Curriculum-sharing websites can be a fantastic way to collect materials and best practices beyond the four walls of your classroom. When Vanessa Vega wrote her popular post "A Primer on Curriculum-Sharing Sites" a few years ago, the landscape was a little less crowded -- and a little less complex. The Common Core has added a new layer to the planning process for many teachers, and with countless sites that house giant collections of dubious quality, looking for teaching materials online is a bit of a needle-in-a-haystack proposition. So how do you cut through the noise to find the best?
Websites that foster community around the resources are a great place to start. Teachers can contribute their own work, collaborate across the Web to make them better, rate others' contributions after using them, and watch the best bubble to the top. Though not all of the organizations and networks highlighted in this video playlist are built around a community, all of them offer no-cost or low-cost lessons plans and materials for the classroom, and most offer tools to sort by subject and grade level, and to match to standards. Happy hunting!
Video Playlist: 10 Places to Get Free Lesson Plans
Watch the player below to see the whole playlist, or view it on YouTube.
- Share My Lesson -- Inspire. Be Inspired. (01:48)
This cute video explains how teacher-built Share My Lesson helps educators connect to get what they need. They offer user-rated Common Core exemplar lessons in their library of more than 250,000 resources.
- What is LearnZillion? (02:46)
LearnZillion is like the Khan Academy of Common Core, with thousands of lessons tied to the standards. Started by a school in Washington, D.C., as a homegrown repository for screencast lessons by their best teachers, they got funding to go big, and now teachers across the country can participate.
- How to Search OER Commons (02:37)
Open Education Resource Commons is an incredible repository of valuable free learning materials -- but it can be overwhelming to the new user. This video helps you search smarter while you navigate the nearly 50,000 assets contributed by hundreds of content providers.
- WatchKnowLearn Overview (04:06)
They don't call me VideoAmy for nothing: I love finding videos to use in the classroom, and WatchKnowLearn is a wiki just for that. The site looks a little different now than when this intro video was made a few years ago, but the functionality remains the same.
- PBS LearningMedia Overview -- Video Tutorial (03:00)
PBS LearningMedia is a newly launched free service that brings together digital content from trusted organizations and public broadcasters, including videos, games, audio clips, photos, and lesson plans.
- Welcome to Shmoop, For Teachers (02:12)
Though Shmoop is relatively focused on test prep, they offer study guides, lesson plans, and sample quizzes, written by PhD students. Start with their free Learning Guides section; you run into their tier of (reasonable) paid goodies pretty quickly if you start from Teacher Resources.
- An Overview of Curriki -- Open-Source Curricula (04:50)
With more than 8 million users from nearly 200 different countries, Curriki has been a vibrant place to create, share, and find open educational resources (OERs) since 2006. They offer free tools for build-your-own curricula and private virtual collaboration spaces.
- Using ReadWriteThink (03:17)
There are also some fantastic subject-specific curriculum sites, like ReadWriteThink, managed in part by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). They offer specific how-to videos on their YouTube channel to help you navigate better while hunting for language arts materials.
- BetterLesson (06:39)
BetterLesson houses how-to videos on Vimeo, so the only YouTube video I tracked down is this one, of founder Alex Grodd speaking about a new model for professional development. Although BetterLesson has fee-based subscriptions for districts, individual teachers will find lots of free tools.
- EDSITEment (02:26)
This screencast tours us through EDSITEment, a project of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The site offers teaching materials organized into four categories: Art and Culture, Foreign Languages, History and Social Studies, and Literature and Language Arts.
More Places for Free High-Quality Teaching Materials
Regardless of how you do your lesson planning, one thing is for sure: Teachers are under increasing pressure to use higher-quality curriculum. Making time to collaborate with other educators is essential to improving the way you teach and refining the materials you teach with. I hope these sites will help you get started or find new communities to join. I've only been able to explore the tip of the iceberg here, so please help other educators find outstanding resources and connect with each other by sharing your favorite websites and networks in the comments below!
- Share My Lesson
- Open Education Resource Commons
- PBS LearningMedia
- Federal Registry for Educational Excellence
- How To Smile (science / math activities)
Roundups and Write-ups for More Sources:
- "The Best Places To Find Free (And Good) Lesson Plans On The Internet," by Larry Ferlazzo, Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day
- "The 10 Best STEM Resources," by Phil Nast, National Education Association
- "5 Useful Places To Find Online Lesson Plans," by Katie Lepi, Edudemic
- "Lesson Plan Sources," from United Federation of Teachers
- "40 Places to Find Free Lesson Plans Online," by Karen Schweitzer, TeachForever.com
- "Project-Based Learning Lesson Plans," from Project Foundry
- Infographic (PDF): How To Search for Openly Licensed Educational Resources, from Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning