Upgrade your lesson plans with these 5 online resources

Lesson planning is an art. A good lesson requires a fine balance of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS), creativity, student buy in — and, of course, content. 

While public perception can reduce the role of teachers to mere conveyers of information — as if knowledge is spread through osmosis — the actual process of creating an engaging, innovative, and informative lesson is far more complex. 

Working in isolation to create the "perfect" lesson is time consuming, and relying too heavily on textbook curricula can feel uninspired.  

Luckily, there is a happy medium. The effects of technology integration are being felt not just inside classrooms, but behind the scenes, as well. Sites are sprouting up across the Internet dedicated to resource sharing and the creation of stellar lesson plans.

The below sites are awesome resources to get the juices flowing and inspire teachers to push innovative lessons into their classrooms, without reinventing the wheel. 

1. Better Lesson 

The site, which received a shout-out from Bill Gates at the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards’ Teaching and Learning Conference earlier this month, features a library of over 1,300,000 lesson plans, classroom materials, and instructional resources ready for you to download. 

Individual teachers can sign up and use the site OR entire school districts can get accounts. When teachers upload plans, they can make them public or keep them private just for their network to use. KIPP, Uncommon, and Achievement First — as well as many other charter school networks — have network-wide accounts that allow teachers at one of their schools to share a plan with a teacher at another school. If you want a plan that is “private,” the site’s messaging service allows you to request access; most teachers are more than happy to share.

Last year, Better Lesson put out a call for “Master Teachers” to create lessons based on the Common Core State Standards.  Currently, the site boasts over 130 Master Teachers and 3,000 completed Common Core-aligned lessons. The Master Teachers, who have an average of 12 years of teaching experience and hail from across the United States, come from different school types: 127 are traditional public school teachers and 11 are charter school teachers.

2. ShareMyLesson 

Created by the American Federation of Teachers and Britain’s TES Connect, ShareMyLesson is another site that pools classroom resources. Teachers can freely browse over 300,000 lessons, many of which are tied to the Common Core. Student behavior management and special needs support are just two of the non-academic resources the site also features.

In addition to sharing lessons, the site advertises its flourishing support community; the site allows users to rate and review the lessons they view. This lets users quickly weed out unhelpful lessons, a benefit that would not be possible with a standard Google search for lesson plans.  

Praised as a massive time saver, ShareMyLesson resonates for teachers who want to find lessons vetted by real teachers and not being pushed by a publisher with a fiscal agenda.  

3. Read Write Think 

Offering free materials for educators, parents, and afterschool professionals, Read Write Think has lesson plans, student interactive activities, mobile apps, calendar activities, and printouts. 

The site has a number of teachers from across the United States contributing content. If you like a certain teacher’s plans, you can click on their profile to learn more about them, and to see other plans they have submitted.

The site recently launched a video section, allowing users to watch real classroom teachers presenting lessons, as well as parents leading their children in enriching literacy activities. 

4. Zinn Education Project 

The legacy of Howard Zinn lives on through the Zinn Education Project, a website created by Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change. Zinn, a historian, is known for his humanistic approach to social studies, best seen in his best-selling book A People’s History of the United States.  

The site, which promotes and supports the lessons of the book, also has a plethora of teaching materials for  middle school and high school history. Over 100 lesson plans and articles are available for free download, and, as a special bonus, the site organizes the resources by theme, time period, and reading level. 

An example of a lesson on the site is “The People vs. Columbus, et al,” which presents a mock-trial to determine who is responsible for the death of millions of Tainos on the island of Hispaniola in the late 15th century. 

5. Teaching Tolerance

Started in 1991 by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Teaching Tolerance is a multi-pronged resource dedicated to reducing prejudice and creating more equitable school experiences for youth in the United States.

In addition to a self-titled magazine that is sent out twice annually, the organization has a website bursting with creative and reflective lessons, videos, and PD resources that will help promote tolerance and fairness in your school.

Lessons are explained in detail on the site, with PDFs of the handouts linked throughout. 

Topics covered include: Ability, Appearance, Family, Gender Expression, Immigration, Media Literacy, Race & Ethnicity, Religion, School Climate, Sexual Orientation, The Civil Right’s Movement, Gender Equity, Rights, and Wealth & Poverty.


This story is part of our newly expanding K12 coverage.  If you would like to subscribe to the Education Dive: K12 newsletter, click here. You may also want to read Education Dive's look at how Silicon Valley is shaping education reform.

Filed Under: K12
Top image credit: srbichara