iCivics is an educational website that offers access to a wide variety of learning resources that include games, curriculum materials, lesson plans, webquests, and videos. These resources are designed to help promote civics education especially among middle and high school students. Topics covered include citizenship, governance, civil rights, the constitution, politics and public policy, state and local governments, media, news literacy, and many more.
Teachers can create classes on iCivics and add students. They can also design assignments and monitor students learning progress. There are four main ways for students to join a class on iCivics:
They can join the class using the class code you shared with them (no student emails are required).Teachers create accounts for their students (no student emails are required).Students join the class using their own emails and passwords plus the class code. Email verification is required.Teachers sync class rosters using Clever or Google Classroom.
Ways to use iCivics games in the classroom
There are various ways to use iCivics games in the classroom. For instance, you can use them in review activities to assess students knowledge of particular content. They can also be used as exit ticket activities to evaluate students understanding of specific concepts or topics taught in class. iCivics games are also helpful when introducing students to new topics or ‘to round out an engaging sequence of learning activities designed to foster understanding of key content’.
Another way to use iCivics games is to assign them as homework that students can work on at their own pace. iCivics games can be played in different modes. They are good for 1:1. mixed-ability pairs, small groups or whole class. Some of these games support both English and Spanish.
How to get started using iCivics?
To start using iCivics, head over to the site’s homepage and click on Teach on theft hand side bar. This is where you, as a teacher, can access iCivics’ entire library including:
1- Curriculum Units
Curriculum units are digital and print resources designed specifically for use with high school and middle school students. These resources are accessible from the Teach hub and are organized by topic. Examples of featured curriculum units include: Foundations of Government, Legal Reference Library, Road to the Constitution, Influence Library, Civil Rights, Citizenship and Participation, News Literacy, International Affairs, Government and the Market, Geography Library, Persuasive Writing, and many more.
iCivics offers a wide range of educational games to promote students learning and engagement. iCivics games are created for use with students in class and do not require any prior knowledge. Each game includes detailed instructions on how to play it and also contains teaching resources such as teacher guides and pre/post-game activities to help teachers integrate them in classroom instruction. To find games on iCivics, you can either run a quick search using the integrated search box and under the Content Type check the box Game, or you can simply click on the Play button.
3- Lesson Plans
iCivics features a huge collection of lesson plans ad mini-lessons for both middle school and high school. Lesson plans contain various instructional activities including simulations, graphic organizers, skits, foldable activities, and many more. They also contain teaching resources such as PowerPoint slides, Google Slide decks, Newsela text sets, Nearpod templates, Kahoot quizzes, and more.
Webquest is a digital tool that helps students ‘connect civics concept to the real world’. Each webquest covers a specific topic and provides students with extra online resources to help them learn more about it. Webquests are composed of slides, resource links, and questions.
DBQuest ‘guides students through the examination of major questions in civics and history utilizing primary sources. With each document, it challenges students to dig into the text itself and find the relevant information through document-based supporting questions’.
Videos help students learn civics topics through short and meaningful animations. iCivics videos include closed captioning, learning objectives, downloadable resources, and many more.
Exploring primary Sources
Exploring Primary Sources is a project created by iCivics with the goal of providing learners with an easily accessible resource of free primary source materials. The purpose is to help students develop their critical thinking skills to use across the curriculum. Through critically assessing primary source documents, students get to develop a keen eye for details and learn how to express their own perspectives and become engaged citizens.
Exploring Primary Sources offers educational video content to use with students in class. Their videos cover different topics all of which revolve around the use of primary sources in education including the challenges to teaching with primary sources, strategies to select primary sources to include in class, how to integrate multiple perspectives, the different types of primary source documents, and many more.
Explore Primary Sources provides different classroom activities and tools to help students critically engage with primary sources. These include:
1. Eagle Eye Citizen
Eagle Eye Citizen ‘is a freely available resource designed to help middle and high school students think critically about civic participation, Congress, and American history using primary sources from the Library of Congress’.
2. Engaging Congress
Engaging Congress ‘teaches students the key concepts of representative government and citizenship. In each module, students focus on different civics concepts by analyzing a variety of primary sources. Each component of this learning tool, primary sources, content videos, mini-games, can be used on its own or as a part of a thematic module’.
3. History’s Mysteries
History’s Mysteries is ‘an inquiry-based curriculum featuring primary sources from the Library of Congress and other collections. With this curriculum, students dive into historical questions framed as mysteries to develop skills in primary source analysis and claim-based reasoning. History’s Mysteries curriculum is both adaptable with Google-based materials and ready to use with “click and play” slideshows, transcripts, and ready-to-use handouts’.
4. Journalism in Action
Journalism in Action is ‘an interactive learning tool exploring the history of journalism in society using historical primary sources. Journalism in Action was designed to help middle and high school students examine the role of a free press in different moments in United States history’.
Each KidCitizen episode ‘focuses on one or more related photographs from the Library of Congress, with topics ranging from Community Helpers to how Congress works. The episodes capitalize on the active and social nature of young children’s learning, using primary sources for rich demonstrations, interactions, and models of literacy’.
6. Voices for Suffrage
In Voices for Suffrage, ‘students use primary sources to explore, replay, and engage with the women’s suffrage movement. Students will learn about the tactics, arguments, key people, and historical events that led to women gaining the vote and they’ll have fun doing it’.
Some of my favourite websites that are especially useful in teaching social studies include Newsela, Nearpod, and Discovery Education. You can find more in this list of the best social studies resources for teachers and students.