What Does It Mean to Be a Citizen? is my post and lesson plan at The New York Times Learning Network.

Here’s another similar post I wrote for The Times.

And here’s yet another student interactive for ELLs on citizenship I created for The Times.

It’s time for another one of my The Best Of…. lists. This one will highlight the ten — well, actually eleven, since there’s a tie for first place — best websites for learning about civic participation and citizenship.

Even though the main focus of this list is assisting English Language Learners, a number of the sites are appropriate for native-English speakers of all ages. I’ve tried to strike a balance between including resources to help immigrants to the United States prepare for their Citizenship test and also list sites that encourage everyone to become active citizens in improving their communities — whatever country they live in.

I was particularly interested in doing this list since I’m starting to teach a Government class this coming semester that will be using a great deal of technology. All these sites will be helpful to my class, and I wanted to make sure that I also included some that non-U.S. residents might find useful — I hope my Government students will be working with classes around the world.

The number nine site is Ben’s Guide To U.S. Government. It’s sponsored by the United States Government Printing Office, and offers a very accessible description of government here in the U.S. There are three levels based on people’s age (and English level) which is very helpful to English Language Learners.

Number seven is the study site hosted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for the citizenship test.

U.S. Citizenship Podcast is number three. It has an extraordinary amount of resources related to preparing for the U.S. Citizenship test. They recently posted a wealth of quizzes related to the new U.S. Citizenship Test — they’ll be a huge help to ELL’s and their teachers.

Number two is The Community Organizing Toolkit. I was a community organizer for nineteen years prior to becoming a classroom teacher. I believe organizing is an extraordinarily effective way to develop leadership, learn, and create social change. Though I have a number of issues with how this animated, text, and audio presentation portrays organizing, it still gives an important perspective for people to hear.

Now, for my number one ranked website for learning about civic participation and citizenship…..

The  number one site is EL Civics For ESL Students. Christina Niven has designed a wonderful site to help people learn about the United States and everyday life skills. The images, text, design, and support materials are very accessible to all levels of English Language Learners.

Karen Hilgemanhas developed a number of additional online citizenship activities.

Law Focused Education also has a number of citizenship-related games.

You can also access my 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.

Vote Easy is a very accessible interactive that lets users identify their opinion on several key public policy issues, and then compares those positions with those of local candidates. It’s probably the best site of its kind that I’ve seen, and is certainly accessible to English Language Learners. I’m going to add the site to this list, and hope they update the site for each election or, even better, modify it so users can regularly inform themselves of the positions taken by politicians and compare it to their own.

Cast Your Vote is an interactive game on the iCivics site. There are a lot of interactives there, but I think most of them are overly-complicated — even for native English speakers. “Cast Your Vote,” though, puts you in the role of a person at a political debate asking questions and evaluating the answers of the people running for office. It’s pretty good and useful.

Lynne Weintraub of Citizenship News emailed this video of a naturalization ceremony. I’m just going to quote her description. One thing she doesn’t mention is that it has subtitles.

If you’re looking for a video of a USCIS Oath Ceremony to show your students, there are plenty on YouTube, however they’re mostly home-made, and don’t have clear sound quality or visuals. Here’s a link to an Oath Ceremony that was filmed 9/23/11, by USCIS for their YouTube channel. The video has professional quality visual and sound quality, and features some famous people: Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security (who administers the oath), Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (who tells about becoming a citizen herself, and how much that meant to her) and Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior. As is traditional for Oath Ceremonies, there is the “Presentation of the Colors” (flag ceremony), the group says the Pledge of Allegiance, and sings the National Anthem.

It takes a while to view the whole thing (it’s 37 minutes long), but even if you fast-forward through some of the sections, it’s a good resource for giving students an idea of what to expect at their Oath Ceremonies.

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.

Photos: Faces of citizenship is a slideshow from CNN.

Pumarosa has long been on The Best Multilingual & Bilingual Sites For Learning English list. Now, though, Paul Rogers, the site’s creator, has decided to allow free access to its Civics and U.S. History section.

Could You Pass A US Citizenship Test is an interactive from The Christian Science Monitor.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has released this video of new citizens taking the rather obscure “Oath of Allegiance” at ceremonies across the United States:

What does the US citizenship exam actually test? is from PRI. It shares an interesting perspective, and also includes an interactive quiz.

Yes, Schools Should Develop Active Citizens &, No, We Don’t Need Another Test To Do It

Today Is “Citizenship Day” As Well As “U.S. Constitution Day” – Here Are Resources For Both

Instead Of High School Exit Exams For Civics, Study Suggests SEL Programs Would Be Better Way To Go

Video & Transcript Of Exceptional Speech By Pres. Obama At Naturalization Ceremony

Statistic Of The Day: New U.S. Citizens

Choosing to Become an American is a photo gallery of citizenship ceremonies.

New Times Call for a New Civics is from Edutopia.

Guest Post | Ideas for Student Civic Action in a Time of Social Uncertainty is from The New York Times Learning Network.

For new citizens, America is still the best place on Earth is from The San Francisco Chronicle. Note that the article says that President Trump, unlike Obama and Bush, has chosen to not record a video welcoming new citizens.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services recently expanded its materials to help study for the Citizenship test. They have an iPhone app, an online practice test, and more Study Materials for the English Test.

How Do You Become A U.S. Citizen? is a new video that provides a good overview of citizenship during the history of the United States.

However, it does have two glaring omissions: the deportation of thousands of U.S. citizens of Mexican heritage during the Depression (see America’s Forgotten History Of Mexican-American ‘Repatriation‘) and the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.

‘I’m a Real American Now’: New Citizens Take the Oath, Trump in Mind is from The New York Times.

Nevertheless, I’m still adding it to this list:


An Artistic Approach to Becoming a U.S. Citizen is a NY Times article about a fascinating museum-based project to prepare people for the Citizenship test.

Excellent New Online Activities To Prep For Citizenship Test Unveiled

New course uses art to help aspiring U.S. citizens learn American history is from NBC News.

Statistic Of The Day: Civic Participation Helps Students

Inspiring Active Citizenship Across Disciplines is by Sarah Cooper.

Engaging Youth in Civic Action Through Writing is from The Teaching Channel.

Listen To What Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Says Before She Administers Oath To New Citizens


‘Out of Many, One’ Is New Netflix Short Documentary On U.S. Immigration & Citizenship

The Digital Civics Toolkit comes from Project Zero.


Welcome To The Civics Practice Test! is from the USCIS.

REEP World Citizenship Resources.

Quiz: Can You Answer the Hardest Citizenship Test Questions? is from The NY Times.

American History for English Learners is from Many Things.

Can YOU pass the U.S. citizenship test? Take this quiz is from CNN.

Trump administration’s revisions to the naturalization exam could make the test harder for immigrants seeking citizenship is from CNN.

Trump officials unveil new U.S. citizenship test, as advocates worry it is too long, difficult and politicized is from The Washington Post.

New U.S. Citizenship Test Is Longer and More Difficult is from The NY Times.

The Trump Administration Just Made the Citizenship Test Harder. How Would You Do? is from The NY Times.

Trump’s New Citizenship Test Is Full of Conservative Bias—And Dotted With Mistakes is from Politico.

Biden Is Planning To Scrap Trump’s Version Of The Citizenship Test That Critics Said Was More Confusing is from BuzzFeed News.

When students research the inequality in their own schools is from The Hechinger Report.

USCIS Announces Plans to Revert to the 2008 Version of the Naturalization Civics Test is from Citizenship News.

Civics for All: Empowering English and Multilingual Learners is from iCivics, and has some quotes from me in it.




USA Hello offers free online Citizenship classes.

Study For Citizenship Test uses AI to help you….study for the US citizenship test.

How to help kids become skilled citizens


#MyFellowCitizens is a resource from the Smithsonian designed to have students think about what citizenship means.

What Does It Mean To Be An American is a “Curriculum for high school and college students that examines what it means to be an American developed by the Mineta Legacy Project and Stanford’s SPICE program.”  It’s designed to either be taught by teachers or accessed directly by students.  I think their unit on civic engagement is particularly useful. 

Preparing for the Oath is from The Smithsonsian.

Teaching American Democracy through Portraiture: Civic Participation is from The Smithsonian.

You can find other “Best of…” lists here.

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