Social studies is an educational discipline that explores the various aspects of human society. It guides students in figuring out their role in this world as well as their place in history. By studying history, sociology, and anthropology, students can learn, grow, and better relate to the world today.
Social studies often gets a bad rep for its lengthy textbooks and sometimes dry lessons. But social studies does not have to be that way. With the help of educational technology, social studies can be one of the most exciting parts of your daily schedule. Below is a look into some websites, apps and tools that can help revibe social studies instruction.
Over the course of her career, Justice O’Connor had become concerned about the growing lack of understanding for our systems of government. After she retired from nearly 25 years on the bench, she decided she needed to do something to turn her disappointment into action in regards to how dry and uninspiring education in social studies had become. In 2009, Justice O’Connor founded iCivics as a way to transform civic education. Through engaging games and interactive resources, iCivics is a powerful resource for educators planning social studies instruction. Teachers can search via state standards or content. Lesson plans, downloadable resources, and games filter into the search you are looking for. This website is easy to navigate and entirely free for educators. It is a “one stop shop” in many ways and worth some time exploring all that the website has to offer educators.
Founded in 2013, Newsela is a database of current events. Newsela’s content comes from primary sources, historic news articles, and famous speeches. It is aligned to state standards and puts emphasis on being diverse and inclusive. Because news happens and evolves by the minute, Newsela is updated daily with up to 10 new texts. This makes instruction on current events, which are so important for students to learn about in an unbiased and fact-checked manner, easy. Newsela is not just limited to social studies content, making it a great landing page for many disciplines.
Scholastic News is a magazine that features nonfiction, high-interest, and informative articles. It is aimed at grades 1-6 and its magazines are interesting to students and equally as impressive to teachers. While it comes at a price, the sticker tag should not discourage school districts from its valuable resources. Educators can choose to have a digital version or physical copy of the magazines. A subscription provides access to interesting videos, games, and hands-on activities.
Scholastic also provides personalized instruction through their differentiation tools such as reading levels, audio support, and text-to-speech read-alouds. Additionally, there are built in scaffolding and vocabulary practice for striving readers and ELL students. With something for every unique learner in your classroom, Scholastic News is sure to enhance your social studies instruction.
An oldie but a goodie, Padlet is a digital bulletin board that continues to be mentioned as a favorite for educators. What makes it so enjoyable is that students can interact on Padlet simultaneously. Additionally, there are interactive maps and opportunities to build timelines. A teacher could present a topic (ancient egyptian medicine, civil war, 9/11), and students can use Padlet to create a shared poster. To review for a test, educators could ask questions and have students type in their answers. The content filtering ensures that inappropriate words do not get displayed and the analytics provide feedback on who viewed the padlet and who may have skipped out.
Kids Planet Discovery is an exciting app for primary students. This app takes young learners on virtual adventures around Planet Earth to learn about different cultures, animals, music, dress, geography, and more. Through engaging puzzles, manipulative maps, and fun characters, this app submerges students in another culture. As they travel to other countries they learn where to find that country on a map, what traditional dress looks like, what costumes the culture has, and what animals are found in that part of the world. This app is sure to be a favorite for any student in early childhood.
A simple way to sneak in some historical facts for students is through the app, “This Day in History.” This interactive and multimedia calendar displays historical events for the current day or for any selected day the user chooses. It shows related media such as photos, illustrations, music, and speeches. Students enjoy being able to hear national anthems of countries on the day they became a nation or listening to a former president’s speech on the day of their inauguration. Students love seeing what happened on this day in history, and with the user friendly interface, this app is hard to beat.
Social studies is an important discipline that often gets a bad rep for being dry and, to be frank, not all that exciting. However, social studies can be just as engaging and inspiring as other subjects if only given the platform to make it so. Through educational tech tools like iCivics, Newsela, Scholastic News, Padlet, Kids Planet Discovery and This Day, students will find that social studies is not only important for figuring out their role in society and their place in history, but it is also fascinating and remarkable in so many ways.