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Top 10 Free Lesson-Planning Resources for Teachers

Sep 12, 2018

By Nancy Barile, Award-Winning Teacher, M.A.Ed.

Last year, I added Nora Zeale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God to my advanced placement literature curriculum. Strapped for time, I began to look for free resources for teachers that would help my students interact with and fully comprehend the novel.

There are many free teacher resources available online, but which ones are the best and most effective? These 10 websites are exceptional resources for teachers in all subjects and at all grade levels.

1. ReadWriteThink

The National Council of Teachers of English's (NCTE) ReadWriteThink website provides educators with access to high-quality lessons in reading and language arts instruction by offering the very best in free materials.

For each lesson, you can see the Common Core and NCTE standards addressed, as well as how long the lesson takes to implement. Every assignment is broken into a "theory to practice" rationale with a resources and preparation section, an instructional plan, and a link to related resources.

I love ReadWriteThink! Not only have I used lessons from this site in my classroom—it was my solution for Their Eyes Were Watching God—but I've actually contributed (and been paid for) my own!

2. PhET

For science, math, engineering, and technology, teachers can't go wrong with the University of Colorado, Boulder's PhET, which creates very accessible free interactive math and science simulations. These simulations are based on extensive research, and they engage students through an intuitive, game-like environment so they can have fun learning through exploration and discovery. Another very comprehensive site, PhET lessons are very engaging and easy to integrate into your classroom activities.

3. Scholastic

Scholastic offers a treasure trove of free resources for teachers—especially those who teach K-8. Scholastic has outstanding lessons that are all linked to relevant standards, and their lessons built around holidays and current events are especially compelling.

Additionally, the site features planning guides, graphic organizers, interactive computer lab and whiteboard activities, book lists, listen-and-read activities, writing activities, vocabulary lists, and discussion guides for most books students would read in grades K-8. Like I said: It's a treasure trove!

4. The Stanford History Education Group

The Stanford History Education Group focuses on improving education by providing classrooms with free materials. History teachers will love "Reading like a Historian," which engages students in historical inquiry. Each lesson revolves around a central historical question and features a set of primary documents based on students' reading levels.

Students must employ reading strategies, including sourcing, contextualizing, corroborating, and close reading, to evaluate and understand multiple perspectives on historical issues. Most importantly, students learn how to evaluate online content—a powerful and much-needed curriculum focus for today's world.

5. PBS LearningMedia

PBS LearningMedia provides interactive lessons in science, social studies, math, and English language arts. Lessons are updated frequently to reflect the real world, current events, and student interest. A recently shared math lesson, for example, helps students learn about the competitive sport of fencing, along with the resulting mathematical problems and equivalent expressions that help determine the number of matches played per tournament.

6. Epic!

This free resource allows teachers and librarians to instantly access 25,000 e-books, learning videos, quizzes, and more. It also includes books written in Spanish!

Teachers can use Epic!'s interactive whiteboard lessons to teach a specific skill or strategy. It's perfect for reading aloud, independent reading, or shared reading. Students can perform experiments using ideas from Epic!'s STEM books or create book commercials using multimedia tools such as iMovie, Telestory, or ChatterPix.

7. EDSITEment

EDSITEment bills itself as "the best of the humanities on the web," and, indeed, it supplies excellent free lessons on the arts, languages, culture, history and social studies, and literature. The result of a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Trust for the Humanities, this site provides excellent materials that have been reviewed for content, design, and educational impact.

In addition to lessons, the site provides direct access to student resources and interactives.

8. NCTM Illuminations

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics created the Illuminations website to increase access to quality standards-based resources for the teaching and learning of mathematics for all grades. The website includes more than 700 lesson plans, 100 activities for students, and 13 Calculation Nation games, as well as interactive tools for students and instructional support for teachers.

9. Teaching Tolerance

Now more than ever, I've found myself turning to the Teaching Tolerance website to help educate my students about fully participating in a diverse democracy. The mission of Teaching Tolerance is to reduce prejudice, improve intergroup relations, and support equitable school experiences for America's children.

There are free sources available for educators who work with K-12 students. The materials, which emphasize social justice, supplement curriculum and help create civil and inclusive school communities, where all children are respected, valued, and welcomed.

10. National Geographic

As it has been doing since I was a child, National Geographic provides free lessons designed in a modular system: activities, lessons, and units. Most activities can be completed in a class period, and a full lesson can take up to a week of class time. A unit can take a bit longer. The goal of these resources is to enable students to become geographically informed through the mastery of factual knowledge, mental maps, and critical thinking.

The next time you're feeling overwhelmed, don't worry. These free resources for teachers are well-vetted and recommended because of their effectiveness and usability, and they can be great supplements to any classroom.

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