Every once in a while, I find a resource that just clicks. It’s informative, exciting, and relevant. The Crash Course video series, easily found for free on YouTube, is one of these resources.
These beautifully-produced videos are funny, hip, and chock-full of great facts. I will say right out of the gate, though, that they are obviously intended for high school and college students: material is covered VERY quickly, and occasionally the content leans in the direction of mature (think PG-13). If you do choose to show a video in class, be sure you have watched it all the way through first, so you aren’t surprised. However, for more advanced middle school students, or for unit review, these videos are aces.
There are six video series: World History (42 videos), Biology (40 videos), Literature (8 videos), Ecology (12 videos), and US History (2 videos so far, but growing every week), and Chemistry (just added last week!). Videos in a series follow a set format, complete with great explanatory animations. Complex ideas are explained in a way that even the most bored teen will follow.
The series I have watched most extensively, World History, does a great job of putting events in context and explaining why on earth this stuff matters. It also comments upon the nature of historical study, and the fact that history is often written by the victors. Even if you deem it too advanced for your students, I highly recommend watching for your own enjoyment and education!