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Teacher Recommendations: Inspiring Online Resources for Social Studies

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Planning effective lessons is the first challenge for teachers, but gathering good quality online resources when the internet offers a wide range of options can be challenging. So how do teachers find good resources online? Mr Heeg, a Social Studies teacher from the United States, has agreed to share his best practices and experience to inspire other teachers around the world.

Anytime I teach a topic I am always looking to expand on my resources. Even if I have taught the topic before I’m always looking to see if there is a way to improve on what I have done. As an 8th grade Social Studies Teachers, I turn to google however; I have a few sites that I continue to go to because either the documents they have are rich or the lesson plan on the site is a perfect fit for my style and there is little need for me to make changes. Sites like Reading Like a Historian have great documents and the modified versions they have for students are easy to modify to your style. I have learned a great deal with how they present the documents and have used similar formats when it comes to creating a source for a lesson.

Below are just a few websites for Social Studies that have been an excellent resource for myself and other Social Studies Teachers that I have had the pleasure of working with. The sites target audience is educators so in many cases you will find something that you can use for your curriculum and need little to no modifications.

Stanford Reading Like a Historian

The site features source’s and lesson plans for United States History courses and World History courses. They provide an easy to use guide on how to implement their resources as well. This is a site that continues to evolve and will only continue to get better.

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

Gilder Lehrman is usually my first stop when I am looking for primary sources, lesson plans, online resources, study guides, and seminars. I have often gone to the website looking for a primary source and then found myself navigating the site to look for other resources and professional development opportunities.

National Archives

The National Archives is great if you are looking for tools to use on analyzing primary and secondary sources. This has been a great resource when I have wanted to find resources on individuals when teaching about one of the wars in my curriculum. If you are looking for a great worksheet to use for analyzing any historical document than this is the place.

Zinn Education Project

As a history teacher whether you agree with Howard Zinn or not you can not deny the fact that his work has lead you to asking your students thought provoking questions about a variety of topics in United States History. The website has a great layout and is easy to navigate through. Each era has a wealth of resources to refer to.

CSPAN Classroom

CSPAN has thousands of hours of footage available for educators. Once you create an account, you can look for a video clip that you may use in your instruction and that modify how much of it you would like to show. Each summer they offer a seminar for educators and will show educators how to use their resources. Their hardworking staff is committed to helping educators. If you are ever looking for a seminar to attend and to find other educators serious about improving on how they use media in their classroom this is one you do not want to miss.

Sources for World War I and Military History

This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the United States entry into World War I. Doing a simple Google search is only going to lead you to the same trench warfare documents that you found five years ago. A better approach that you might want to consider is looking at the National World War I Museum and Museum Online Database . The museum has tens of thousands of resources in their archival collection. I have found numerous resources in their database that I could not find anywhere else. Archivist Jonathan Casey, Registrar Stacie Peterson and other staff continue to add sources to the database daily and currently have over 30,000 documents and images uploaded. The museum’s website also has lesson plans available. If you do not find a lesson that suits your needs, you may have luck looking at their Education Resources section. You can subscribe to the Understanding the Great War digital newsletter to receive bi-monthly ideas for teaching WWI; each newsletter is based on different themes and offer resources from around the world to bring you the best material available on a variety of subjects. Along with their digital collection their lesson plan section will only continue to grow.

The National World War I Museum’s site has been a great resource for modifying my lesson plans on WWI and they have found a great partner in the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC). The Army Heritage and Education Center is fairly new and has been aggressive in reaching out to educators. Their USAHE educators toolbox provides sources for educators from all of the wars the United States Army has been involved in along with lesson plans. They are what I would consider an upcoming online resource and continue to improve. Karl Warner is a veteran of the Iraq war seeing time in Baghdad with the First Cavalry Division is currently the Historian, Program and Education Coordinator and is dedicated to making sure that educators have sources from the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC) to help tell the story of our nation and the story of the United States Army. Mr. Warner and USAHEC offer personal support for teachers who are using the material in their classroom.

Great online resources can be found from doing a simple google search however; I have had luck by following other Social Studies Teachers on Twitter. There are educators out there that did not see the value of using Twitter and I must confess I was one of those teachers five years ago. I have found articles and great resources from teachers and historians I follow. It also allows you the opportunity to message them and ask them where you might find similar sources if it happens to be a topic that they are passionate about. If you are new to Twitter and are looking for great Social Studies Teacher to follow bellow are two good links to connected Social Studies Teachers to get you started.

As Social Studies Teachers we are teaching in an exciting time. Historical Societies, Museums, and sites dedicated to history are finding ways to get teachers the information we need to be better at teaching about the past. Do not limit yourself to one resource, site, or educational article to make you more well rounded at gathering resources. With the growing amount of resources out there other Social Studies Teachers are a great resource.

John Heeg @dpmrheeg earned his undergraduate degree in Sociology/Anthropology with a minor in Secondary Education in 2000 from Dowling College, Oakdale, NY and holds permanent certification in Social Studies from grades 7-12. He then went on to receive his Masters Degree in 2006 from Touro College in Special Education and a Post-Graduate certificate in School Administration from Stony Brook University in 2009. In 2015, he received the Bright Light award from Suffolk Asset for his use of technology in the classroom. John is passionate of his use of instructional technology and is a teacher ambassador for Quizalize/Zzish, a connected educator for Remind, and an ambassador for educal.

You can also explore the Quizalize Marketplace for a wide-range of engaging Social Studies quizzes, created by teachers around the world. Check out this inspiring World War 2 History Quiz and assign it to your class today! 

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