Tips for Teachers and Classroom Resources

7 Free Materials for Your Social Studies Classroom

By The Editorial Team

It’s tough to be an educator these days. School budgets are being slashed more than ever, and teachers struggle to get the materials they need in order to do their jobs. This can have long-term negative effects on student success and graduation rates, creating ripples throughout the nation’s economy.

Like most educators, social studies teachers rely on a multitude of materials that reach beyond their standard school text books. The world changes daily and it’s important for teachers to help keep their students’ fingers on the pulse of what’s happening in current events.

There is good news. Thanks to the Internet, inexpensive or even free materials for social studies classrooms are available as downloads on many educational websites. All a web-savvy teacher needs is a computer and printer. Here is a sampling of just some of the free materials for educators available online:

Library of Congress Teacher Resources

When it comes to our nation’s history, it’s tough to go wrong by using the Library of Congress’s many free web resources. Their Teacher Resources page offers lesson plans, themed resources, presentations, and activities, as well as free, standards-based professional development materials. Teachers can search for classroom materials based on state content, common core, or organizations standards.

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This robust site provides lesson plans, quizzes, teacher guides, and interactive projects for students, as well as instructional videos for English Language learners. The content is interesting, easy to understand, and categorized by elementary, middle, and high school-appropriate materials. The site also has an instructional video on transforming a traditional classroom into “digital classroom.” Their Best Practices page focuses on the importance of using primary sources as the most effective means of learning history.

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BBC History

While not specifically geared toward teachers (there are no lesson plans or study guides available), the BBC History website is still packed with videos, activities, and juicy bits of historical information, including a page aimed specifically toward children. Users can choose to learn about ancient history, British history, World Wars, and historic figures.

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Resources for History Teachers

Touting itself on its homepage as a “multimedia/multicultural wiki space for teachers and students, created by teachers and students,” Resources for History Teachers was a finalist in the 2011Edublog Awards. There’s a lot of information on this wiki, including materials for grades 1 through 7, as well as AP History resources. The material covers ancient history and civilizations, American History, U.S. Economics, U.S. Government, and more.

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The Economics of Seinfeld

Social studies teachers know all too well how difficult it can be to engage students in certain topics like Economics, which can be a tough sell to easily-distracted young adults. Tailoring hard (or dry) course material around entertaining, pop culture references can help ease the pain of learning a bit, and that is exactly the point of Economics of Seinfeld. The site uses “Seinfeld” TV episodes to relay economics concepts such as functions of markets, zero-sum game, compensating differentials, cost-benefit analysis, and the labor market. In short, students have a good laugh and they learn how the economy works.

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Flashy and funny, Shmoop not only has resources for social studies classes, it also provides information on math, poetry, mythology, and Shakespeare. Users can make their own flashcards; download learning guides, and prep for the SAT, ACT, and AP tests. The website is geared toward students, but there are teacher resources available, that include social studies-related subjects like Civics, History, and Economics. English teachers can benefit from the site, too, since there are sections on Literature.

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KQED Public Media’s EdSpace

Staying on top of current events is a great way to present history as its being made, and KQED’s Do Now Round-Ups page tackles such ripped-from-the-headlines topics as copyright versus open access, the effects of violence in the media, concussions in sports, the Presidential cabinet, and carbon cap-and-trade. All information is presented in easy to understand yet thought-provoking language that’s sure to spark lively discussion in your social studies classroom.

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