Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

The Best Social Studies Websites — 2009

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It’s time for another year-end list, this time focusing on Social Studies sites. Previous related lists include:

The Best social studies websites 2007

The Best Social Studies Websites — 2008

And, of course, there are over 300 other “The Best…” lists, too.

As is the case in all my lists, some of these sites might have been around prior to 2009, but they were new to me this year.

Here are my choices for The Best Social Studies Websites — 2009 (that are accessible to English Language Learners):

Number nineteen: This is actually several links.  LIFE Magazine has unveiled newly discovered color photographs of Adolf Hitler. They’re pretty amazing. LIFE  has divided these color photos into several slideshows:

Adolf Hitler, Up Close

Adolf Hitler Among The Crowds

Adolf Hitler’s Private World

Hitler’s Humble Beginnings

Number eighteen:  The Watertown Public Schools have put together an exceptional overview of early American History at American History Central. It’s complete, accessible to Intermediate English Language Learners, good images, and is organized very well. Too bad it stops at the year 1800!

Number seventeen: Miniature Earth is a slideshow that uses statistics to reduce the world to 100 inhabitants, and shows how that plays out demographically, who uses what resources, etc. They periodically update the statistics.

Number sixteenRaising Walls is an intriguing feature from The Wall Street Journal highlighting famous….walls in history and around the world. The interactive graphic is supplemented by a slideshow, video, and article focused on walls being built around slums in Rio de Janeiro.

Number fifteen: Geographical Media is the newest addition to The Best Tools To Help Develop Global Media Literacy list. After you register (which is a free and easy process) you can see which topics are being covered in the news media in different parts of the world, and compare the differences. The site seems to have a number of other features — and it’s not particularly intuitive how to navigate through them — but the site has a lot of potential.

Number fourteenPhotos That Changed The World posts a new photo each day that had a major impact on….the world. In addition, there’s a short description of the image and the circumstances surrounding it.  Obviously, the photos are accessible to all English Lan guage Learners, and the texts can be read by Intermediates. (this site is not longer working. Instead, go to The Best Sites To See “Photos That Changed The World”)

Number thirteenThe Constitution For Kids has three “levels” of explanations about the U.S. Constitution. An English Language Learner — from high Beginning to Advanced — can choose which one he/she finds most accessible.

Number twelveCareer Aisle is from the South Carolina PBS Station, and has many short, and accessible, videos on different careers. There are a number of other activities and resources related to jobs there, too.

Number eleven: Project Label is a new site that I’m adding to The Best Places Where Students Can Write For An “Authentic Audience”. The site provides “social nutrition” labels to corporations based on a number of criteria including safety, nutrition, values, etc. The labels in large part are determined by users on the site who vote on the usefulness and validity of articles on the corporations that other users upload. Students can write their own articles to add, or can leave comments on the articles that others contribute, in addition to voting.

Number ten: 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.

Number nine:  The Virginia Educational Wizard is a cool interactive guide to careers and colleges. It’s obviously geared towards students in Virginia, but their Interest Assessment is one of the most engaging ones I’ve seen and would be a useful tool for any students exploring potential careers.

Number eightTimelines is a neat tool that lets users contribute towards making “timelines” of historical events with text, photos, and videos. People can then vote on which ones they like best, though everyone’s contributions appear to remain displayed. It’s extremely easy to contribute — much, much easier than to something like Wikipedia.  Timelines is a great place for students to write for an authentic audience, which is why I’m adding it to The Best Places Where Students Can Write For An “Authentic Audience”.

Number seven: Map Battle is a very easy-to-use tool to create geography games online. It’s like a less-fancy The Traveler IQ Challenge game.

Number sixNewsy is a site that — in short videos — compares how major news events are covered by media throughout the world. I’m adding it to The Best Tools To Help Develop Global Media Literacy list.  In some ways, it’s similar to Link TV, which is also on the list.  Newsy, though, isn’t quite as interactive, though you can leave comments if you’re registered.  For that reason, I’m also adding it to The Best Places Where Students Can Write For An “Authentic Audience”. The speaking is pretty fast and relatively high-level, so it’s probably only accessible to advanced English Language Learners.

Number five:  In The Best Sites For Students To Create Budgets, I talk about the best site for students in California to get a grasp of what the real costs are of living on your own.  It’s the California Reality Check. If I had to design a site for English Language Learners, it would be close to how this tool looks. It has a step-by-step process for developing a basic budget, and it includes the different specific costs for living expenses in all the major California cities. The drawback, however, is that it only shows the income needed if you are in a California community.  Now there’s a site that will provide you with a localized budget of what you need to live in any city or town in the United States.  It’s called The Living Wage Calculator, and has been developed by people at Pennsylvania State University.  Note that the budget is shows is their calculation of the basic costs that a family will have, not necessarily one that will provide what is commonly called a “middle class lifestyle.”

Number fourCulture Crossing is a unique resource for information about different countries. It provides some basic demographics, but it also shares details about communication style, dress, gestures, etc. It’s unlike any other source of information about countries that’s on the web. I’ll certainly be having my students use it now when they develop reports about countries.

Number threeHypercities is a neat “mashup” of what various cities have looked like over the past several hundred years. By using a “slider,” you can choose a year, and then various images of that city from that time are shown. It’s pretty ingenious, and certainly the basics are accessible to English Language Learners.

Number two: Tony Cassidy has compiled a great list of online Social Studies games.  There are too many to list here but, trust me, you want to check them out!

Number one: The BBC has  unveiled an exceptional new History site. It’s targeting primary learners, and, to quote their description:

“It covers 6 primary history topics – Ancient Greeks, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Children in Victorian Britain and Children of WW2 – with a photo and video library and an interactive timeline, plus quizzes, activities and games.”

It’s very accessible to English Language Learners, and the games have audio support for the text.  The only disappointment is that the videos aren’t available to watch if you’re in the United States.

Feedback is always welcome.

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You might also want to explore nearly 300 other “The Best…” lists I’ve compiled.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

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

5 Comments

  1. Thank you for the mention of Timelines.com!

  2. FYI, the link for number 14, photos that changed the world, directs you to the wrong website.

  3. I am looking for one or more history teachers who would like to try a pilot project for next year. I am gathering the art and architecture around the world into a course and would like to work with a group of interested teachers. If I had access the the history book being used I could create either alone or with the student art history pages for each unit.

    Katherine Bolman, PhD

  4. Thanks for these website links. I’m definitely going to pass this blog onto my colleagues so that we may all be inspired by this list of online content. Why work harder when you can work smarter!

  5. I want to tell you that your work is just wonderful.

    I may have something to contribute and I may need some help from you or someone you know. I am creating a course in the history of art around the world ahaafoundation.org I start with prehistoric art in Australia dated about 50,000 BCE and am working on early civilizations at the moment. I feel, and hope you do as well, that if the students could see the art and hear the music produced as they learn the the history it would deepen their knowledge of history.

    If you have any ideas about funding I am a not for profit.

    It would be helpful to me to hear from you.
    Aloha from Hawaii,
    Katherine Bolman

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