Website review by Jennifer Sitkin, Common Sense Education | Updated August 2015

Zoom In!

Top-notch lessons teach historical content, boost analytical skills

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Community rating
Based on 7 reviews
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Subjects & Skills
Social Studies, Character & SEL, Critical Thinking

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Pros: A comprehensive instruction and assessment tool where students analyze documents, participate in discussions, and write evidence-based essays.

Cons: Online grading can be time-consuming; text-heavy documents may be difficult for some students to access.

Bottom Line: A go-to resource for the CCSS era, filled with rich content and meaningful opportunities for skill development.

Teachers should set up a free account, review the lesson offerings, add classes, and take a test drive on a student account. Students can access assignments with a class code, and teachers can begin to monitor and assess student work. Students should use 1-to-1 devices to best make use of the site's features. Teachers can choose to provide direct instruction, or students can work independently through the lessons. The lessons are a good fit for a blended classroom and can be used at either the middle or high school level to supplement existing curriculum or help students develop a particular skill. For example, a Civil War lesson explores reasons why Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and emphasizes the skill of writing arguments. 

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Zoom In! is an interactive, Web-based platform for U.S. history instruction and assessment. The site has 18 lessons to supplement and enhance the curriculum. Each lesson follows an inquiry arc that includes a hook activity, slides with essential context, historical sources (both primary and secondary), guided discussion questions, and writing prompts. The lessons are interactive and feature students taking notes, responding to questions, identifying key ideas, and writing argumentative or explanatory essays online. Teachers register for the free site, set up a class, and assign lessons. Teachers then access teacher guides, monitor student progress, and assess student work online. The teacher guides are highly detailed with CCSS alignment, objectives, instructional sequence, background information, rubrics, and much more. 

Zoom In! is a great solution for teachers who want to help their students hone their analytical skills and writing prowess. The lessons are research-based and developed by an expert group of educators and historians, and the instructional approach both supports and challenges students as they learn historical content and strengthen their reading, writing, and analytical skills. Students try an intro activity to grab their attention, read background information, and then are guided through the process of analyzing the documents in order to write an evidence-based essay. Great features for monitoring student progress, adjusting the level of writing support, and grading the final assessment should all support meaningful learning experiences. Teachers may need to modify instruction or documents to be sure that the material is accessible to all learners. Although the online lessons can't be altered, there are PDF versions of the materials that teachers can change as needed. Overall, this is a terrific resource for the social studies or U.S. history classroom.

Overall Rating


Clear directions and guided analysis questions keep students focused on each learning task. Engagement will vary widely depending on students' interests. 


Each lesson follows an inquiry arc structure (hook, context, documents, connect, and writing). Extra support may be needed for ELLs and students with disabilities to complete learning tasks.


Zoom In has extensive support with detailed teacher’s guides, lesson previews, and directions for all of the features on the site. Tools for assessment, rubrics, and sample essays are provided as well.

Common Sense reviewer
Jennifer Sitkin Classroom teacher

Community Rating

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Featured review by
Marjorie P. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
I.S. 339
Bronx, United States
Great Writing Tool for History
I was impressed with the way in which the tool can be used to scaffold every aspect of a DBQ essay. The students were able to use close reading to analyze the documents, with guiding questions at each step. The interactive format allowed them to save notes which they could then use on their final essay. Not only did this tool help them to look more critically at the content, it also helped them appreciate and internalize the process. Excellent tool!
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