as creating and opening a new Google Doc, presentation, or spreadsheet. Just select “New,” then “More,” then “Google My Maps” to start creating geography goodness.

Newsela
We all know about the leveled news articles designed just for kids. But not everyone knows about the leveled primary sources and the text sets.

Evidence Analysis Window Frames
So . . . this is clearly a commercial. But lots of folks are discovering that using this handy historical thinking tool can really help students make sense of primary and secondary sources.

And don’t forget these steady standbys:

Library of Congress
Huge numbers of primary sources, lesson plans, activities, and text sets.

National Archives
The best Archives page is basically hidden –  the document based lessons.

Stanford History Education Group
Curriculum based on primary sources, historical thinking skills, and great questions. (And Beyond the Bubble is still awesome.)

Did we miss any?

(And the best Thanksgiving pie? Chocolate pecan. Obviously.)

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sena Hough #

    I use most of these especially Sheg. Can’t wait to read about what you have at NCSS.

    November 14, 2017
    • glennw #

      Sena,

      Will try and live blog as many sessions as I can. There’s always so many great things to learn!

      glennw

      November 14, 2017
  2. Josh Green #

    If you haven’t seen the stuff coming out of New Visions in NYC you should check it out. Aligned specifically with the New York curriculum but incredibly good, meaningful, deep social studies resources! curriculum.newvisions.org

    Amd everything is free!

    November 14, 2017
    • glennw #

      Josh,

      Exactly what I needed – new toys to play with! Thanks for sharing. Will check New Visions out tomorrow.

      glennw

      November 14, 2017
  3. Have you seen the Digital Public Library of America’s primary source sets? They’re great! Check them out – https://dp.la/primary-source-sets. There are 120 primary source sets that were created by educators – each includes a teaching guide, TOTALLY free, and utilizes data from over 6 million sources! Great for US history, but there are also literature sets as well as world history sets! Check it out, Glenn! Love following you on social media – Thanks for sharing, as always!

    November 15, 2017
    • glennw #

      I know about the DPL but wasn’t aware of their text sets. Awesome! Will head over and dig in. Love nerdy social studies data! Thanks for sharing!

      glennw

      November 15, 2017

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