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Citizenship Preparation

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Civics for ESOL & ABE


History and Civil Rights

American Civil Liberties Union
This learner-oriented site includes materials and resources for students and teachers as well as an educational rights page.

"American Memory" Collections
The Library of Congress has catalogued dozens of "American Memory" collections, organized by topic, time period, place, etc. The collections include historic documents, pictures, and information.

American Social History Project
ASHP seeks to revitalize interest in history by challenging the traditional ways that people learn about the past. The HERB database contains documents, classroom activities, and other teaching tools on US history.

The Bill of Rights Institute
The Bill of Rights Institute's mission is to educate high school students about the Bill of Rights through classroom material and programs that teach:

  • what the Bill of Rights protects, both explicitly and implicitly,
  • how the Bill of Rights affects our daily lives, and
  • and how the Bill of Rights shapes our society.

Although not designed for adult education, this site offers access to primary sources and current news about our civil rights. Adaptable "Free Lesson Plans" are available on the right navigation bar under the "Quick Links" heading.

Black History: Exploring African-American Issues on the Web
A "pointer section" of links to several historical-overview articles from Prologue, a magazine published by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

Constitutional Rights Foundation (CRF)
Constitutional Rights Foundation seeks to instill in our nation's youth a deeper understanding of citizenship through values expressed in our Constitution and its Bill of Rights, and educate them to become active and responsible participants in our society. See CRF online lesson plans.

Discovery of America
This lesson about the “discovery of America” invites students to look at history from varied points of view and to understand history as a story told from a perspective.

Fabric of History Project
The Fabric of History is an innovative curriculum that examines history through the lens of fashion as it conveys class, culture, and changing gender relations.

Federal Resources for Educational Excellence
This page of the collection links to interesting websites on black history and culture. For a larger menu of social studies sites, go to

History of Voting Rights
This site offers links to a few resources on the history of voting rights, including an online quiz.

History Matters
This is a wonderful resource that supports teachers in making history relevant to students. Although designed for high school and college contexts, it illustrates approaches we can use in adult education. It includes sections on "Many Pasts," "Making Sense of Evidence," and "Past Meets Present," among others.

How Race is Lived in America
This web site contains a long list of web sites as well as captivating articles published by The New York Times about race in America. The web sites cover the major race and ethnic groups in America divided into categories such as Educational Resources, Civil Rights, Media, Government and Politics, Statistics, Business and Commerce, Health and Organizations and Institutions.

The Power of Words Curriculum
The Power of Words curriculum “encourages us to explore the words used in the United States to label ethnic groups, women, and sexual minorities and to examine the ways in which these words reveal our nation's social landscape.” It offers high school lesson plans that can be adapted for adult education.

Racial Intervention Story Exchange (RISE)
This site is a place where people can exchange stories of the ways in which they have spoken up to interrupt racism.

Teaching with Historic Places
This site uses Historic Places as the focus for lessons on geography, civics, history and many other subjects. Site includes over 100 lesson plans that can be browsed by location, theme, or time period.

Time Lines: Connecting Your Life to History
This site describes four lessons that use time lines: A Time Line of Today, A Time Line of Your Own Life, Time Line of Historical Events in Our Lifetime, and Then Versus Now.
The links in the side bar to the right include a well-presented history of the Civic Rights Movement and a "Hidden History" page with interesting and little-known history facts.

U.N. Declaration of Human Rights
On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the full text of which appears on this site.

Writing for Change Curriculum
The authors of Writing for Change, a collection of 50 activities that “raise awareness of power, difference, and discrimination,” have designed their activities to be adaptable to varied contexts. Most require only a pen and paper or copies of the provided page.

Immigrant Experience

Ancestors in the Americas
This is the companion site for "Ancestors in the Americas," a new PBS series exploring the history and legacy of Asians in the Americas. The site links you to discussion guides, resources (curricula, oral history projects, etc.), an opportunity to contribute to an archive of immigrant stories, and ways to research your own family ancestry.

The Change Agent: Immigration (PDF)
This issue of The Change Agent focuses on immigration, with articles and classroom activities that explore the history of immigration.


This part of the Ellis Island website offers an immigrant history timeline and the stories of six Americans of different backgrounds researching their immigrant ancestry.

The Lower East Side Tenement Museum
The Lower East Side Tenement Museum's mission is "to promote tolerance and historical perspective through the presentation and interpretation of the variety of immigrant and migrant experiences on Manhattan's Lower East Side, a gateway to America." Visitors to this site can tour the on-line exhibits.

The Mosaic of Immigrants to America
ThinkQuest is an international website-building competition for teams of students and teachers. This website chronicles the immigrant experience and offers a gallery of downloadable photographs.

The New Americans
This is the site of the PBS series "The New Americans," which tells the stories of a diverse group of immigrants and refugees. The series aims to capture the lives of contemporary immigrants in all their complexities and to "put a human face on the breadth and scope of immigrants' and refugees' experience in America." The site links to discussion questions, common misconceptions about immigrants, and activities for researching your own family history.

Media Literacy

Center for Media Literacy
This project advocates for media literacy education and promotes books, videos and teaching materials for K-12 classrooms. It provides resources and information for families and communities as well as links to conferences and training opportunities.

The Change Agent: The Media and You
This issue of the Change Agent increases the readers' awareness of what gets printed, viewed, or aired. It contains stories, articles and classroom activities for adult learners.

CNN San Francisco Interactive Learning Resources
These web pages focus on utilizing CNN news stories for educational purposes many of which relate to civic participation. Teachers can use the lessons for group activities or students can work at their own pace for individualized learning.

The Democracy Project
At this site, you can explore the history of political ads and look at how and why political ads are created. You can also create your own ad and learn how to manipulate it to work for or against a candidate.

Evaluating websites
This webquest is a resource for teaching information literacy, critical reading and comprehension skills. It walks readers interactively through techniques for critiquing websites and provides practice evaluating real and hoax websites to determine which ones are trustworthy and present accurate information.

FAIR is a watch group that criticizes well-documented media bias and censorship while seeking to invigorate the First Amendment.

International newspapers
This is one of many sites where you can link to newspapers from around the world. This one is clear and easy to navigate.

News media online at American Journalism Review

A joint venture of American Journalism Review and NewsLink Associates, this site offers among other things a comprehensive listing of links to radio, T.V. and newspapers throughout the country.


Adult Education Project Descriptions

Advocating for a Cause: A Lesson in Community Action
Carrying out a technology mini-grant, Providence Public Library teachers Debbie Peterson and Denise DiMarzio facilitated a student-chosen project t o advocate for a resource office that could assist immigrant parents in their dealings with the school. The site documents their project and offers suggestions for adaptation.

The Changes Project
The Changes Project was a participatory action research project focused on the impact of welfare reform, immigration reform and the changing nature of work. The project describes the impact of these three issues on the lives of adult learners at five adult education programs in Massachusetts.

English Literacy/Civics Education Demonstration Projects
This is the US DOE's site for information about the federally funded English Literacy/Civics Education programs.

Implementing a Civic Action Project
Though developed for high school students, this guide by the Constitutional Rights Foundation offers a helpful structure for organizing civics projects.

Making Change: Civics as a Second Language This article describes the work of EL/civics teachers who are helping students participate actively and speak up civically.

Project VOICE
This project of the City College of San Francisco links the ESL and Citizenship programs with Civics Education. The lessons on this site build on the literature of civic education, Project-based Learning, SCANS and EFF as they integrate civic participation with language learning.


Voting, Government, and the Constitution

The Center for Voting and Democracy
FairVote seeks elections that promote voter turnout, fair representation, inclusive policy and meaningful choices. It conducts research, analysis, education and organizing to ensure all Americans can exercise their right to vote and elect representatives who reflect our racial and political diversity.

The Civic Center at E-Square
This on-line "civic center" designed for ABE and ESOL learners includes immigration information, a student visit to the Statehouse, and tips for helping students talk to policymakers.

Contacting the Congress
An online directory of members of Congress, offering a quick path to the online contact form for each member.

Easy Voter
These are easy-to-read materials about how to pick a candidate and how to vote.

How a Bill Becomes a Law Quiz
This interactive quiz has students sequence the steps needed for a bill to become a law.

How To Be Heard
This was created by adult new readers to help other students learn more about becoming involved in making decisions in their community.

Know Your Rights
On this site, the National Lawyers Guild offers free downloadable brochures that use plain language to explain our constitutional rights. Brochures are available in a variety of languages.

Language & Civil Society
The journal "Language & Civil Society" has produced a volume on Civic Education containing 10 chapters on topics such as "Rights of the Individual," "Responsibilities of the Government," and "Societal Dilemmas: Finding a Balance". Each chapter has background information and lesson plans.

League of Women Voters
A voter education and information web site that includes voter registration information in English and Spanish, as well as excerpts from the League of Women Voters' 'Get Out the Vote Kit.'

The National Voting Rights Institute
The National Voting Rights Institute protects the constitutional right of all citizens to participate in the entire election process regardless of economic status.

New Citizen's Vote! Curriculum This is the link to a four-hour voter education curriculum (available in English and Spanish) called "New Citizens Vote! An Educational Curriculum About Voting." The goal of the curriculum is to increase the skills and self-confidence of participants regarding voting and other local decision-making processes. The curriculum emphasizes local issues and opportunities for civic participation.

People and Politics: A Civic Literacy Curriculum
Students learn how to identify the issues most important to them, ask the right questions and select a candidate whose platform reflects their own concerns.

Pick Your Candidate
This multi-faceted lesson plan helps students to understand political campaign advertising and candidate's positions so they can make educated decisions at the polls.

Project Vote Smart
Project Vote Smart, a citizen's organization, has developed a Voter's Self-Defense System that provides the tools for effective self-government. The Project shares information about candidates and elected officials in five basic categories: biographical information, issue positions, voting records, campaign finances and interest group ratings.

Right to Vote
The mission of the Right to Vote Campaign is to remove barriers to voting faced by people with felony convictions so that they may freely participate in the democratic process. To achieve this goal, it aims to change policies, practices and perceptions concerning felony disfranchisement. This website educates on the issue and lets people know how they can get involved.

The Savvy Voter
This site, jointly developed by PBS and the Media Education Lab at Temple University, links you to lessons about dissecting ads, analyzing poll numbers, and other skills needed by the “saavy voter.”

Provides an easy way to keep track of federal legislation.

United States House of Representatives
Keep up-to-date on legislative activities, discover information about potential bills, and find out how to contact your representative. Also includes practical information about the workings of the judicial and executive branches of the government.

United States Census Bureau
This site offers hard data on the demographics of the U.S. population and on aspects of our quality of life. For example, the Housing pages reveal that the percentage of families able to buy a modestly priced house was lower in 1995 than in 1984 or 1988; the site’s Poverty pages show an increase in poverty. This site can be useful for any type of research project.

United States Senate Home Page
This easy-to-read site includes a tour of the Senate, information about the legislative process, the Senate's current activities and how to contact your senator.

The White House
The White House site provides an easy way to access the different branches of government and federal services. You can download historic national documents, daily press releases, and speeches.

Your Government, Your Taxes, Your Choices
A Curriculum for Adult Basic Education Students

Focused on Massachusetts but generally relevant, this curriculum introduces students to different forms of taxation. It addresses what kinds of taxes people and corporations pay and how the services taxes pay for are distributed. It invites students to reflect on whether the system is fair or unfair. Regardless of students' status as citizens and voters, they can participate fully in all lessons found in this curriculum. They will find that they can advocate proactively on behalf of themselves and their communities. The curriculum consists of three units and eight lessons that include activities, helpful charts and suggestions for extension activities.


Current Issues

The Change Agent
The Change Agent, published by the New England Literacy Resource Center, includes a variety of articles and teaching resources focused on social justice issues. You can browse a selection of articles from recent issues or download entire issues in Adobe Acrobat PDF format.

Civics Lessons Related to Iraq War
The material on this page lists sites, many of which, with resource materials, lessons and activities for use in the classroom.

Global Connections: The Middle East
This PBS site uses six questions to explore some of the big-picture issues affecting the Middle East. For each question there is background reading, a timeline, and several lesson plans.

Global Issues for Learners of English
The material on this site is adapted, with permission, from the magazine, The New Internationalist. The aim is to "provide material that is relatively easy for learners to read, but which hasn't lost its 'edge.'" The readings are about global issues (e.g. fair trade, the environment, child labor, etc.) with scaffolding support, such as background information about countries, glossing of text, comprehension and vocabulary quizzes, teacher and learner pages.

Public Agenda
Public Agenda's two-fold mission is to help American leaders better understand the public's point of view and to help citizens know more about critical policy issues so they can make informed decisions. P ublic Agenda Issue Guides provide facts and figures, competing perspectives, and analysis of public attitudes. Topics include: health care, immigration, the federal budget, and many more.

Teachable Moment
TeachableMoment.Org provides educators with timely teaching ideas to encourage critical thinking on issues of the day and foster a positive classroom environment. With its focus on timely news, the site is very up-to-date.

United Nations Cyberschoolbus
The United Nations Cyberschoolbus was created in 1996 to promote education about international issues and the United Nations. The project produces high quality teaching materials and activities for training teachers. The c urriculum, linked from the left column menu, addresses global peace issues such as respect for dignity and identity, social justice and civic responsibility, and global citizenship.


US Systems and Everyday Civics

Arlington Education and Employment Program (REEP) ESL Curriculum
REEP has developed an on-line adult ESL instructional system to assist educators in enabling adult students of English to navigate U.S. systems. Lifeskills instruction, student voice, and integration of technology are central to this nine-leveled curriculum.

The Beehive
This website connects low-income households to information and resources around the things that matter most to them: health, jobs, money, education and family.

Citizen/Community Member Role Map
Equipped for the Future's Citizen Role Map captures what adults need to know and be able to do to be effective in their roles as citizens and community members. It was developed from focus groups with over 250 citizens across the United States.

City Family Magazine
This is an easy English online magazine for immigrants and for parents who have limited skills in reading English. Its articles about family, work, home, and money aim to help people understand how American systems work.

Civic Participation and Community Action Sourcebook
Published by the New England Literacy Resource Center, this resource for adult educators provides a collection of narratives (written mostly by teachers) of community education and action projects. It also includes a variety of "prep and practice" activities.

EL Civics for ESL Students
A series of "fact sheets" suitable for classroom use.

ESL Civics Curriculum Designed for Very Beginning ESL Learners
The Bright Ideas curriculum was designed for elderly learners participating in community-based ESL programs. The curriculum focuses on developing oral English communication skills and providing opportunities for learners to use these skills inside the classroom and outside in the community. Each unit contains instructions for the teacher, lessons for the students, and visual support materials to facilitate learning for students with limited literacy skills in any language.

EL Civics Health Curriculum
This Charlottesville, VA curriculum integrates health content with civic rights and responsibilities and informed decision-making.

Fairfax County Family Literacy Curriculum
This curriculum supports immigrant parents in understanding and navigating U.S. systems. Its four modules are: Self, Family and Community; Schools and Community; Medicine and Stress; and Shopping and Making a Budget. It contains complete, multi-level lesson plans and many reproducible handouts.

Foreign Born
This site orients newcomers to how various U.S. systems work. It is a useful resource to learn about banking, credit cards, drivers licenses, sending money abroad, finding a school, and many other systems that immigrants need to navigate.

I Have a Problem: Bright Ideas EL-Civics Project
This PDF is a transcript of the video, “I Have a Problem, Scenarios and Situations for Just-in-Time Civics,” made with students enrolled in an EL/Civics course sponsored by the Coalition of Limited English Speaking Elderly (CLESE). It addresses common problems through students’ own words.

How to Buy a Home: Lessons for Adult Learners
This collection of three publications: a home-buying guide for ABE students, a guide for ESL students, and an additional set of tools for teachers (activities, handouts, etc.) are designed for programs that are interested in implementing a home-buying readiness project, either as a stand-alone unit or as a topic integrated into an existing curriculum. The activities and tools were developed by teachers and reflect their varied approaches and styles.

Online Newspapers
This site is a list of thousands of links to newspapers from around the world.

Talking with the Police: An English Language and Civics Workbook
This downloadable curriculum is targeted for high beginner/low intermediate students, but includes material that may be relevant to immigrants at all levels.

Teacher Writings about Civics

New England Writings about Civics
These writings describe the work of New England educators who want to
address civic participation in their local contexts. Many of their lessons refer to activities from NELRC's Civic Participation and Community Action Sourcebook.

The Massachusetts Civic Education and Participation Group (CEPG)
These writings illustrate eight promising practices that Massachusetts educators have identified as key indicators of effective civic education. The CEPG includes programs that vary in size, schedules, and approaches to incorporating civics into instruction. Some weave civics into their regular ESOL coursework; some have set aside separate class time to focus on civic participation; and others have approached the civic participation work as a program-wide effort.


Useful K-12 Resources

Civics Online
A rich collection of K-12 civics lessons and strategies that are based on the classroom use of primary documents and the incorporation of interactive learning. There are classroom case studies that include teacher reflections, source materials used, and classroom artifacts.

Democracy for Kids
This site introduces kids to democracy by:

  • introducing the structure and duties of local, state and federal government;
  • examining how government affects our everyday lives;
  • understanding the history of voting rights in America, and articulating how voting and other forms of civic involvement are essential to a healthy democracy.

The site includes links to interactive activities such as an online voting game (

Democracy Project

This Democracy Project site provides rich resources for teachers, especially a voting rights timeline, on which you can follow the continuing struggle for universal suffrage in America. Along the way you can learn about changes to how we vote and also discover whether you could have voted at different points in history.

Education for Freedom
This is sponsored by the Freedom Forum’s First Amendment Center, a nonpartisan center dedicated to the understanding and appreciation of the values of the First Amendment. The “Lesson Plans” (beginning and advanced levels) linked from this page address constitutional principles and contemporary issues involving the First Amendment. The “Cybernewseum” section uses critical media literacy to explore a variety of news topics.

Global Connections: The Middle East
This PBS site uses six questions to explore some of the big-picture issues affecting the Middle East. For each question there is background reading, a timeline, and several lesson plans.

Learning Adventures in Citizenship: From New York to Your Town
This is a site for teachers, parents and kids. It uses one key city, New York, as a starting point for the study of issues that affect communities. Although some of the lessons will need to be adapted for adults, much of the content is appropriate. Of particular interest are New York: Documentary Online and the episodes in Explore the Learning Adventures.

Montgomery County Public School Social Studies Curriculum
This is a dense but rich set of curriculum units that address equity and justice issues – good for background reading and for excerpting/adapting lessons. Lessons listed in the left column menu include Unit VIII: Equal Opportunity for All, which overviews our nation’s history of housing/property discrimination, examines the economics of unfair housing practices, and poses questions about the right to housing.

National Constitution Center This site, hosted by the National Constitution Center, offers readings and adaptable K-12 lesson plans on Constitutional issues. Links include “Current events discussion starters,” a “Constitutional Timelines,” and a “Save the Bill of Rights” game.

Online Civics Text
This online civics text is a handy resource for educators. It goes beyond the basics of government to include topics such as "economic systems" and "economic concepts."

Social Studies Sources:
Links and lessons that were originally designed for K-12 social studies teachers and students, but the ideas could be adapted for use in the ABE classroom.

US History Lesson Plans Library
This site offers an extensive collection of history lessons for grades K-12, covering topics from the American Revolution to Watergate and including lessons such as ‘Understanding Stereotypes’ and ‘Racism: Law and Attitude’. Each lesson plan consists of objectives, materials, procedures, evaluation, vocabulary, and academic standards. Lessons provide background information on each topic and invite students to research it further using the links provided, often culminating in a project.


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