iCivics, A Trusted Resource For Teachers

Our guest author today is Amanda Setters, who taught middle and high school social studies courses, including U.S. History, World History, AP U.S. History, IB History and Government, in Cincinnati, Ohio for over 20 years. Amanda loved iCivics so much during her teaching career that she recently joined the team as a Curriculum Associate in 2022 to support the creation of new resources and curricular materials for teachers and students nationwide.

When the COVID-19 pandemic upended so much of what was taken for granted in people's lives, not even our children's education was spared. But, for the love of their students, teachers did what they do best—found a way through. That way was to pivot, pivot, and pivot again.

The move from in-person to hybrid to remote (and even quarantine) learning has put teachers and students in a constant state of flux. Administrators, families, and teachers have worked incredibly hard over the past two years to make difficult decisions for the well-being of students and the larger school community. The lingering needs of students now need to be addressed.

As a teacher, I definitely felt that pressure. We had to keep both feet on the gas to maintain pacing and make up for lost instructional time. But we also faced classrooms full of students who needed assistance with school routines, skill development, and social-emotional needs unlike anything we’d dealt with before.

Amidst the chaos, I relied heavily on iCivics resources to relieve the pressure I was experiencing. The high-quality and low-prep materials from iCivics lightened the demands of lesson planning and creation, and helped me teach my high school World History and AP U.S. History classes. It was also extremely valuable as the need to provide literacy instruction to help fill instructional gaps in reading and writing skills (which has been huge in the last few school years). I’d particularly recommend iCivics for teachers who may be struggling with the following areas, like I was.

Pre-made, flexible teaching resources

iCivics digital games and lesson plans are ready-to-use in any classroom setting. The resources work as complete and comprehensive units, or as individual items that can be used to supplement existing teaching materials. iCivics’ Scope & Sequence links directly to resources on the website and suggests what order to use them in, saving teachers valuable planning time.

Each lesson plan (there are more than 200 to choose from!) includes 2–4 page readings and activities that are standards-aligned and come with a teacher’s guide that includes the objectives, timing, resources, and steps needed to complete the lesson.

Looking for ways to more deeply engage students

Over the past two years, my colleagues in the social studies department and I frequently utilized iCivics’ digital games, simulations, and interactive lesson plans to foster classroom discussions. We found that students were excited and engaged by the content and activities, which created an interest amongst students to talk to each other and participate in class discussions. As a class, we were able to create a powerful sense of community together through this dialogue. That sense of belonging—and a cultivated passion for civics—went a long way in creating the emotional safety that has often been missing for students (and staff) in the midst of the pandemic. 

One of my personal favorite iCivics lessons is Why Government. Using the Why Government lesson early in the school year helped me introduce the Enlightenment to my World History students. While I have used this lesson for many years, I knew it would be a very special one for our current times. Creating a sense of community and even getting students to talk together with masks on was tough. But this lesson lends well to a spirited debate. Students really liked talking about where they see the wisdom in Hobbes and Locke's philosophies and it created a buzz of energy in the classroom. The lesson also has a great “Sketch It Out” assignment that gave me the chance to have meaningful individual and small group conversations on how to visually depict a concept. Some students really shined with an outlet for creativity and I was sure to recognize that. The sense of community developed as we progressed throughout the year. Students would regularly call out "that's so Hobbes!" or "Locke was right!" Their classmates and I would laugh and enthusiastically concur or dispute the claim. When kids are all in on educational jokes, you have really captured the moment.

iCivics was a game-changer for me while I was teaching during the pandemic. By leaning into deeper, meaningful learning beyond content mastery, I was able to help students apply critical thinking and inquiry skills that prepare students for success in life.

As teachers wade through the remainder of the 2021-2022 school year, the challenges and stress might not subside, but there are great resources and supports out there, like iCivics, that teachers can lean on to help see them through the rest of the school year.


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