Recommended WebQuests and ThinkQuests for History and Social Studies Teachers

Excerpt from Best Ideas for Teaching with Technology: A Practical Guide for Teachers, by Teachers . . .

WebQuests were pioneered by Bernie Dodge at San Diego State University way back in 1995, but they have matured into one of the most effective frameworks for teaching with technology. Dodge’s two sites for WebQuests, http://www.webquest.org/ and http://www.questgarden.com/ represent a tremendous resource for educators. Over 29,000 teachers have registered on the site and over 14,000 WebQuests are available for teachers to use online. 14,000 WebQuests represents something like 14,000 week-long, free lesson plans for projects built by teachers in all disciplines from around the world.WebQuests are structured Internet research exercises that lead students to create some kind of educational product. They typically consist of seven standard sections

  1. Introduction-an introduction to the essential question or task of the WebQuest.
  2. Task-a brief description of what the student is expected to do and to produce.
  3. Process-a step-by-step explanation of the research process and the assessment for the WebQuest
  4. Resources-links to Web sites that students will use to conduct their research
  5. Evaluation-a rubric evaluating the assessment piece(s) of the WebQuest.
  6. Conclusion-a parting statement from the WebQuest designer
  7. Teacher’s Guide-details on how to use the WebQuest and, usually, correlations to state standards.

The genius of the WebQuest model is that it provides simple structure for student inquiry on the Web, guiding them towards important questions and the most useful Web sites. Once you have guided students through one WebQuest, they’ll be ready to tackle future ones almost on their own.

WebQuests can be used not only in History, but in almost any discipline. Any time you have an activity where students create a product-a paper, a poem, a PowerPoint, or a play-using guided Internet research, a WebQuest is a great format for presenting and structuring that activity.

Finding WebQuests

A great place to start looking for WebQuests is Dodge’s WebQuest portal at http://www.webquest.org/. Click onFind WebQuests for three search options.

  1. Search the San Diego State University Database. Choose amongst WebQuests in eight languages and then choose a key word or phrase.
  2. Search a Curriculum by Grade Level Matrix. Pick a discipline, pick a grade level, and you’ll get a list of all of the appropriate WebQuests.
  3. Put your search term in the Google box and you’ll get search results for your term plus WebQuests. You can find WebQuests on just about anything this way; it makes sense that Wisconsin students might need to study up on Cheese Days.
Searching for WebQuests EdTechTeacher Video Tutorial

Another way to find great WebQuests is to browse our select list below.

Evaluating WebQuests

WebQuests vary in quality. Many on the Web are made by pre-service teachers, many of the older ones have broken links, and many have resources that are not well-chosen or age-appropriate. However, some are just brilliant.

If you search through the webquest.org search portal, many of the WebQuests that you find will be ranked on a scale from 1-50. You can usually depend on WebQuests ranked in the high 40s and 50 to be excellent. Those that are unranked often include the newest WebQuests, so you might check out those as well.

For every WebQuest you consider using, be sure to check all of the links to make sure that they are active and age-appropriate. An easy way to check links is to use a built in Link Checker with your Browser such as the Google Chrome Extension, Check My Links.

A Word about ThinkQuests

A ThinkQuest is an Internet project created by students who work in teams to create educational websites as part of an annual international competition, sponsored by the Oracle Education Foundation. In 2007 student teams submitted over 500 educational websites for the competition. ThinkQuests are published in the ThinkQuest Library, an online resource located at http://thinkquest.org/.

ThinkQuests work this way: Students, ages 9-19, form a “Team,” and once their teacher “Coach” enrolls the Team, students work together to create an innovative educational website. Each Team receives 50 MB of space on the ThinkQuest server and must fill out a short questionnaire. ThinkQuests are judged based on their educational contributions, “global diversity” perspectives, and Web design. If you select “Visit the Library,” you can review the ThinkQuests in the History and Government section. You could show at least one ThinkQuest to your students so that they see what great projects kids their age are creating.

Select WebQuests and ThinkQuests in History and Social Studies

Comparative Democracy (Lang. Arts/Hist./Soc. Sci. – 8)
“After a late-night meeting in the now-deserted Presidential Palace, you and your advisors decide to observe some democratic countries to see how they have organized their governments. You’ll report back to your country what you learn about successful democracies, so that you and your team can create the best government possible.”

Starving Nations
“With the current world economic crisis, many have neglected the existence of the global food crisis. Thus, we boldly remove this specious rug, and explore a terror that has beleaguered the human race. With an interactive website, we show you a reality that itches to be uncovered. We will show you hunger. We will show you the Global Food Crisis.”

Rock the Vote (Lang. Arts/Hist./Soc. Sci. – 8)
“The National Youth Commission has been established to solicit the viewpoints of today’s young people. The commission in conjunction with MTV has formed a partnership to produce a series of television ads directed to young people. The theme of the broadcasts will be “Meeting Today’s Needs With Yesterday’s Words.” The purpose is to let young adults know that America’s Bill of Rights affects their lives everyday. You have been selected by the commission to participate in the creation of MTV’s first ads in the series.”

Snapshot in Time (Lang. Arts/Hist./Soc. Sci. – 8)
“The new millennium is upon us . . . How will the culture of your generation be reflected to future generations?”

Return of the Great Game (Gov./Hist./Soc. Sci. 12)
“As world leaders concerned with recent developments in Central Asia, you are alarmed by the following KHS Nightly News Special Report from the region. . .how can regional leaders and those working to prevent a nuclear holocaust work together to decrease tensions in the region and help to build a ‘culture of peace’?”

Voices for the Voiceless: Child Labor in Turkey
“As students who are concerned about global issues, we want to attract attention to a big problem affecting both Turkey and many developing countries around the world, ‘Child Labor’.”

Westward Ho, Shall we Go? (Literacy/Soc. Sci. 3)
“It is 1830 in Wahoo, Kentucky. You and your family have been called to a town meetin’ by Mr. Imin Charge, the mayor of Wahoo. The mayor is concerned because he has heard talk from the citizens of Wahoo, about leaving this fine town and headin’ west. He has informed everyone that they will have a formal meetin’ in one weeks time. At that time, all townfolk must come prepared to share their decision of whether they will stay or go. Westward Ho! Will you go?”

A Stitch in Time: An Internet WebQuest on Quilting Traditions (middle school)
Students will be directed to sites that contain information on quilting and the cultures of African, Amish, and Native American people.

Journey Back in Time (Grades 3-4)
You are to become an authentic character from Colonial Times. Your writing, research, and performance will be from the viewpoint of the colonial character you choose to be.

Searching for China
“China is a complex country with a long history. What makes understanding China even more challenging is that you have to look carefully at the details. Your task is to look in this careful way at five main aspects of China.”

Government Systems and Ideologies
“The aim of our website is to act as a resource package for children and teenagers for them to find out more about the different political and government systems there are. We also aim to raise awareness and interest of the youths to politics and government so as to play a part in their own nation’s political scene.”

The 1920s and its Excesses
“How were such romantic excesses of the Jazz Age reported at the time? How were they viewed in such delightful duplicity, and how do we today explain the Great Depression to which the Jazz Age led? In order to answer these questions you must know the culture of the day, “live” the times, and “become” the people. As reporters for a Jazz Age newspaper, you and your classmates will be able to assume the identities of 20’s correspondants. Your task will be to report the news as it happened.”

Bill of Rights WebQuest
“In our study of the Bill of Rights, we are going to create a television news program about controversial issues today that relate to the Bill of Rights . . . After we have viewed the show in its entirety, each student will choose an issue they feel strongly about and write a letter stating their views to one of his or her government representatives.”

Constitutional Convention WebQuest
“As a member of the New York State Ratification Convention, your task is to deliberate and debate the merits of the proposed Constitution. You will be assigned the role of EITHER a Federalist OR Anti-Federalist and your task is to convince your fellow delegates to support your position. At the end of the Convention debate, you will vote on whether or not to ratify the Constitution. After the Convention, you will write a “Letter-to-the-Editor” in defense of your vote.”

The Decision to Drop the Bomb
“Imagine it is 1945 and World War II has just come to a conclusion. Just before the end of the War, the Atomic Bomb was dropped on and Nagasaki. Many wonder whether dropping the bomb was necessary but others think it was in order to limit the amount of Allied casualties and bring the long arduous war to an end. A community in California is getting together to discuss the reason for dropping the bomb. Four teams of people representing a Japanese citizen, President Truman’s advisor, the Secretary of Defense, and a nuclear physicist will congregate to debate this controversial issue. Your role as one of these people is to research your particular point of view and decide whether dropping the Atomic Bomb was necessary or not.”

The Impeachment of Andrew Jackson
“Your task will be to conduct impeachment hearings and to engage in the debate on whether or not to charge President Andrew Jackson with one or more of the articles of impeachment. You will be assigned a role as either a member of the House Judiciary Committee giving arguments in favor of impeachment, or a member of the President’s defense team.”

Colonial Kids: A Celebration of Life in Southeastern Pennsylvania in the 1700’s
“Colonial Kids is an exploration of colonial times in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Life as a colonist is uniquely presented through the eyes of children who lived during this period of American history. Their daily routines, schooling, home life, and recreation are brought to life with stories and facts as told by the children who would have experienced them. A recipe book, craft collection, and games all are included in this site to provide the viewer with fun activities that teach about the time period in a hands on manner.”

Ancient Civilizations
“Explore ancient Athens as one of three characters: a Princess, a Merchant, or a Scholar. Different situations arise for each one, and your task is to choose the correct path to get out of trouble!”