I'm always on the lookout for ways to utilize technology in my classroom in a meaningful way. Today, classrooms are moving into more tech integration, and many classrooms have access to computers, chrome books, or tablets. With this in mind, I'd love to share 5 online interactive games and simulations that you can use in your classroom to bring social studies to life. The following websites are perfect for history, geography, civics, and more.
This simulation website for American history is incredible! If you loved the Oregon Trail game as a kid, your students will love playing these interactive simulation games. Choose between 5 modules each from a different period in history. Within each simulation, your students take on the role of a character and have the ability to make choices that impact the future. I love that the games integrate key vocabulary too. One thing to note is that even though the character within the game speaks, there is still quite a bit of reading involved.
This game can be played independently or whole group. If you choose to play whole group, it works well if the teacher works the computer, and calls on different students to make choices. You could have your students vote on the choice to make. Sometimes when we’ve played this, the choice results in the inability to successfully finish a level. We have to go back and re-do the level and make different choices. Playing whole group also allows all students to participate. Because this game involves a lot of reading, sometimes I will just read the character choices aloud. Overall, this game is definitely one I would consider playing in your upper elementary and middle school US history classes.
This website is a great resource for practice quizzes of all things geography. You can set up an account to monitor your students’ progress. The quizzes include countries, cities, capitals, world flags, world leaders, and more. There are even quizzes that cover art history. This works well for early finishers, but you could project the quiz on the screen and go through a quiz together as a class for a daily warm-up. I have found that when students get on their own computer, they love to see if they can beat their time or have better accuracy.
Sometimes I’ve heard my students say, “why do I need to know the G20 world leaders?” I often tell my students, “how about you watch the world news tonight, and come back and tell me why tomorrow.” I’ve had students come back and say, "I heard the name on the radio and I knew who they were talking about!” Or, “I saw their picture on the news and I paid attention because I recognized them."
This website offers a number of simulations that revolve around civics education. In the simulation, Do I Have a Right? players get to run a law firm that specializes in constitutional law. This simulation includes issues that are relevant to our students today, such as the privacy of text messages. The game includes audible portions, so students do not need to read a lot of text in order to play the game. This game could be played whole group, but it would also work well independently.
This game is an app that can be played on a tablet, and is created by National Geographic. I honestly just love that the game opens with the NatGeo theme music. This game is organized into different rounds with different challenges. The questions not only cover geography but wrap in history as well. All of the questions are based on past GeoBee Challenge questions. There are more than 1,300 questions and over 1,000 map location questions, so there's always something new when you open the app. To play the review game on a desktop click here: Quiz National Geographic Society GeoBee Challenge
I recently had the opportunity to meet with a member of the Indiana Council for the Social Studies and learned about the Engaging Congress learning app. Indiana University created an amazing app that uses primary source documents in a game format to explore the basic tenets of representative government. The game can be found in the app store. I started playing and it was honestly hard to stop. The Engaging Congress website has lots of teacher resources as well that are all free.
Have you played any of these web-based learning games in your classroom? Share your thoughts in the comments. What other learning websites would you recommend?