The Debrief

How Trends in 2019 Informed Newsela Social Studies

The Newsela Team
Jan 28, 2020

The way schools teach social studies is in the spotlight, and for good reason: with increasingly complex issues in the news every day, helping students understand the historical forces that shaped our present is more important than ever. 

But social studies teachers face a host of challenges: textbooks are often out of date by the time they reach the classroom, and finding high-quality, engaging content to supplement or replace them cuts into time meant for teaching or preparing lessons. Teachers⁠—and students—deserve better, and that’s why we created Newsela Social Studies.


For a window into how teachers use our content, we took a look at the most popular social studies texts in 2019. Reviewing the top-viewed text sets in elementary, middle, and high school classrooms, we see how social studies content can engage students with diverse views on history and current events, while also adding depth and context to other parts of the curriculum.

Across the grades, the social studies content with the most views includes text sets on US History, Arts & Culture, English Language Arts Today, and Science & Math. Explainers—helpful articles that help introduce students to a wide range of topics—also rank in the top 5 most-viewed social studies text sets at each age level.

Top Elementary Text Sets 


There are also interesting trends within specific age groups, however. Social Studies texts related to Nature, Growing Up, and Family & Friendship are popular for elementary students. In middle school, we see text sets on Justice & Injustice and Religion & Philosophy show up on the most-viewed list, and Primary Sources become increasingly important as students begin to practice their own historical analysis. 

Top Middle Text Sets


In high school, these more complex topics continue to be popular in the social studies classroom. Text sets on World History, Government & Economics, and Careers & Education are also important elements on the most-viewed list for high schoolers. Across all of these topics, though, the beauty of Newsela Social Studies is that in each area of focus, teachers and students can access diverse perspectives that help inspire curiosity in the past and the present. Creating better social studies experiences is our goal, and building on this engagement with our content is something we look forward to in the new year. 

Top High School Text Sets 


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