Product Review of Kids in the House
Kids in the House is a website about the United States House of Representatives managed by the office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. From the site’s homepage, users first select an age level: choices are Early Learners, Grade School, Middle School, and High School. Each level then links to content with language and complexity appropriate to that age group. The content varies in its length and specifics, but each age range features info divided into four sections: What is Congress?, How Laws Are Made, Art & History, and Around the Capitol. Each section features rollover text that offers definitions of key terms, and kids can visit a full glossary of the vocabulary from each section. Each of the four age-specific sections links to a teacher page that lists all lesson plans, activities, and related links for the site. Some include PDF lesson plans related to the House’s history and purpose; others are links to websites like the House’s own History, Art & Archives, or to the independent Center for Civic Engagement.
Users can also visit the Meet the Clerk page, which introduces users to current clerk Karen L. Haas.
The built-in lesson plans aren’t much to write home about. Some are just worksheets, while others are links out to other websites. Those other sites are high-quality resources, but it’s up to the teacher to add value and structure for your classroom. Your best bet is to take a long look around all four age level versions of the site, especially starting with the high school site and the Clerk’s YouTube channel. Consider using the site’s four sections as potential units in a government or social studies class. Use the info here as a jumping-off point for your learners‘ own exploration of the House’s history or your first forays into understanding the role of the legislative branch. Finally, consider using the matching info from the different age level versions for different reading levels in your classroom: ELLs and struggling readers might benefit from using one of the simpler versions of the text.
While the site’s pretty text heavy, the content is solid, and educators who dig deep will be rewarded with in-depth info and well-articulated details about the House’s history and role in government. The four age ranges can seem pretty wide (and “grade school” sounds a little clunky), but it’s neat to compare the related content across the four levels and see what changes and what stays the same, especially in the glossary section and in the explanations of how a bill becomes a law. One great find: the high school section links to the Clerk’s YouTube channel, which has a wealth of terrific videos about the history of the House and the legislative process. That the YouTube channel is only linked from the high school page is one of many thoughtful details that went into curating this site: Its developers worked hard to construct age-appropriate, highly useful content, and educators have tons of great info to choose from in a nice range of formats.
That being said, the site isn’t perfect. At least one link to email your representative is broken, and pages are text-heavy with sometimes-dated images. The built-in lesson plans vary in detail and quality too. Still, there’s some terrific reference information and historical content here; this one’s definitely worth a look.
Overall User Consensus About the App
Most pages are pretty text heavy and just the facts, ma’am, but close readers will discover some great details.
Curriculum and Instruction
Lesson plans nicely ramp up with more complexity on the same topic, like how a bill becomes a law. Included lesson plans could use more detail, but there’s good content if educators dive deep.
The same info is presented for four different age ranges, making the site a good fit for a wide range of ages and abilities. The site is intuitive to navigate.