2 Fresh Resources for Teaching Middle and High School Social Studies

The search for interactive, smart curriculum is perpetual.

Furthermore, most curricula are not created for a digital forum. In the multimedia age, it makes sense to find materials that include audio-visual and interactive resources. No need for your students to simply read when there are so many ways to engage them.

When teaching online, it is useful to have materials that you can use in both the actual online classroom, as well as in between classes for homework, assessments, and other learning activities. And it wouldn’t hurt if they are aligned with the Common Core. While there are moments when we want to create curriculum ourselves, there are other times when a well-organized, interactive lesson or curriculum is just what we need.

These resources are here to help. Each of them offers curricula that are sure to keep your students learning.

Shmoop and WizIQ

Shmoop is a fantastic resource for teachers of any subject. It is written by “hilarious smarty pants,” who live up to their claim. The curriculum is cogent, thorough, analytical and funny!  No watered down educational fluff for Shmoop. The Shmoop Social Studies Curriculum goes into appropriate and substantial details about the roots of democracy, while keeping it amusing. For examples, in a discussion of the Greek contributions to Democracy, the discussion states, “The ancient Greeks, who also invented male nudity, are generally credited with inventing democracy…” By keeping the conversation edgy, Shmoop keeps teens reading.

Shmoop has the curriculum, learning activities and quizzes, and even an online classroom for teachers to interact with their students. While WizIQ has no curriculum, they do have a live video interactive feature that nicely enhances the distance learning experience for both teachers and students. When Shmoop and WizIQ stare into each others’ eyes and promise eternal devotion, the union is sure to result in the conception of many beautiful ideas.

How you might use Shmoop to teach in WizIQ:

You could use the Shmoop curriculum and the WizIQ virtual classroom together. For example, if you wanted to teach a course in AP US History, you could talk to the fine people at Shmoop about a curriculum package for your students. Each student would get access to the curriculum. They could take the diagnostic tests, submit work, and interact with each other in Shmoop. You could then meet with them in the online classroom to explain ideas and concepts that you noticed that they did not fully grasp. You could also use the WizIQ screen sharing mechanism to watch the videos with your students, and then immediately engage them in discussions about the topics.

iCivics and WizIQ

iCivics is an educational site full of interactive games. The site was founded by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to reverse America’s’ declining civic knowledge and participation. Like Shmoop, iCivics is heavy on content and light on fluff, with lots of adventure and fun. iCivics has highly engaging “Games” that require participants to really think about and digest materials, before they can respond. The games explore subjects such as the First Amendment, The Supreme Court and How a Bill Becomes a Law.

The games and activities in iCivics are designed to be played in one class session. iCivics has a choose-your-own-adventure quality that is sure to keep students heading to the next learning task. iCivics also has an integrated system, where students can receive and submit assignments. Teachers can view how much time each student spent on a particular learning activity and how successful they were at achieving the goals.

iCivics lacks a forum for live conversation about the experiences that the students had in the virtual world. Educational games are great, but such games need to be processed with conversation for real learning to occur. Students simply take their understanding to a new level when they are able to process concepts with teachers and classmates.

How you might use iCivics to teach with WizIQ:

I have assigned games to students as homework and asked them to note two or three interesting concepts. I encourage the students to do the game just before class, so that the materials are still fresh in their mind. In class, I simply review the concepts and hear about their experiences in the virtual world. In the conversation, it becomes clear what they understood and what they need more information about. I am then able to effectively steer the class to help everyone learn the material.

Any curriculum can be used in the online classroom; however materials that are particularly created for a digital format can make the experience much more meaningful for learners.

Have any new and fresh resources for the virtual classroom, to share with us? Feel free to comment below!

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I am a teacher, hiker, mother, dancer and home-maker. I have taught pre-school through SAT prep. I am exploring ways to create on-line learning communities for home-schooled middle school and high school students. In particular, I am starting a low-residency on-line middle school. I would like to help young people explore important ideas while enjoying their lives! You can learn more about my programs at www.onlineclassesforgroovykids.org.

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