Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

The Best Websites For Teaching & Learning About U.S. History

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'Smithsonian National Museum of American History' photo (c) 2008, F Delventhal - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I just agreed to teach two classes of United States History next year to English Language Learners. It will be an interesting experiment, since one class will be done almost entirely in the computer lab and the other will be mostly in my classroom. I’ll be doing a number of different assessments with both groups over the year (including self-assessments) to compare results between the two.

Given these upcoming classes, I thought it would be helpful for me to develop another “The Best…” list, this time focusing on U.S. History sites.

I have an extensive collection of U.S. History links accessible to English Language Learners on my website’s Geography & U.S. History page, but many are fairly narrow in scope.

In order for a site to make it onto this list, they needed to be….

* …broad in the time periods they covered.

* …offer something “value-added” by being on the Internet over a hard-copy textbook.

* … accessible to English Language Learners.

* …. available free-of-charge (except for one).

I found surprisingly few sites that had all these elements.

Here are my choices for The Best Websites For Teaching & Learning About U.S. History:

Number nine is actually comprised of two different online glossaries of United States history words. One is a McGraw Hill audio glossary providing text support for both the word and its definition. The other is a Glencoe Multilingual Dictionary with translations into thirteen different languages.

Number eight comes from Holt Social Studies. Next, if you click on each chapter, you will get access to chapter summaries in different languages and multimedia activities. (This site, however, is frequently off-line).

The Voice of America Special English series on The Making Of A Nation is number seven. These short episodes provide audio support to the text covering important moments in U.S. History. The top of their main page also provides instructions on how to easily access back episodes. Many Things has all the Voice Of America Special English broadcasts on American History organized chronologically.

Number six is U.S. History From Hippo Campus. Online movies cover the course of our continent’s history.

Awesome Stories is number five. You can find very accessible articles and interactive exercises at this excellent site, which has made several other of my lists. You have to register for your class or school, but it’s free and takes seconds.

Footnote is number four. It allows students to access millions of primary source documents and photos, and easily create online history reports. Their urls can then be posted, and students can also leave comments on their peers’ reports.

Number three is the fabulous Digital Vaults from the National Archives. Not only is it filled with incredible materials, but you can use its resources to create your own poster or movie, too.

I’m ranking Brainpop’s U.S. History Movies at number two. You have to pay for student access, but it’s well worth the price, especially since they began to close-caption their animations this school year.

And now, my pick as the number one Website For Teaching & Learning About U.S. History is….Mr. Nussbaum. There are tons of resources, interactives, and games there that will engage students.

Pete’s PowerPoint Station is a treasure trove of freely available PowerPoint presentations on all subjects, and most of them appear very accessible to English Language Learners. I’m particularly excited about the ones on United States History. Most of the other sites I’ve found that have history PowerPoints are much more advanced, and not very accessible, which is why I’m adding the site to this list.

I’m also adding an extraordinary collection of short online videos offered by the textbook publisher Glencoe.  I personally think their two U.S. History series are the best,

McDougal Littell’s Class Zone is also an addition. It has animated maps, online activities, animations — all with text support for audio. Just click on a subject and a state, and you’ll be amazed at what they offer online.

America In The Twentieth Century is a new series of online videos (the site will soon also be offering additional teacher support materials). It looks like an exceptional resource.

“The Price Of Freedom: Americans At War” is a Smithsonian multimedia interactive on each war in United States’ history. Videos (with transcript), images and text are included.

Docs Teach from the U.S. National Archives lets you easily create online activities using primary sources. Plus, you can access the interactives that others have created, too. It’s super-easy to register. Creating the interactives is not as intuitive as I would like, but it’s still pretty easy.

As regular readers know, this past school year I taught two U.S. History classes to English Language Learners — one in a regular classroom and the other in the computer lab. You can read more about the results of this research experiment at Results From My Year-Long U.S. History Tech Experiment.

I used a blog during the computer lab class. You can access the United States History Class blog and see an entire year’s of lessons designed for student self-access. You can also see links to the students blogs used during the course. The lessons include quite a bit of original material I developed for use in both of the classes, and they are available for download (during the year students would open up the documents and cut-and-paste the exercises into their own blogs).

You’re obviously welcome to use the resources there with your students. I just ask that you not publish or reprint any of my original materials for use other than by your students.

I’ve previously highlighted Glencoe’s online videos for social studies, but have now discovered that offer many more free resources to support all their social studies textbooks. They’re useful even if you don’t use their books, though, and they’re freely available. You can start off at their main Social Studies site or at their main site for all their textbooks. From there, it’s easy to navigate to their U.S. History, World History and Geography books. They all have links to videos, “in-motion animations” like this one, interactive maps like this (I especially like these maps because they offer audio support for the text), and different games (I especially like their categorization activities).

The History Channel has a great website to support their great United States History mini-series, The Story of Us. Their collection of forty-two short video clips is particularly impressive.

Shmoop has a very impressive collection of U.S. History slideshows organized chronologically.

This year, Pearson has, among other things, published a new U.S. History textbook and a new text on Ancient Civilizations. Big deal, right? Well, I don’t really care about the paperbound versions, but they has made the book’s online companion sites freely available. They both have some nice interactives.

Go to the site and then click on each chapter. There are good interactives for each one:

American: History of our Nation

SAS Curriculum Pathways Looks Like A Winner is a post about a new great resource.

Have Fun With History has a large collection of short video clips divided by historical era. Even better, they’re not hosted on YouTube, so are accessible to classes where YouTube is blocked.

The US History Teachers Blog by Ken Halla seems like a very useful resource for anyone teaching U.S. History. He posts a lot of useful resources.

The Smithsonian, in conjunction with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, has unveiled Preparing For The Oath.Not only is it now probably the best site out there for preparing people to take the U.S. Citizenship exam, it’s also just a great site to learn about U.S. History. Audio is available to support all the text, and it includes a practice exam.

Manifest Destiny – The Story of The US Told in 141 Maps is an impressive interactive that does exactly what the title says….

American Latino Theme Study is from The National Park Service.

“American History Handbook” Is A Useful Resource

101 Objects That Made America is from The Smithsonian.

Each year for the past two years I’ve posted about a new online “choose your own adventure” U.S. History game created by Mission US, which is funded by the Corporation For Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment For The Humanities.

First, there was one on the American Revolution, then on slavery.

They’ve just unveiled a third one in the series, this one focusing on Native Americans, and it looks great.

You can play A Cheyenne Odyssey here, and all the games here. You can read more about the new game here, and I’ve embedded a short trailer video below.

Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, has just announced several new online education resources.

The one that really stands out for me is Sea Of Liberty. After registering for free, teachers can create virtual classrooms and student can make lots of online interactive posters and projects using Monticello resources.

And if you found this post useful, you might want to consider subscribing to this blog for free.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

8 Comments

  1. We really like the Gilder Lehrman site -http://www.gilderlehrman.org/index.php – enough to have gotten rid of the traditional text entirely, even in AP. It has good modules, primary source documents and excellent podcasts.

  2. Pingback: The Best Websites For Teaching & Learning About U.S. History « Indigenous People’s Literature Weblog

  3. I teach language arts but this fall I will also add two social studies classes. I am going to check out some of the websites you provided.

  4. wish that you had seen fit to include EDSITEment. We have hundreds of history and social studies lessons, student interactives and vetted websites. Teachers at all levels seem to like our stuff. They certainly keep coming each day. Yesterday we had over 5,000 visits . In September we will be over 10,000 a day.

    http://edsitement.neh.gov/subject/history-social-studies

  5. Not sure that it will fit within your curriculum needs, but I use the “US Geography Games” on the website http://www.sheppardsoftware.com. They are leveled and accompanied by voice commands.

  6. I love the links of this page and I have had this bookmarked forever. I refer to it often. I also love http://classtakesomenotes.blogspot.com/ IT is a great resource for History Teachers as well.

  7. Larry,
    Thank you for the work on this superb list of resources. I’m newly credentialed and, though I don’t yet have my own classroom, I feel sure this will serve me well now and in the future.

    Much thanks.

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