Civics In Action: 10 Interactive Lessons For Young Citizens

Civics education is not just about understanding the mechanics of government and politics; it’s about empowering individuals to actively participate and contribute to the democratic process and the betterment of society. Through civics, students develop critical thinking and analytical skills, enabling them to evaluate political and social issues, debate different viewpoints, and comprehend policy impacts. Civics education also enhances problem-solving skills, crucial for addressing societal challenges, and provides a global perspective, aiding in understanding international politics and global issues.

💬 “Civics instruction must become an active and engaging process that focuses on and allows students to use skills that they need throughout their lives. Citizenship is more than voting, and students can act as citizens well before they can vote.” - Quote from the book “Becoming Active Citizens: Practices to Engage Students in Civic Education Across the Curriculumby Tom Driscoll and Shawn McCusker

Whether you are taking a traditional approach to civics instruction by focusing on the systems and structures of government or engaging in action civics via experiential learning as advocated by Tom Driscoll and McCusker in their book, “Becoming Active Citizens: Practices to Engage Students in Civic Education Across the Curriculum,” we have a range of digital BookWidgets activities to share with you from helping students acquire knowledge to providing a deeper learning experience for students where they take on an active role.

In this blog post, I’ll share 10 interactive lesson ideas for U.S. civics education that bring the subject to life for students and underscore the importance of understanding government processes, individual rights, and civic responsibilities in a democratic society. You can use these lesson activities for free by making a copy into your free BookWidgets account or by navigating to the BookWidgets Blog group folder with even more ready-to-use lessons. Or, you can create them yourself from scratch on

💡 While this blog post focuses on American civics education, civics is a subject that is taught in every country. Some countries have separate courses and for others, it’s part of a history course. This blog post will inspire you to spice up the subject for your students. You can easily change the content of the widget accordingly.

1. A Pair Matching or Memory Game

The Pair Matching widget in BookWidgets offers an engaging and interactive way to reinforce learning through visual and auditory association, enhancing memory retention and understanding of key concepts. Have students complete this on their personal devices or as a whole class activity on a smart board.

👇 Here’s an example where students match images of current U.S. Supreme Court Justices with their names (or audio clips of their names) for a valuable exercise in visual and auditory recognition. This interactive activity enhances students’ memory and understanding of key figures in the judiciary and can serve as a Do-Now bellringer activity to kick off a lesson or as a conversation starter for students to recall with a partner all they learned.

Pair matching game US Supreme Court

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💡 Pro tip! Duplicate this widget and rather than having students identify the person’s name, you replace the names with other identifying information you want students to know. This will increase the difficulty by activating their retention of prior knowledge. Another idea is to swap out the current U.S. Supreme Court Justices for other influential historical or contemporary figures. You can duplicate and edit this widget multiple times for differentiated instruction.

2. A Word Search Game

The Word Search widget is great for review of concepts learned and for vocabulary building. Teachers can have students search for the terms from a provided list or make vocabulary acquisition interactive by providing the definition as the clue. You can also differentiate and chunk a long list of terminology into shorter searches by duplicating your word search widget and changing or removing terms accordingly. Use short puzzles for Do-Now or Bellringer activities!

In the example below 👇, students familiarize themselves with key terms in civics and government by using the definition as a clue or finding the word in the puzzle and seeing its corresponding definition highlighted. You could use this activity for blended learning by having students write the terms and their corresponding definitions in their notebook.

civics word search

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💡 Pro tip! Turn this activity into a class game when you use the Live Widgets function by showing the results on the board indicating how many words they have found. The challenge is to see who can solve the word search the fastest.

3. A Crossword Game

The Crossword widget is another tool for vocabulary building and identification of key topics or people. Just as with the Word Search, teachers can differentiate instruction making the puzzle more difficult or easy by limiting the number of clues to solve. You can follow this up by having students write in their notebooks the terms they struggle to identify which will help reinforce the knowledge acquisition. And whether you are starting with a list of terminology in a Word Search or in a Crossword, you can save time by easily transforming one type of puzzle into another using the import function in BookWidgets!

👇 Here’s an example of a crossword puzzle where I repurposed the list of terms I used for the Word Search.


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💡 Pro tip! The answers to a crossword puzzle are not limited to letters in BookWidgets! You could challenge students to remember important dates or years by answering numerically. Take a look at this example!👇

Numeric Crossword

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4. An Interactive Video Quiz

The Video Quiz widget with its 36 diverse question types offers an innovative and interactive way to assess student understanding. By embedding auto-scored questions directly into video content, educators can gauge comprehension in real-time, ensuring that students are engaging with and grasping key concepts effectively.

👇This Video Quiz example uses a video created by CrashCourse to teach students about the concept of Due Process. For more videos check out the CrashCourse or Mr. Raymond’s Social Studies Academy YouTube channels.

civics video quiz

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💡 Pro tip! Don’t stress about creating your own videos! You can search YouTube for videos to use in your video quiz or check out this blog post for tips and tricks on how your video lessons can be even more successful when you’re on screen.

5. A Digital Mind Map

Engaging in mind mapping activities offers students an invaluable opportunity to visually organize and connect complex concepts, especially in subjects like civics education. By creating mind maps, students actively synthesize information, making abstract ideas more concrete and accessible, which is essential for grasping the multifaceted nature of civics.

Using the Mind Map widget, have students explore their ideas to answer a question that you provide. Here 👇 is one example that asks students to think about the scope and impact of local versus state versus federal government. Students can make their thinking visible and use this to spark ideas for an essay or in-class debate.

Mind map civics

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💡 Pro tip! Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of the Mind Map widget! Check out more classroom ideas with a mind map lesson here.

6. A Split Whiteboard activity

As with all the other widgets, the Split Whiteboard serves as a valuable tool in making complex concepts accessible and understandable for students. By actively constructing diagrams with the provided digital stickers and drawing tools, students engage more deeply with the content, aiding in better comprehension and retention of the resources they are accessing within the widget.

In this activity 👇 , after watching educational videos, students utilize the widget’s drawing tools and stickers by clicking on the star and other icons to create detailed diagrams that break down each step of the legislative process. This hands-on approach reinforces the information learned from the videos and encourages students to think critically about the sequence of events and their importance in lawmaking.

civics split whiteboard

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💡 Pro tip! Use the rich text editor to add text, images, and video to the text pane where students will access resources to inform their diagrams. You can also embed a PDF document or even a webpage!

7. Digital flashcards

Digital flashcards, such as those created with the Flash Cards widget, offer a modern twist on a classic learning tool. They’re a convenient and engaging way to study, allowing students to dive into the material anytime, anywhere. With the ability to customize the flashcards, they can be tailored to suit your students’ specific learning needs, whether they are memorizing key facts or understanding complex concepts. Adding mnemonic multimedia elements like images or sounds makes the learning process more interactive and less monotonous.

👇In this flashcards activity, students can interact with digital flashcards that present each of the 10 amendments from the Bill of Rights, allowing them to familiarize themselves with the specific rights and liberties these amendments protect. The flashcards can be designed to show the amendment’s text on one side and a simplified explanation or key points on the other, enabling students to test their recall and deepen their comprehension.

Flash cards amendements

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💡 Pro tip! You can upload the flashcards activity to your LMS so students can practice themselves when needed. You can update the list of terms on the cards anytime. Check out this blog post with 20 digital flashcards activities for all kinds of courses.

8. A Project Checklist

Encouraging students to actively participate in civics lessons means involving them in real-life projects that go beyond memorizing terms and concepts so that they are not just informed and personally responsible citizens, but also learn to be participatory and justice-oriented citizens, as explained in “Becoming Active Citizens: Practices to Engage Students in Civic Education Across the Curriculum” by Tom Driscoll and Shawn McCusker. Such engagement allows them to apply what they’ve learned by practicing citizenship skills in tangible ways within their communities. By working on real-life projects, students gain a deeper understanding of civic responsibilities and learn firsthand how to contribute as informed and active members of society. This practical involvement enriches their learning experience and fosters a sense of empowerment and readiness for their future roles as citizens.

For teachers looking to guide their students through a meaningful service learning project in civics education, an organized approach is key. This example 👇 made with the Checklist widget is designed to track students through every stage of their project, from selecting a topic to planning for its sustainability. This efficient tool not only simplifies the process for students but also ensures that educators can effectively monitor progress and guide their students towards a successful and impactful civic learning experience throughout the project experience.

Civics checklist

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💡 Pro tip! Duplicate this widget and edit as needed to differentiate and track multiple projects and pair the above checklist with the next example in this post!

9. Randomness: Projects

The next activity 👇 , designed with the Randomness widget, aims to engage students in local community service learning, leading to civic action. Students will research, propose, and present actionable service projects that address real issues in their local community. This activity encourages students to engage deeply with local issues, fostering a sense of civic responsibility and community involvement while developing research, planning, and presentation skills.

Using a Randomness widget similar to the one below, prepare a list of local community issues (like homelessness, environmental conservation, public health, etc.) and potential service roles (like organizer, researcher, public speaker, etc.) that are appropriate to your community. The Randomness widget is used to assign each student or group a specific community issue and a role to research for project proposal development. Students or groups develop a service project proposal that addresses their issue and includes actionable steps, potential partnerships with local organizations, and resources needed. Then each student or group presents their proposal to the class. Other students provide constructive feedback, focusing on the potential impact and practicality of the proposals. Students or groups then revise their proposals as needed prior to implementing the plans.

Randomness Service Projects

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💡 Pro tip! Easily create a wheel of images for your Randomness widget with our Pixabay integration. Search by keyword and crop images as needed.

10. Randomness: Research and Role Play

Also made with the Randomness widget, this activity 👇 takes a broader approach and involves students being randomly assigned diverse roles within the government structure, such as Senators, Journalists, or Activists, and a range of pertinent topics like the Electoral Process, Supreme Court Cases, or Climate Change Legislation. Through structured discussion rounds, students explore the topics from their assigned role’s perspective, fostering a multifaceted understanding of civics. This approach encourages active participation and critical thinking, while also offering insights into the interplay of different roles in shaping public policy and society.

Here are the steps:

  1. By projecting the widget on the front board or allowing students to spin via their own devices, randomly assign topics and roles via the “Roundtable Rendezvous: Civic Discussions” randomness widget.
  2. Allow students time to research their assigned role and topic.
  3. Engage in an opening round of group-based discussions with students sitting in topic-alike groups where each student, representing a different role, discusses the same topic.
  4. Engage in a round of discussions sitting in role-alike groups where students apply their role’s perspective to various civics issues, broadening their understanding.
  5. Conclude with a reflection and synthesis round with the whole class where students share insights gained from seeing how different roles interact with various topics. Discuss how different governmental roles can impact various aspects of civics and society.

The timing of this research and role play activity could span multiple days or be a quick-fire activity that emphasizes efficiency in research and discussion skills within one class period.

Randomness Research and Role Play

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💡 Pro tip! The possibilities are endless with the Randomness widget! Go check out this blog post with 25 creative lesson ideas for more inspiration.

Wrap up

The above ☝️ engaging activities, utilizing various widgets, provide varied and interactive methods for enhancing students’ grasp of civics education and “Becoming Active Citizens: Practices to Engage Students in Civic Education Across the Curriculum” by Tom Driscoll and Shawn McCusker offers a wealth of strategies and practices aimed at embedding civic learning into various aspects of the curriculum, providing educators with the tools they need to cultivate informed, engaged citizens through action civics. Driscoll’s and McCusker’s book promises to open new doors for both teachers and students in understanding and participating actively in the democratic process and is ideal for those seeking to enrich their teaching methods with dynamic and impactful civic education approaches. By integrating these approaches with edtech tools, educators can foster a dynamic learning environment that informs and motivates students to actively engage in their communities and the broader world.

Want to learn more about creating engaging lesson activities with BookWidgets?

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Kate Baker

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