I have a confession… maybe it’s one that you share too… Or maybe it’s not… but either way, I must confess… I RARELY teach social studies! Now honestly, I LOVE Social Studies. But in reality, teaching it to a class of second graders was challenging. Maybe it was the next to nothing for material. Or the completely outdated resources we did have. Either way, I was a terrible social studies teacher. So for the past few years, I’ve been working EXTRA hard to be better at working social studies into our routine. And that extra work means I’ve found some tools that make teaching social studies better. Best part? All of the ones I’m sharing today are FREE! Scroll down to check out these free social studies websites that you can use to plan activities in your elementary classroom.
The website, History.org has tons of free resources and tools for teachers looking to beef up their colonial history lessons. My favorite are the webcams. While at the site, click the “kids” section to find fun activities and games. And scoop out the “parents and teacher” section for lesson plans and information all about Colonial Williamsburg. Recommended for grades k-3rd.
“Teaching People’s Histoy” is the tag line of Zinnedproject.org and for good reason. The Zinn Education Project works to tell and share the history that many history books tend to forget. Click the section “Teaching Materials” then search by time period or theme. You’ll be happy to see that most resources work to tell the “truth” behind many generally accepted historical concepts. Recommended for grades 3rd and up. (Although some resources are available for PreK-2nd.)
Got civics? icivics.org is for you! Kid friendly web design with engaging games and lesson plan suggestions are the main draw of this website. Click the “teachers” section and check out the curriculum units for government, landmarks, and everything else civics! Recommended for grades K and up.
4. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of America
Say hello to primary resources galore! Something many history books lack! The website, gilderlehrman.org has an expansive searchable library of primary resources to deepen your social studies discussions! From diary entries, sheets of music, posters, newspaper articles, you name it! If it happened in America, you can probably find something here! You do have to create an account to access the pictures, and make sure you indicate you’re a teacher as access to these resources is restricted to paid subscribers otherwise. Good for grades 1st and up.
Why this site is called Ducksters must have something to do with all the ducks, but this website packs some serious punch in the social studies department! Click through either history or geography and find a wealth of information! Great for student research projects as well! Recommended for grades 2nd and up.
6. ReadWorks and NewsELA
One of my favorite ways to teach social studies is through our reading. Readworks.org allows you to pair reading and social studies together. Create a free account and gain access to thousands of reading comprehension articles. Search by grade level or subject. NewsELA offers that same concept, except many articles come in different Lexile levels so you can be sure to pull articles that match your students’ reading levels. Hello easy differentiation! NewsELA is one of my favorite sites to find articles for annotating text using SNOTS! Oh, and did I mention you can create “classes” in NewsELA and assign readings? Great for digital classroom models! Great for grades k and up!
I love Scholastic resources. From books for your classroom library to classroom magazines to supplement your science and social studies curriculum, Scholastic offers it all. In addition, they have a free resource library for teachers that’s perfect for supplimenting not only your reading program, but your social studies curriculum too.
To access, click the “educators” section, then click “teachers” at the top of the page. From there you can access lessons and ideas on the left hand side! Great for grades k and up!
If you’re looking for free access to digital learning programs designed for your students, MobyMax.com offers a great learning platform. But in addition to their reading and math digital learning programs, they also have a section for teachers to find worksheets and lessons on many different topics, including Social Studies. Set up your free account and access resources by grade level and subject area! Good for grades k and up.
9. Mr. Brett’s YouTube Channel
If you ever wondered if there’s an animated video of that… there is! And Mr. Brett’s Class on YouTube has it… and it’s funny! Such a fun and engaging way to get your students to think about historical facts and events in a musical way! Seriously, this dude is a genius! Like… we’re mixing Jay-z’s song “New York” with Early Explorers! Best for grades 2nd and up!
10. Liberty’s Kids
This historical educational cartoon series does an amazing job of explaining the creation of the United States better than any textbook. Although the series ended in the early 2000’s, you can watch every episode for FREE here! I love the idea of using this as a pack up and relax activity that your kids will actually enjoy AND learn from! Good for grades k through 4th.
So, are you as guilty as I was on the teaching social studies front? Hopefully not! And if so, now here’s your chance to add some new FREE resources and ideas to your social studies toolbox! If time is more your issue, be sure to check out this time saving post!