Vol. 1, Issue 2, January 2018

Favorite Resources for Civics Education in the Classroom


  1. CNN 10 - A ten minute daily webcast from CNN featuring major headlines and student-friendly news. A great way to generate student interest in current events! CNN10 is one of my favorite resources in the classroom. It’s great as a daily warm-up activity or as an end-of-the-period time filler for those days when you find yourself with a few extra minutes to spare.

    a) Strategy- For the greatest impact on students, pair the viewing of the webcast with writing and discussion.
    1. Write - Before viewing the webcast, advise students that they will be writing a four sentence summary about one of the featured stories of their choice. There are typically three featured stories per episode, plus a silly/comical “Before We Go” segment which students are not allowed to write about for this assignment. Use this CNN10 Summary Frame handout for the first week or two as a scaffolded support.

    2. Discuss - After students write their summary, students should turn to a partner and discuss their summary. Then, depending on the time, you might engage in a whole class discussion of the day’s news, perhaps highlighting stories that are not featured in the webcast.

    3. Reflect - Finally, as way to close out the week, have students write a brief reflection on what they believe is the most impactful or significant story of the week.

  2. Read Like a Historian - A great resource for ready-to-go, inquiry based, World and U.S. History lessons from the Stanford History Education Group. All lessons include a focus question with an emphasis on primary source documents designed to help kids, “Read Like a Historian.” There are over 90 lessons available for U.S. history alone! They are constantly adding new lessons, including four recent additions on the late 1900s, early 2000s covering such topics as Hurricane Katrina and the Kyoto Protocol.

    1. Here are just a few of our classroom-tested favorite lessons for U.S. History:

      1. Slavery in the Constitution

      2. Slavery Narratives

      3. The Second Middle Passage

      4. Thomas Nast’s Political Cartoons

      5. Chinese Immigration and Exclusion

      6. Anti-Suffragists

      7. Sedition in WWI

      8. Japanese Internment

      9. The Cold War

      10. The Cuban Missile Crisis


TIP - At the end of each lesson, have students answer the Focus Question by writing a paragraph in which they support their response with evidence from the texts they have just read. I provide students with a Paragraph Organizer as an additional scaffold for writing.

  1. Teaching Tolerance - An excellent source of teaching and professional development resources geared towards facilitating diversity and equity in the classroom and beyond. You can order their free film kits that feature excellent, well-produced documentaries (with viewing guides) about such topics as the civil rights movement, Ann Frank, and Cesar Chavez, to list just a few. You can also subscribe to their free publication, Teaching for Tolerance Magazine.

    1. One highly recommended lesson is A Time for Justice: America’s Civil Rights Movement. The downloadable Teacher’s Guide contains five related lesson plans, starting with a viewing of the short film A Time for Justice which is available for free upon request.

    2. As an additional activity to keep students engaged while viewing the film, have students complete this Viewing Guide. You can have students complete the guide individually or assign sections to small groups of students followed by a share around after the film (jigsaw style). Finally, have students complete a short reflection on the film and then discuss their thoughts with partners or small groups.

    3. Alternatively, while viewing the video, you might use the S.I.T. strategy where you have students record Surprising, Interesting and Troubling facts, followed by a short summary. Students can then share their S.I.T. Video Notes with a partner, leading into a whole class discussion of the video. 

  2. Facing History and Ourselves - “People make choices. Choices make history. We help students learn about hatred and bigotry so they can stop them from happening in the future.” The site features resources for professional development as well as powerful teaching materials. The two After Charlottesville lessons (Contested History and the Fight Against Bigotry and Public Memory and the Contested Meaning of Monuments) are highly recommended with a couple of modifications/additions.

    1. First, do not skip step one of the Contested History lesson, “Establish a Safe Community.” This is a highly valuable activity that sets the appropriate tone and establishes classroom norms for difficult discussions that you can refer to for the rest of the school year. Having a classroom contract posted front and center in your classroom will go a long way in making sure that all students feel safe while discussing challenging topics.

    2. Next, use this Before / After Barometer as an anticipatory/pre-reading activity after you have completed your classroom contract. Designate the four corners of the room as strongly agree, agree, disagree and strongly disagree and have students go to the corner that corresponds to their viewpoint. Repeat at the end of the lesson to see if views have changed.

    3. In addition to the readings recommended by Facing History, consider using the article, “Monumental Battle” from the New York Times Upfront Magazine. It provides great background information and historical context for what happened in Charlottesville and the broader debate over confederate monuments.

  3. Let’s Play! Get students engaged in civics with interactive games. Here are three websites with FREE interactive civics games:

    1. iCivics - Founded by retired Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor, this website offers free interactive games, lesson plans, webquests and much more!  Some favorite games are Do I Have a Right?, Responsibility Launcher and Lawcraft.

    2. The Redistricting Game - If you want to illustrate the process of congressional redistricting and how gerrymandering can shape the political landscape, have your students play The Redistricting Game. This would also be perfect to incorporate into a discussion of the 2018 Midterm elections.

    3. Kahoot! Turn anything into an interactive game with Kahoot! Kids can play on their classroom computers or personal electronic devices. Create a free account and also get access to Kahoots! created by others. You can create your own trivia quiz games, surveys and discussion boards about any topic or subject.

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