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 4 online interactive games and simulations that you can use in your classroom to bring social studies to life. The following website are perfect for US History, Geography, Civics Education, and Map Skills.
This simulation website for US history is incredible! If you loved the Oregon Trail game as a kid, your students will love playing these interactive simulation games. Choose from 5 different game modules from different periods in history. Within each game, your students become a character and have the ability to make choices that impact the future. I love that the game integrates key vocabulary too. Now, one thing to note is that even though the character within the game speak, 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. This is great because you could also 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, capitols, 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 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. Love it! Anyway, This game is organized into different rounds with different challenges. I love that the questions not only include geography, but wrap in history as well. All of the questions are based on past GeoBee Challenge questions. There are more than 1300 questions and over 1,000 map location questions, so you students will never get bored playing.
To play the review game on a desktop click here: Quiz National Geographic Society GeoBee Challenge
BONUS: UPDATE 3/2020
I know this post says 4 games, but I am throwing in a bonus! I recently met 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 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 games in your classroom? Share your thoughts in the comments. What other games do you play in your classroom?