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The Case for Gaming: Why Teachers Should Include Video Games

Watch this quick-paced webinar as TCI’s Brian Thomas shares three reasons why research supports video games as an instructional tool.


Please take time to comment on this webinar with compelling games! Share the grade you teach, subject matter, game title, and why you use it.

Webinar Video

Embedded Presentation

The Case for Gaming


Teacher Highlight!

We love hearing about TCI in action! This past December, Wisconsin teacher Katie David was featured in an article about the implementation of TCI’s Pursuing American Ideals Program. We were so impressed, we asked Katie to tell us more.

Kathryn David

Katie David is a ninth grade history teacher at Pardeeville High School.

What initially drew you to TCI? What jumped out at you about the program that was different from the way you taught before?

I was especially excited about the primary sources built into the programs. I used to spend a lot of time working to integrate primary sources into my lessons. I still include my own supplemental materials, but now my students always have access to the primary sources TCI built into the program for me.

The program layout is also important, especially how the chapters can be taught either as discrete lessons or together in units. There is never time to teach everything in the textbook, but the way TCI is organized makes it easier to pick and choose.

I’m a believer in projects. I like my students to demonstrate their understanding with them, and TCI has made projects streamlined and easy for me. Each lesson ends with a processing activity that asks students to use a variety of different skills–from drawing maps to writing songs–which allow me to differentiate instruction and test multiple intelligences without constantly inventing new projects.


What do your students like best about the program?

My students love the lessons that get them out of their chairs, especially the activities that have them take on a role – immigrant, muckraker, etc.They also love the placards; they feel transported in time and the materials are a tangible way of accessing the historical ideas we discuss in class. Sometimes they struggle (in a good way!) to comprehend the primary source material, but ultimately my students love the capacity to show off what they learned in the end.

Placard L from PAI

For Lesson 16: Uncovering Problems at the Turn of the Century, Ms. David reports that her students found the placards served as strong visual reminders for the environmental, social, and political problems of the Progressive Era.


Do you have a favorite lesson or activity thus far?

Absolutely! It would have to be Chapter Fifteen, Through Ellis Island and Angel Island: The Immigrant Experience. I used the introduction in the materials and it resonated with my students more than I could have hoped. Immigrants (my students) lined up to enter Ellis Island (my classroom), and had to pass inspections before they could enter the country. I asked the Spanish teacher to conduct medical exams in Spanish, and my students expressed real frustration when they could not understand her directions.

Since that lesson, whenever we talk about the immigrant experience (in a historical or modern context) my students are much more empathetic toward immigrants. They talk about this lesson constantly, even though I taught it back in first quarter – I think it will be their favorite memory of 9th grade social studies.


How does TCI help enrich your experience as a teacher?

Like my students, I love the activities that have them moving around and looking at authentic sources. In fact, I was going to skip some chapters with similar lessons that were not central to my curriculum, but I enjoy teaching them so much I included them anyways.

My students always know what to expect from the lesson structure and the processing activities allow different students to show their strengths. I have more work to do linking back to that essential question at each step of a lesson, but as I get more familiar with the textbook, I think it will be really beneficial for the students. The program also allows me to do assessment outside of standard testing, as I feel that the activities are more reflective of their learning than an exam would be.

I have not utilized many of the online features yet due to my students’ irregular access to computers. As our district grows less reliant on paper-based assessments, however, I think they will be more relevant to my teaching style.

Thank you for your wonderful responses, Katie! 

St. Patrick’s Day Lesson


Looking for a fun St. Patrick’s Day lesson?

TCI is bringing back our St. Patrick’s Day Skill Builder, which provides the opportunity for students to learn about the man who gave the holiday his name by utilizing QR Codes to seek out information about his life. If you have any questions about using the QR Codes, don’t worry, we include instructions in the lesson plan, and have also written about QR Codes in a previous post.

You can download the lesson through HERE

TCI Employee Profile: Jen Valenzuela

Once a month, we have been featuring a profile for different TCI employees from different departments, getting a glimpse into their work and place here at TCI. This month, we are happy to feature our vivacious Production Intern, Jen Valenzuela!

Jen Valenzuela (retake)

What is your role here at TCI?

I am a Production Intern here at TCI, and my work focuses on the front-end styling for TCI’s lesson presentations–how they appear to teachers and students–for both science and social studies. I input and edit content and assets requested by the content developers. The production team helps ensure that the content is presented in a clear and visually engaging way, which might take a couple of back and forth exchanges with the developers before the final product is complete.



What is your job like day-to-day?

My day-to-day work varies, as projects develop on an as-needed basis. Currently, I am assisting with a template project for future presentation conversions.


How did you find TCI?

I found TCI through a posting on SpartaJobs, my university’s job portal, while I was finishing my Creative Advertising major. The job, which aligns with my graphic and web design background, also appealed to my interest in science and science communications, especially in learning how information is conveyed to students. After graduating in May 2015, I began work in August.


Has your role evolved since you first started?

Since there’s no shortage of projects and always something new to learn, my role evolves with each responsibility that I take on.


What is your favorite aspect of working at TCI?

The community, and how open the workplace environment is. I’m pleasantly surprised by the agile workflow and communication. People are encouraged to be open and to collaborate with others for additional support and ideas, both within and across teams. By just hearing the conversations around my workstation, I have learned a lot about how the company operates as a whole.


Why would anyone else work for TCI?

We truly care about the programs we create and the customers who use them. It feels really rewarding to be providing students quality material and helping them to learn in the best way possible. Also, the environment and agile workflow is amazing; being able to learn about what the other teams are working on, and working across teams to find a solution – it’s pretty exciting!


What do you like to do in your spare time?

I enjoy skateboarding, especially concrete parks and backyard pools. I love the ocean; scuba diving, beachcombing, visiting the aquarium — anything that gets me by or in it. I also draw and paint. While I enjoy designing on the computer, there  is something visceral about being able to create something on a non-digital canvas.

Quilts to Freedom

Can Clara’s quilt guide her to freedom?

The plight to escape the terror of slavery is a part of our nation’s history that should be studied.  Teachers can find many resources and stories to provide students rich experiences.  You’ll see one such story below that incorporates freedom quilts.  Click to learn what some would describe as a Quilt to Freedom.  As you can see in the wiki, the veracity of freedom quilts is not settled and most scholars doubt their (widespread) use.  See this article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. as an example.


In the fictional book Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt, by Deborah Hopkinson, quilts were used to send messages that helped slaves reach the Underground Railroad. This story is told through the eyes of a young slave named Clara. In this story, Clara is a seamstress in the Big House on the Home Plantation.  Claras’s Aunt Rachel points to the North Star and tells Clara about Canada, the free land in the north. She also tells her about the Underground Railroad – a network of people, routes and hideouts used to help slaves escape to freedom.  Clara learns about the route to Canada and begins working on a special quilt – one with a secret map.    Through this book, your students will deepen their understanding of the struggle and risks associated with the Underground Railroad and the escape to freedom in the North.


Below, find an optional activity that you may use with your students.  Be sure to stress to the students that the story was a work of fiction.  You might as a class do some of your own research to discover what methods were used to escape slavery.


History Content:  The Underground Railroad, Civil War

Click on the image to print off a copy of the directions.

Click on the image to print off a copy of the directions.


Hopkinson, Deborah. Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt.       ISBN 0-590-42485-8

TCI Free Lesson: By George! It’s a President’s Day Lesson

Don’t miss out on your opportunity for students to learn more about George Washington and our other presidents with this fun lesson suitable for elementary or secondary classrooms. Everything you need to build the game along with a lesson is included.


Download your instructions via this LINK.


You will have a lesson guide and both an elementary and secondary version of the game.  When completed, the game will look like this:


5 Websites that Offer Free Primary Sources

Join or Die


We at TCI are big fans of using primary sources in the classroom! From government documents to artwork to historical literature, primary sources are great tools for getting students to think critically and form supported claims from analysis.


With President’s Day and Black History Month approaching, it’s a perfect time to build engaging lessons. So, we’ve decided to give you some of our favorite go-to websites for free primary sources that can easily be used in any classroom.




1. The Library of Congress has a huge database of old documents, political cartoons, newspapers, and vintage images, especially for U.S. history topics. One section of the Website showcases “primary source sets” that often come with teacher guides and tips.


2. Part of the National Archives website includes digital copies of a variety of U.S. historical documents, such as the Bill of Rights, the Emancipation Proclamation, and even Thomas Edison’s light bulb patent. These digitized documents are especially effective for building challenging middle school or high school social studies activities.


3. Primary sources aren’t just for social studies. NASA offers a ton of beautiful images and transcripts from groundbreaking moments in space. These sources are perfect for creating a unique science lesson to accompany a lab investigation.


4. The Getty Museum provides historical artworks that are open for anyone to download and use. The site has a  large collection of photographs, artifacts, and ancient and medieval manuscripts that are perfect for global history lessons.



5. It’s fun to explore the Smithsonian website, which has a lot of sections that feature history, science, and technology sources. Smithsonian Source showcases a range of U.S. sources, including pieces on Native American history and the Civil Rights Movement, and even gives teacher tips on how to use them.


These are just a few of the awesome websites that offer Primary Sources. Comment your favorite way to use primary sources in the classroom!


Setting Up Your Roster for the New Semester


So you’ve had some winter fun and it’s now time to start a new semester! But how do you start teaching when your classes aren’t set up? Worry not! In this article, I’ll provide a refresher on how to modify your classes and students, and I’ll also explain what happens when you remove them.

Modifying Your Classes

  • 1. Sign in to your subscription here:
  • 2. Next, there are two common ways to get to the My Classes/My Students page:
    • a. From your homepage, you can click on “Add/Edit My Classes”
    • b. From anywhere within the website, you can click on the Gear menu next to your name and select “My Students”BSAG1







  • 3. To add a class, click on the Add Class button.
  • 4. To remove a class, click on the “x” icon under Delete for the class you want to remove.BSAManage





Modifying Your Students

  • 1. On the My Classes/My Students page, click on “Add/Edit” under the Students column for the appropriate classroom.
  • 2. To add a student, click on the “Add Student” button.
    You’ll have 4 options:
  • BSAAdd a Student
    • a. Add New Student
      • i. To add a new student, you’ll need a last name, first initial, a username, and a password.
      • ii. You’ll need a unique username within your district. If you find that the desired username is taken, you may want to go to the next step to check whether the student already exists.
    • b. Batch Import Students
      • i. To batch import students, in which you use a CSV file to upload 1 or more students at the same time, you’ll need to follow the instructions on the page.
      • ii. The general steps are to download a standardized template, fill it out with the appropriate information, and upload it to the website
      • iii. Keep in mind that the more students you upload, the higher chance there is for data entry error. So remember to check your work.
    • c. Student Sign Up
      • iii. To remove a student, click on the “x” icon for the student you want to remove from the account.
    • d. Add Existing Student (Transfers)
      • i. To add an existing student, you’ll need to find the student either by last name, first initial, or username.
      • ii. Once you’ve found the correct student, click on the “Add/Transfer” button to transfer the student into your class.
      • iii. Keep in mind that if the student was already in a class for the same program, you’ll be taking him/her out of their existing classroom.
  • 3. To remove a student, click on the “x” icon for the student you want to remove from the account.


What Does It Mean to Remove a Class or Student?

  • a. Removing a Class
    • i. If it was the only class within your program, your program will be removed.
    • ii. All students in a removed class will also be removed from the program. See below what that means.
  • b. Removing a Student
    • i. Student subscriptions will be freed up
    • ii. Student work will still be available if they are re-added to a class within the same program. This includes:
      • 1. Reading Challenge answers
      • 2. Interactive Student Notebook answers
      • 3. Assessment answers


There you have it. Have a great new semester!

TCI Free Lesson: MLK Day

MLK Word ArtMLK Day is on Monday, January 18th this year.  In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we are happy to provide you with a free lesson to commemorate the life and accomplishments of Dr. King.  In the 2-day lesson, students study excerpts from the famous “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. and use images to show progress (or lack of) towards that dream.  You can download your copy of the lesson guide and materials you need for this lesson HERE.  You can also see a recorded webinar conducted on 1/13 that walks you through the lesson.

Don’t forget to visit our website for other free lessons throughout the year!  If this is the first time you’ve encountered a TCI lesson, then let us also invite you to try us free for 30-days at

Holiday History Lessons: Exploring Primary Sources

In addition to spending time with family and friends, the holidays mark the time of many important historical events. Use the winter break to explore them by encouraging students to analyze primary sources and answer related questions.


Read on to learn about two events that happened during this time of the year, long ago. We’ve included exciting sources and a list of questions that will get students to think like historians!


George Washington’s Crossing of the Delaware


On December 25, 1776, General George Washington led his army across the Delaware River during the American Revolutionary War.


The Library of Congress offers a variety of primary and secondary sources about this brave move. Read a transcript of Washington’s papers in which he describes the harsh conditions of the crossing.




This blog post shows later paintings of the crossing and suggests some engaging classroom activities.


As students examine these sources, here are some questions for them to keep in mind:

– In his papers, whom is Washington addressing? What exactly is he describing? What hardships did his Army face?

– How are Washington and his army portrayed in his writing?

– Observe the two paintings. What details do you notice? How is Washington portrayed? And how does this compare to his papers?


After students analyze these sources, have students answer this question and support their claim with evidence: Why was George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River a significant event?


Apollo 8 Goes to the Moon


On December 21, 1968, Apollo 8 was launched as it became the first manned spacecraft to go to the moon and back. On December 24, the astronauts entered the moon’s orbit and broadcast, to millions, photos of the Earth and moon.


Explore the NASA website for facts and sources on this important day. Students can read a transcript of the crew’s lunar orbits, as well as observe photos from the event. In another section of the site, students are able to listen to the broadcast, look at photos, and read more about the trip.



After students research and analyze these sources, ask them:

– Who is the intended  audience of the crew’s broadcast? How does this affect the source? Is it a reliable source?

– What message did the crew give in their broadcast? What insight does it provide about the crew?

– What details do you notice in the photos? Why do you think these photos were significant?


After students have explored these sources, have them consider: What historical questions can you answer using these sources? What are the limitations to these sources? And what additional information do you need?


Primary sources like these ones can help students better understand important events throughout history. Comment some of your own favorite sources!

© 2015 - TCI | Social Studies Textbooks, Science Textbooks & Curriculum for K-12 Schools