Common Sense Review
Updated June 2015

Stellar collection of U.S. history content, lesson plans, best practices
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Common Sense Rating 4
  • includes lessons on a wide range of U.S. History topics.
  • The site is well-organized and easy to navigate.
  • Teaching guides and reviews help teachers use the resources strategically in the classrooom.
  • The site also provides links to valuable tech tools.
Explore tons of topics and a wealth of killer teacher-created content; lessons address tons of critical skills and offer helpful teacher tips.
The amount of resources available could be overwhelming; revisions may be necessary to make the lessons meaningful for specific student groups.
Bottom Line
A gold mine for any U.S. history teacher, appropriate for every grade level.
Jennifer Sitkin
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 3

Vast resources should ensure that lessons appeal to a wide range of students, but student interest depends on how teachers use the resources in the classroom.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

Teachers will find a large collection of lessons, resources, and strategies to support U.S. history instruction. Solid tips provide additional help for teaching struggling readers and ELLs.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 4

The site is easy to navigate with multiple search tools. Lesson reviews include at-a-glance details and more extensive background information to assist teachers.

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

The best way to start using is to set aside a chunk of time to go through the site and see all it has to offer. Teachers can search for a particular topic to supplement their existing curriculum, read about innovative teaching strategies, ask educational experts questions, find engaging technology tools, get ideas for how to implement best practices, and so much more. While the site is really teacher-facing, there are online true/false quizzes that provide immediate feedback and links to interactive features that could be used directly by students. Both students and teachers can also use the site to conduct research, as all the materials cite sources and include interesting links to spur users to further explore each topic.

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What's It Like? is a clearinghouse of resources to teach students about U.S. history. The goal of the site is to improve access to education for all learners. There are numerous ways to search the site to find useful materials. Search by Best Practices to find examples of historical thinking, using primary sources, teaching with textbooks, and teaching in action. Search by Digital Classroom to find examples of technology tools to enhance classroom learning. Search by Teaching Materials to find lesson plan reviews and teaching guides. In addition, there are blog articles, information on issues and research, and quick links to grade-level materials and spotlight topics. There is also the "Ask a ..." option, which lets teachers access an expert historian, digital historian, or master teacher and submit a question. Teachers can also explore recommendations for apps, sites, and tools to support their work.

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Is It Good For Learning?

With all of the educational resources available on the Web, is a valuable clearinghouse and search tool for teachers to easily access high-quality materials. There's just so much here: Dozens of lessons encourage critical thinking and help students gain a deeper understanding of history, and the short reviews provide background information and suggestions for how to best implement the lesson in the classroom. For example, in a lesson on World War II propaganda, the review includes an overview of the lesson and then includes strengths in content and instructional strategies to help teachers connect these insights and materials to their existing course content.

Beyond the lessons, the Best Practices resources support better teaching and better learning: Included articles describe skills like how to analyze primary documents, how to read like a historian, and how to make sense of maps. There are also suggestions for how to support ELL students and struggling readers so they can access the history curriculum. The tagging system is especially robust: Teachers can link instantly to related resources around the site and quickly amass a wealth of tools to extend their lessons and better address their students' needs. Overall, this is a site that inspires kids to dig deeper and empowers teachers to improve their practice. 

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