Best Civics Sites for Teachers – FROM ANNENBURG CLASSROOM
American Bar Association

For teachers and students, the American Bar Association offers a resource guide on how to organize a Civics and Law Academy, which engages middle and high school students in learning about law and society. The ABA accepts submissions for lessons and practices from local, state, and national law-related and civic education programs for its free resource guide. Most material is free. Level: Middle and high schoolAnnenberg LearnerAnnenberg Learner develops and distributes multimedia resources for teaching and learning. Video components are enhanced with websites that include online texts, guides and extensive background information. For teachers, the website offers free professional development workshops and courses as well as the opportunity to earn graduate education credit. Resources are free online and available for purchase on DVD. Level: Kindergarten through 12th grade

Bill of Rights Institute

The Bill of Rights Institute provides a trove of online educational resources for teachers and students as well as constitutional seminars around the country for teachers and the Constitutional Academy, a summer program for high school students. Students can play interactive games, watch videos or get help writing a paper. Resources for teachers include free lesson plans in e-newsletters and webinars. Materials on the website are free. The Bill of Rights Institute also has an online bookstore with many resources for purchase. Level: High school, middle school and elementary school. Highlights include: interactive Founding Documents; Constitutional Resources; Bill of Rights in the News; Americapedia.

Companion websites include: Article II — Presidents and the Constitution
This website explores the powers and responsibilities of the president through short videos, explanation of key terms and extension activities.

Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools

The goal of this coalition of 40 organizations is to improve civics education in schools. Among its many resources, Civic Learning Online provides free, public materials for educators.  Lesson plans and practices for all grade levels, professional development and related resources, and whole school or district models are available online at the website. The Civic Learning Database may searched by grade, state and civic learning approach (i.e., Instruction in History, Government, Law or Democracy, Guided Discussions of Issues and Current Events).

Center for Action Civics

The Center for Action Civics, the professional development branch of Mikva Challenge, provides the tools and strategies needed to engage young people in high quality Action Civics programming and experiential learning. The center’s website includes a database of free lesson plans and resources on a variety of civic education-related topics; Mikva’s Action Civics curricula for purchase; examples of Action Civics projects; and more. Level: Middle and high school.

Center for Civic Education

The Center for Civic Education is an independent, nonprofit organization based in California. A network of program coordinators throughout the United States and more than 70 other countries administers a range of curricular, teacher-training and community-based programs. Some materials free; other material available for purchase. Level: Elementary, middle and high school. Highlights include:

We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution: An instructional program on the history and principles of American constitutional democracy for all grade levels. The program is based on curricular materials developed by the Center for Civic Education. A simulated congressional hearing is the culminating activity.

We the People: Project Citizen: This program for middle, secondary, and post-secondary students, youth organizations, and adult groups is designed to develop interest in public policy as well as the ability to participate in state and local government.

Resource Center: For high school students: links to biographies, historical documents, images and firsthand accounts of historical events. For teachers: free professional development opportunities, free lesson plans, classroom activities.

Podcasts: Users can subscribe to four different podcasts, 60-Second Civics and quiz, Talking Civics, Conversations on Civics and Education for Democracy. Also a series of podcasts supplement text of We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution.

Center on Congress at Indiana University

Directed by former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton, the center and its site cover all aspects of the legislative branch and civic involvement. Interactive learning activities are aimed at the general public as well as schools. The online material is free; books available for purchase. LEVEL: Middle and high school. Highlights include:

Interactive Learning Modules: These activities teach students about topics such as How a Member Decides to Vote, The Impact of Congress, The Importance of Civic Participation, The Dynamic Legislative Process, The Many Roles of a Member of Congress, and Federal Budget Allocation.

Virtual Congress: This is a fully functional online replica of Congress in which students become lawmakers and propose ideas for legislation, discussing them in-world with other students, and working in realistic 3-D locations that include the House and Senate chambers.

Facts of Congress: For middle school students, 60-second videos all about Congress and how students can participate.

Constitutional Rights Foundation

The CRF is a nonpartisan, nonprofit community-based organization that focuses on law and government and civic participation by young people. Its site pulls together resources for curriculum and professional development. Its outreach programs include a Mock Trial competition and other academic competitions and Courtroom to Classroom outreach. Free lesson plans are available on U.S. history, world history and government. Some materials are free; others available for purchase. Level: Primarily for middle and high school, but also some material for younger students

Companion websites include:

Educating About Immigration:  An information clearinghouse on topics of U.S. immigration, its history and current controversies.

Civic Action Project: A practicum for high school students in civics and government in which they integrate the content of a government class with hands-on learning about public policy in the real world.

Judges, Courts and the Law: Activities, games and stories instruct students on the courts’ role in our government.

CFR Blog: This site features discussion and information for all social studies educators.

CRF Forum: A site for young people who want to voice their opinion on current events.

Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago

This nonprofit and nonpartisan organization provides resources for teachers to develop critical thinking skills, civic involvement and commitment to the rule of law by young people. Among its many resources, the CRFC offers a multi-grade (1-8) curriculum called Educating for Democracy that develops democratic knowledge as well as reading, communication and cooperative problem-solving skills. Single and multi-unit classroom lessons focus on basic constitutional principles, democratic procedures, and law-related education strategies for elementary and middle school students. Other resources include public policy programs, teacher development and mock trial materials. Resources: Some are free; others are for purchase. Level: elementary, middle and high schools

Constitutional Sources Project

This project, also known as ConSource, is a free online library of constitutional history. ConSource contains an educational program called Primary Sources, in which educators share lesson plans that use primary source documents. Level: Upper elementary, middle and high schools

Courts in the Classroom

Created by the State of California’s judicial branch and the Constitutional Rights Foundation, this site uses animated story videos and quizzes to teach students about Big Ideas, such as due process, free expression and checks and balances; the Third Branch, what courts and judges do; Landmark Cases related to the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. A teacher’s guide is provided. The site is free. Level: Middle and high school

C-SPAN Classroom

The cable channel’s site features a wealth of audio and video clips, both current and historical, related to government, history, other civics topics, and news abroad. Teacher registration is required to access free forums, lesson plans and Constitution Clips. Links to other C-SPAN resources for educators include: American History TV, American Presidents, Politics, Economic Stimulus, Presidential Libraries, Radio Specials, the Capitol, the Supreme Court, the White House and U.S. Economy. Each of these sites features extensive resources on the topic. Tutorials explain how teachers can use C-SPAN resources. Congressional Chronicle follows lawmakers and bills on a daily basis. A daily compilation of news about education is featured as well. All resources are free.

The site also contains TV and radio programs that feature, among other resources, recordings of past presidents and oral history interviews with presidents; Supreme Court oral arguments in landmark cases and videos of justices; and interactive Supreme Court timeline. The resources are free. Level: Middle and high school

Dirksen Congressional Center

Named for Everett Dirksen, who served in the U.S. House and Senate, the site promotes civics engagement by providing a better understanding of Congress and its members. Extensive information covers modern and historical information, the legislative process, the current Congress’ activities, and lawmakers’ duties. The site has comprehensive coverage via Congress Link, which provides up-to-date information about the current Congress; About Government, which lists links to more than 50 sites about Congress as well as other branches of government. Congress for Kids helps elementary school students understand government, the Constitution and voting, and includes an online learning module Democracy Kids. The site provides an extensive number of lesson plans, an interactive Congressional Timeline; webquests; online textbooks; an online civics/government course called Congress in the Classroom; and interactive activities for younger students. Level: Elementary, middle and high school

First Amendment Center

A Vanderbilt University site funded by the Freedom Forum, the First Amendment Center provides current news and information about First Amendment issues in the court and Congress, summaries of court cases and expert commentary and analyses of events. Lesson plans, videos, RSS feeds, podcasts and an interactive glossary are provided. The content is free. Level: Primarily for middle and high school, but also some resources for younger students.


An initiative of retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, this site features online lessons covering the three branches of government and interactive games that cover citizenship and participation, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, separation of powers, budgeting, and the executive, judicial and legislative branches. Online discussion forums allow teachers and students to give feedback on various topics. Teacher resources include curricula that complement the games, webquests, lessons and activities. Resources are free. Level: Middle and high school

Library of Congress
America’s Library

“America’s Library” provides classroom materials from a vast array of primary sources – documents, photos, objects – about events and significant figures in U.S. history. Two sections are particularly relevant for educators: America’s Story from America’s Library and for Teachers. The resources are free online, and some material is downloadable. Lesson plans on American history are supplemented with primary sources from the Library of Congress collection. Class starters include Today in History and American Memory Timeline. Interactive learning activities are available for younger children. Several professional development programs for teachers are offered. The content is free. Level: Elementary, middle and high school.

National Archives

The National Archives and the Center for Civic Education partnered to create Docs Teach, a series of lesson plans that use primary sources to teach about different periods of U.S. history and the Constitution. It also provides numerous links to state and regional primary sources and presidential libraries as well as professional development for teachers. The material is free. Level: Middle and high school.

National Center for State Courts

The National Center for State Courts is an independent, nonprofit court improvement organization founded at the recommendation Chief Justice Warren E. Burger. The center has created a series of graphic novels has been developed to educate the public and students about how the courts work and their role in a democratic society. The three novels created address Internet piracy, stolen identify and jury duty. The novels are downloadable online or available for purchase with accompanying lesson plans. Level: Middle and high school

National Constitution Center

The National Constitution Center site addresses topics related to the Constitution as well as civic participation and responsibility, and the executive branch. Printed materials include lesson plans. Online resources are interactive games, videos, webcasts, primary and secondary sources, Constitution Fast Facts, biographies of Constitutional Convention delegates, and an interactive Constitution guide. The Exchange is a public forum for high school students to discuss important current events issues. For teachers, it offers professional development programs. Resources are free. Level: Elementary, middle and high school

National Endowment for the Humanities

The organization’s EDSITEment project provides comprehensive lesson plans on American history, social studies and civics, government and society, among others. Its Introduction to Advanced Placement U.S. History Lessons contains scholar-reviewed website and primary sources; lesson plans focused on the Document Based Questions in the AP exam; and lesson plans based on active learning, mastery of content and engaging the student. Resources are free. Level: Kindergarten through 12th grade.

New York Times Learning Network

The New York Times’ content, current and historical, is the basis for teacher and student resources on this site. The Teaching Topics page is a living index page of links to resources on frequently taught subjects. For each topic, collected resources include lesson plans, related articles, multimedia, themed crosswords and archival material. Lesson plans cover numerous topics, including social studies, current events, civics and American history. The site also provides a daily news quiz, Word of the Day, Student Crossword, Today in History, and more. An online forum invites students to post their opinions on issues in the news. Resources are free. Level: Middle and high school

Newseum/Newseum Institute

This organization’s website contains a Digital Classroom, which offers video lessons and viewing guides, primary sources, standards-aligned content, and integrated activities that support media literacy, critical thinking skills and civic engagement. Teaching modules explore the First Amendment and the Civil Rights Movement and Decision 2012, which examines the intersections of elections and the news media through the lenses of history, media literacy and civics. Level: Middle and high school

Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives

Lesson and activities that teach about the legislative branch are offered at the Office of the Clerk’s Kids in the House. Resources are free. Level: Preschool to high school

Online Newshour Extra: For Students and Teachers

This PBS site uses current events as the basis for educational content revolving around news categories such as health, science, U.S. and history. Lesson plans based on current events contain videos, audio and photo essays; a forum for students to post essays, articles or comments on issues in the news. The material is free. Level: High school

Presidential Libraries

The National Archives offers a list of links to the presidential libraries that have resources for students and teachers. The material is free. Level: All grades

PBS Teachers

The Public Broadcasting Systems’ site for teachers covers all subject areas, including civics participation, community, the three branches of government, politics, economics, current events, the courts and history. Lesson plans are free, with some material downloadable. Videos and audio recordings supplement lesson plans; interactive activities for younger children are available in the Democracy Project. Teachers have access to discussion forums, online professional developments courses, and an archive of webinars. Most of the content is free; teacher courses available for purchase. Level: Preschool, elementary, middle and
high school

Street Law

Street Law and the Supreme Court Historical Society partnered to create Landmark Cases of the U.S. Supreme Court, which explores 17 key cases. In-depth information about each case, related activities that involve interactive teaching strategies and external resources are provided. A Resource Library has compiled hundreds of teaching activities, case summaries, mock trials and articles. The material is free. Level: Middle and high school

Sunnylands Classroom

A project of the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands, this website hosts a multimedia curriculum on the Constitution containing award-winning documentaries, videos with Supreme Court justices, interactive games and downloadable books. Many of the materials have been close-captioned in 14 languages. The material is free. Level: Middle and high school
U.S. Courts

This government site focuses on Court Literacy, featuring free, downloadable in-depth resources to help students understand how the courts work, key amendments to the Constitution, federal court basics and fast facts, legal concepts, legal landmarks and Supreme Court cases. Classrooms to Courtrooms provides real-life teen-related scenarios to stage in-class or in-court simulations of trials with accompanying scripts. You Be the Supreme Court features comprehensive material for a class to simulate Supreme Court deliberations. Sections on the First, Fourth and Sixth Amendment gives teacher a variety of formats to present to a class, including Oxford-style debate or a Supreme Court case conference. Homework Help is a set of links to related websites. Videos and podcasts are also provided. Material is free. Level: Middle and high school

U.S. Government Printing Office

This comprehensive site, called Ben’s Guide to U.S. Government for Kids, features information about all aspects of government, citizenship, elections and voting. It also provides links to kids’ sites for most government agencies. Activities include print games, interactive games and activities; information pages; links to other government agencies’ curriculum; and a glossary. Content is free. Level: Elementary, middle and high school
This site focuses on literary-based curricula for instruction of U.S. history, civics, social studies and language arts. Resources include lesson plans, video seminars, and primary resources. Content is primarily free. Level: Middle and high school

Youth Leadership Initiative

The University of Virginia Center for Politics’ Youth Leadership Initiative has created three interactive simulations. E-Congress, a free, interactive, national online simulation lets students play the part of a member of the House. They research issues, write legislation, debate bills in committee and work to move their bill to the House floor. Students use innovative technology to interact with their legislators and to connect with their peers around the country. Mock Election is conducted each fall by the Youth Leadership Initiative  for students around the nation using electronic ballots designed for each student’s home district. A More Perfect Union simulates an actual campaign for Senate. The site also provides teacher-developed lesson plans and a service-learning program called Democracy Corps. Level: Middle and high school

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *