Last year I published The Best Social Studies Websites — 2007, and now it’s time for a new list.

In order to make the list, these sites have to be accessible and engaging to English Language Learners and native-speakers alike. They must also be able to be used by a teacher who only knows how to email and copy and paste a web address.

Some of these sites were around prior to 2008. However, since I didn’t post about them until this year, I’m including them in this year’s rankings. In fact, unlike some of my other “The Best…” lists, I haven’t posted previously about many of these sites, including most of the top-ranked ones.

I have not included any Web 2.0 applications or online learning games here. Many of those sites are also useful in Social Studies, and you’ll have to go to those previous lists to find them.  You might also be interested in The Best Websites For Teaching & Learning About World History and The Best Websites For Teaching & Learning About U.S. History.

Here are my picks for The Best Social Studies Websites – 2008:

Number nineteen is Shmoop.  It’s sort of a Cliff’s Notes — but a whole lot better.  I especially like its History section. It’s probably only accessible to advanced English Language Learners, but teachers could certainly easily modify parts to create more usable materials. It also offers links to additional good resources.

Number eighteen is a Social Studies textbook companion site from Harcourt Publishers. I’d primarily recommend the resources under “Adventure Activities” and “Skills.” They’re simple, but engaging, learning exercises.

Number seventeen is a textbook companion site from MacMillan/McGraw Hill. It has two specific parts I want to highlight. One is a section called In Motion that you can get to via its U.S. History site. After you click on most of the chapter links you see, you’ll also find an “In Motion” category that leads you to accessible animations with audio narration.

Number sixteen is Safe Drinking Water, a site developed by the Academy of Sciences to highlight worldwide water issues. It has several good videos that are closed-captions, along with an atlas showing which countries have less or more access to water resources. It’s definitely accessible to Intermediate English Language Learners.

Number fifteen is The Zip Code Census Dashboard, a very simple and informative site that shows you demographic data for any zip code you enter.

Number fourteen is Geobeats. It has a huge collection of short travel videos from around the world.

Number thirteen is Hidden Children and the Holocaust, an online exhibition from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. It includes closed-captioned video about the saga of Jewish children who were hidden from the Nazi’s.

Number twelve is What The World Eats, an online slideshow from Time magazine that shows families from fifteen different countries, along with what they eat during one week and its cost. This site can be used with English Language Learners to initiate a discussion on economic inequities; use in compare/contrast activities; and take advantage of it to develop new vocabulary.

Number eleven is a nice online feature from National Geographic called Places Of A Lifetime. It highlights major cities from all over the work sharing information, images, and videos. It also has short and simple quizzes users can take. The language is accessible to Intermediate English Language Learners, and the images can certainly be viewed by anyone.

Number ten is Mapdango, a “mash-up” — a combination of a variety of web applications. It’s a neat geographical and map search engine that, after you enter the location you’re interested in, will show you the area’s weather, areas of interest from Wikipedia, Flickr photos, and other items. One particularly useful feature is that it shows all of the above connected to its geographical location on a map, too.

Number nine is Kids Past World History For Kids, a great website for English Language Learners. It’s not deep, but provides a very accessible overview to many eras of world history. It also has fun history games.

Number eight is Visual Geography is a nice site with images, information, and quizzes about 85 countries around the world. The text is accessible to Intermediate English Language Learners, and the images are obviously good for students of all levels. I like the quizzes it has about each country, and I also really like a neat feature called “Compare.” You can pick any two countries and easily compare their demographic data with a click of the mouse.

Number seven is a companion site to a textbook by Pearson titled World History: Connections To Today. If you go to each chapter, you’ll find what they call a History and Geography Interactive. Most of these short slideshows provide text support for the narration, as well as good graphics.

Number six is another companion site to a textbook by Pearson called America: History of Our Nation. If you use the drop-down menu, each chapter has excellent multimedia related to that era. I particularly like the link to “exploring each chapter’s essential question.” When you click on it, you’re taken to a short slideshow that provides audio support for the text.

Number five is one I’ve posted in the past about iCue, the new site recently launched by NBC. They’ve launched an extraordinary new section to the site focused on U.S. History.

Number four is a series of “History Snapshots” from Pearson. These short slideshows, which include accessible text, support the study of United States History.

Number three is “The Digital Vaults”,  an entry into the vast resources of the National Archives, and allows you to use those resources to create your own movies, posters, and what it calls “Pathway Challenges” to… challenge others to find connections between a series of images, documents, and other resources you put together.

Number two is 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, but they also have quite a few accessible ones on Government (actually, two groups of them), World History, and Geography.

And now, for the one site that stands “heads and shoulders” above the rest, and is the number one Best Social Studies Website for the year…. McDougal Littell’s Class Zone. This may have very well be around prior to this year, but I just discovered it, and it’s quite a find. 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.

As always, feedback is welcome.

If you found this post useful, you might want to look at previous “The Best…” lists and also consider subscribing to this blog for free.