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SOCIAL STUDIES POWER

SOCIAL STUDIES POWER www.worldbook.com
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Grade Level Social Studies Power is a product for grades 3–5.Cost Pricing is based on student enrollment: $2.50 per student for an individual school or $3.50 per student for an entire district. For those who already subscribe to another World Book product, these per student prices drop to $2.25 and $3.25. Call (800) 975-3250 or visit www.worldbook.com for more information or to order.Overview Social Studies Power from World Book is a Web-based supplemental resource for upper elementary students and teachers. The site features 103 lessons on a variety of social studies topics arranged into five units of study. Within each strand, specific topics are arranged into sections similar to what you might find in a textbook, with assessments and checks for understanding included along the way. Students can access each lesson at two different reading levels.The breadth of content is impressive, with lessons covering Community and Government; Parts of the World; Peoples and Cultures; World History; and War & Conflict. Included, too, are interactive maps, photos, videos, and tools for students to learn more about Social Studies concepts.Look and Feel The home screen is well organized and simple to navigate. Depending on screen resolution, there is little to no scrolling necessary—always a plus. The focus is on five social studies units, which appear as glossy multicolored buttons under the search box.Aside from the units, the home screen features four separate rectangular areas, set apart with different colors. When you dig in to these resources it quickly becomes clear that there's more content than meets the eye.Set against a green background is Literacy Tools, with links to extension activities, inquiry projects, critical thinking exercises, and graphic organizers.Below this is Geography & Civics Tools, with comprehensive map skills lessons, Flash-based geography games for the U.S., Canada, and Australia, interactive maps, an atlas, and state flag facts.Bottom center is an Important People area, featuring a scrollable group of key figures studied in Social Studies classes. Some are well known, others are more obscure. The day I visited, physician and social activist Hector Perez Garcia was featured. Each quick bio has a link to a full article on the individual.Rounding out the home page is a section called Compare Places. This is a slick, Flash-based tool that allows students to enter two countries, continents, or states to view their similarities and differences. I tried it out by comparing California to Argentina. After making the selections, the tool quickly listed key information about both places side-by-side. At a glance, I was able to see that the land area of Argentina was much greater than California, but that they are fairly close in terms of population. This tool is not exclusive to Social Studies Power (it's also included in their general reference encyclopedias, but is a welcome addition here.How It Works After clicking on a unit strand (say, World History, for example), more specific topics appear beneath bold subject headings (Ancient Explorers, Vikings, etc. are listed under Exploration). When the user hovers over a lesson, a call-out box appears with a lesson summary and Lexile score. From there, users have two choices—click the button for the at-grade reading level, or click the skyline icon below the button for a lower reading level alternative. At first I found the navigation confusing, but quickly realized it's a nice, subtle way for struggling readers to access less challenging text. Better this than to send kids to a page announcing "low level."After the reading level choice is made, the lesson home page is the next screen they see. Each lesson features the same components in the same order—a uniformity that adds to the ease of use.In case there is any confusion on where to start, big, red "Begin Here" text guides users to the right place. Each lesson begins with a page dedicated to vocabulary. The key terms are all listed and defined. At the bottom of the page, a simple arrow allows students to move ahead to the next section. Each page also contains a Check for Understanding link. Clicking the link brings up one knowledge level question about the reading from that page. A button located at the bottom right of the page allows for narration to be turned on or off. This narration is performed by professional voice actors and is excellent. In my experience, kids tune out computer-generated narration immediately—this human touch is a nice advantage over products that use the "robo-voice."After vocabulary and an introduction, each lesson hits on the important topics. Each page features a picture, with brief text (usually one or two paragraphs) and key terms in bold. Adding a point in the "user-friendly" column, glossary definitions appear when the user hovers the mouse over a bolded word or phrase.At the end of each lesson is a summary and Finish page, allowing students to review any of the previous sections, investigate related lessons, or dive in to related quizzes, activities, and projects to extend learning.There is also a link to a 10-question true/false and multiple choice assessment on the key concepts and people discussed in the lesson. When the test is complete, students can see how they scored, but cannot view the questions they missed—a small but frustrating omission. Teachers can also track student success through their personal teacher account.Mirroring the main page, additional resources appear in rectangular boxes arranged around the lesson itself. First up is Extension Activity, which provides a link to one related activity that will increase understanding of the lesson. These often involve discussion and some form of student writing. The extension activity for the lesson on Chinese exploration, for example, asks students to write a letter to a friend about Cheng Ho's expeditions.Inquiry Project comes next. These are more in depth than the extension activities and often include group work and delivering findings to other students.Explore More is located below Inquiry project and lists links to other World Book products with more information. The lesson on the Civil Rights Movement included Explore More links to prominent civil rights figures and landmark court cases in the various World Book encyclopedias.The next section, Critical Thinking, links to two or three questions about the lesson that could be used for individual reflection or classroom discussion.Finally, the section titled Quizzes provides a drag-and-drop vocabulary matching game and a point-and-click multiple-choice assessment of the information contained in the lesson. Both are assessing basic knowledge, but they provide a counterpoint to the more discussion and inquiry-based learning of the other additional resources.The search feature is efficient and useful, returning clear results quickly. A sample search for Michigan returned two lessons—The Midwest and French Exploration. While both are accurate, the fact that the search didn't bring up anything state-specific does highlight the fact that Social Studies Power focuses on more general concepts.For Students, Teachers, and Librarians First and foremost, students will benefit from the 24/7 access to the site. The fact that teachers can guide students to reliable resources even when the school day is done is a benefit.A unique feature of Social Studies Power is the ability for students to download audio podcasts of each lesson. There are several circumstances where this would be a big help—hello, getting caught up after an absence! There are also printable study guides available for students prepping for the test.World Book also allows students to save lessons in a password-protected account called My Research. This feature is available across World Book products. While it would be more useful when researching a topic in the general encyclopedia, this option might come in handy for students working their way through one of these lessons.Social Studies Power also has features that teachers and librarians will appreciate. If your school uses the Lexile framework to determine student reading levels, you'll be pleased to know that each lesson comes assigned with a Lexile value that appears when the user hovers their cursor over any of the lesson links.Also available for teachers and librarians are curriculum correlation standards. While this feature is often overlooked, it proves quite user-friendly in Social Studies Power. Right from the home screen, teachers can select their state and grade. World Book then calls up that state's standards and links to related lessons. When teachers are looking for supplemental content, they would be missing out to skip this useful step.For teachers and school administrators, Social Studies Power provides a potential alternative to textbooks. The Internet age of constantly updated information has made the hugely expensive purchase of new textbooks harder to justify—why buy the latest when textbooks will be out of date so fast? This reluctance, ironically, means that students may be exposed to outdated information more often. Being Web based, Social Studies Power is reguarly updated and revised. The difference is, Social Studies Power has an annual fee, where textbooks are a one and done cost. Districts will have to consider their budgets and weigh their options before taking the plunge.The main page contains a link at the top to the Teacher's Center. This gives access to all the teacher guides and student study guides. The ability for teachers to sign in and track student assessments makes the resource much more useful for teachers.Verdict As textbooks begin to go the way of the print encyclopedia (and the dinosaur), the market for digital replacements will get crowded. While it would take an in-depth analysis by a school district to determine if Social Studies Power is a suitable replacement for their specific curriculum, it sports a nice structure, quality information, and some well thought out details. For those looking to make the leap, this is a resource that might allow schools to say buh-bye to the text.

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