Civics Education Resource Site

Resources for Continuity of Learning in Civics

COVID-19 has upended many of the routines and traditions that undergird our lives. Teachers have been called upon to create meaningful learning experiences to further develop student knowledge and skills in a homebound environment.

IllinoisCivics.org has curated a number of resources to help you and your students navigate the challenge of remote learning. This list will be updated regularly. We hope to go beyond sending you links, but, be the link for the support you need to prepare students for college, career and civic life in these unprecedented times.

Best Practices in Distance Learning for Teachers

Put Maslow before Bloom. Start your interactions with students with simple questions or bell ringers like, how are you doing? What are some challenges you are facing right now? How can I help you?

  • Your students might reach out to you with questions about COVID-19. The News Literacy Project created a web page to address misinformation about the virus that can be a valuable resource for you.
  • SEL offers a powerful means to explore and express our emotions, build relationships, and support each other – children and adults alike – during this challenging time. CASEL has curated resources designed to support educators, parents, and anyone who works with children. The page will be updated regularly in response to changing conditions.

Focus on what works best for YOUR students based on age, content, ability and technology access.

  • Create asynchronous learning experiences.
  • Less is more for the number of assignments and instruction.
  • There are several Chrome extensions to support struggling learners and special needs.
  • Grackle Docs is free for education through June 30th. This tool makes documents from Google Suite accessible to meet legal requirements for Sections 504 & 508, ADA, and Title II compliance.
  • You can differentiate readings for students. Newsela is free for the remainder of this school year. You can also use an app like Rewordify.

Offer a variety of options and experiences to allow for personalization of the learning with explicit instruction and time expectations.

  • Choice Boards are one tool you can use to allow students to self-differentiate and choose from a menu of activities to meet learning objectives.
  • Consider creating a Week at a Glance calendar to provide a “big picture” of the week that allows students and parents to design their day and week with this anchor document. Where applicable, you can embed links to videos, assignments, and other documents.

Communicate consistently and constantly with all stakeholders.

  • Specify expectations for students and parents, but be empathetic and flexible to the circumstances
  • Use your email automatic reply feature and school voice mail to communicate when parents and students can expect a response from you.
  • Use free apps like Talk Points to reach out to students and their families in their native language.
  • Set “office hours” where you are available to talk online or by phone.

When it comes to technology, stick with what you and your students know.

  • This is NOT the time to try out all of the new tech tools you have been curious about. This will only add extra stress on you AND your students as you try to navigate the nuances and glitches of new technologies.
  • If you decide to try something new, try one thing at a time and look for supplemental tutorials and resources that can support both you and your students. EdTech Classroom has several YouTube videos to help you navigate these tools. You might want to start with How to Teach Remotely Using a Google Slides HyperDoc or How to Teach Remotely Using Flipgrid.
  • Neverware turns old computers or laptops into a Chrome book. You need a 16 HB flash drive. The process takes about 45 minutes total.

Take care of yourself!

  • Connect with other educators and pool resources.
  • Review these blogs from We Are Teachers and iCivics for ideas to promote self-care.

Best Practices in Distance Learning for Students and Families

  • Check your email & communicate with teachers, but be patient. This is new for both you AND your teachers.
  • Create a schedule for students to complete schoolwork and include time for “recess” or breaks.
  • Create a distraction-free place for students to work/study.
  • Allow students to use learning styles that work best for the way they learn.
  • Become familiar with the technology and tools needed to participate in the work and ask questions of both teachers and your peers.
  • Collaborate with others to troubleshoot questions and engage in study sessions.
  • Take care of yourself! Get a good night’s sleep, exercise regularly and eat to stay healthy.
  • The Parent’s Guide to Talking to Kids about Coronavirus might help answer difficult questions.
  • For more tips on how to support homebound learning, read Tips for Students Participating in Remote Learning.

Lesson Plans & Resources for Civics Grades 6-12

  • American Bar Association - Division of Public Education's Teacher's Portal is designed to help teachers educate their students about the law.
  • American Presidency Project is a hub for presidential documents on the internet.
  • Annenberg Learner/Social Studies & History - A collection of lesson plans related to teaching a variety of social studies topics.
  • The Ashbrook Center has curated its Teaching American History resources to identify the ones best suited to online teaching.
  • Ben's Guide to the U.S. Government is designed to inform students, parents, and educators about the Federal Government, which issues the publications and information products disseminated by the GPO’s Federal Depository Library Program.
  • The Bill of Rights Institute provides lesson plans based on primary sources as well as a “comprehensive digital course on History, Government & Economics” called Documents of Freedom.
  • C3 Teachers/Student Inquiries - C3 Teachers are pleased to publish these inquiries collected at different grade levels in vary to content topics from around the country.
  • Casemaker features twenty pre-made civics challenges that teachers can share with their students, or customize and annotate specifically for your needs.
  • Center for Civic Education is dedicated to promoting an enlightened and responsible citizenry committed to democratic principles and actively engaged in the practice of democracy in the United States and other countries.
  • Center on Representative Government has interactive learning modules that are a nice introduction to how Congress works, what members of Congress do, and the importance of citizen participation.
  • Certell offers entire online courses with free social studies content.
  • Choices - Teaching with the News has free lessons that connect your classroom to headlines in the news.
  • Civics 101 has great audio, activities, resources, and lessons to help students stay engaged (or reengage) with civics during this challenging time.
  • Civics360 has modules to help students enhance their civic knowledge and skills to know about the government and how “we the people” interact with the government and each other.
  • Civics Renewal Network is a consortium of nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations. On the Civics Renewal Network site, teachers can find the best resources of these organizations, searchable by subject, grade, resource type, standards, and teaching strategy.
  • Constitute allows students to interact with the world’s constitutions in a few different ways.
  • Constitutional Rights Foundation is providing lessons and activities for distance learning.
  • C-SPAN Classroom is a free membership service for social studies teachers. Their mission is to enhance the teaching of social studies through C-SPAN's primary source programming and websites.
  • The Digital Resource Center at Stony Brook provides lesson plans for teachers and access to video tutorials and other materials to help students work independently or prepare for a "flipped classroom."
  • Docs Teach from the National Archives is an online tool for teaching with documents that has a collection of activities and lesson plans crafted by educators using documents from the National Archives.
  • EDSITEment! from the National Endowment for the Humanities has a collection of classroom-ready lessons and materials for K-12 social studies education.
  • Facing History and Ourselves has resources and lesson plans to address racism, antisemitism, and prejudice at pivotal moments in history to help students connect choices made in the past to those they will confront in their own lives.
  • Florida Joint Center for Citizenship works in partnership with Florida teachers, social studies district coordinators and national partners to develop and distribute K-12 curriculum resources to support effective civics instruction and improved civic learning.
  • Generation Global uses online portals and videoconferences to allow students to interact directly with their peers around the world, engaging in dialogue around issues of culture, identity, beliefs, values, and attitudes.
  • Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History now offers free access to remote learning resources.
  • iCivics provides free resources that engage students in meaningful civic learning, including a collection of curriculum units and their Scope & Sequence.
  • IllinoisCivics.org has numerous lesson plans aligned to the Illinois civics mandates for grades 6-12.
  • The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center has a number online learning to support students to take a stand as an upstander in their community.
  • In the Interactive Constitution, scholars from across the legal and philosophical spectrum interact with each other to explore the meaning of each provision of the Constitution.
  • KQED Teach is a free platform for middle and high school students to tackle big issues and build their media literacy and critical thinking skills in a supportive environment.
  • Library of Congress - Citizen U Integrates inquiry-based civics lessons across disciplines—English language arts, math, science, and social studies.
  • The Living Room Candidate contains more than 300 commercials, from every presidential election since 1952. Admaker is an online editing tool that allows students to remix a historic campaign ad or to make a new ad.
  • Mikva Challenge is providing educators daily remote learning issues to informed lesson plans in their Facebook Educator group or via Twitter @mikvachallenge.
  • The National Constitution Center has just started daily classes on the Constitution: “daily live constitutional conversations for middle school, high school, and college students, available through Zoom, and accessible on home computer, laptop, or phone.” The Center offers many additional resources focused on the Constitution and where scholars agree and disagree on how to interpret it.
  • New York Times Current Events provides resources for teaching about current events using New York Times content.
  • News Literacy Project - Checkology empowers students to become smart consumers of information in all its forms and engaged participants in civic life.
  • Newsela Social Studies gives teachers thousands of texts, with an emphasis on diverse and unheard perspectives. Newsela provides primary sources, U.S. founding documents and Supreme Court cases, biographies, op-eds, and more.
  • Newseum provides online classes & training on First Amendment and Media Literacy. You can also search for lesson plans and discussion topics, among other resources.
  • Our American Voice is an innovative, ethics-driven, leadership program that helps students develop a deeper understanding of the American democratic process and prepares them for civic life and community engagement.
  • PBS Learning Media has resources about the teaching of Civics and Government.
  • ProCon.org's mission statement is "Promoting critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship by presenting controversial issues in a straightforward, nonpartisan, and primarily pro-con format."
  • Read, Write, Inquire provides a downloadable curriculum that creates a process to support middle school students' argument writing through the reading of sources and analysis of complex social and historical problems.
  • The ReDistricting Game is designed to educate, engage, and empower citizens around the issue of political redistricting.
  • The Social Studies Collaborative Drive provides lessons, resources, hyperdocs, templates, activities, tools, and ideas submitted by teachers and posted in a shared online folder.
  • Stanford History Education Group Civic Online Reasoning - Students are confused about how to evaluate online information. SHEG provides free lessons and assessments that help you teach students to evaluate online information that affects them, their communities, and the world.
  • StoryCorps gives people of all backgrounds, typically two at a time, the opportunity to record meaningful conversations and archives the recordings at the Library of Congress.
  • Street Law helps equip classroom teachers with the strategies, techniques, and materials needed to be effective educators of civics, government, and law. They have a lot of free resources throughout their website and their store.
  • Teaching Tolerance provides film kits, lesson plans, texts, student tasks, and teaching strategies that promote SEL and academic rigor.
  • TedEd has numerous videos on “Government: Declassified.”
  • Time for Kids digital library provides turnkey teaching tools, with worksheets and quizzes for families or teachers
  • Unsilence fills a critical gap in civics education. Through storytelling, the arts, and serious games, they unsilence hidden injustices and marginalized voices.
  • WE Teachers is an online platform that helps you address critical social issues with your class, from trauma and bullying to mental well-being.

Many thanks to Joe Schmidt from the Maine Department of Education, Stefanie Wager from the Iowa Department of Education and the Ohio Council for the Social Studies for their generosity in contributing resources and ideas to this list.