Lesson plans to go

Teachers, I need your help. I’m working on a story about teachers sharing lesson plans online. However, it may end up being about schools buying semester and full-year course materials for new or out-of-subject teachers. Or I may do two stories. At any rate, I’d like teacher feedback on the utility of online lesson plan sites and any thoughts you have about Teaching Point‘s soup-to-nuts course materials. Is it possible to find usable ideas on free sites? Is this just for newbies or do experienced teachers surf for ideas? Would some teachers be more effective if they used a master teacher’s lesson plans, syllabus, tests, etc.? And what’s the down side?

You can reply in Comments or e-mail me at joanne(at)joannejacobs.com.

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  1. Mike in Texas says:

    It is very easy to find lesson plans online. Just type in “lesson plans and subject” and you’ll get links to tons of sites, most are pay but you will run across some good free ones.

    The govt. used to run a website called ASKEric that contained thousands of teacher written lesson plans but in typical govt fashion it “improved” the site to the point its nearly impossible to find anything.

  2. Walter E. Wallis says:

    One of the most wasted periods of my army service was when I spent an otherwise very nice 6 months at Camp Cook [now Vandenburg] and Camp San Luis Obispo writing radio repair class lesson plans for some future teacher. I wonder if, half a century later, the Signal Corps is still storing those works. A class outline, sure, but a lesson plan is personal.

  3. What I consider to be a useful site is
    Use this site to create crossword-puzzles for the
    class. Think of an end of the week assignment where the kids have to recall the vocabulary used in that week’s math lessons. I would take more than half an hour using my list and an Excel spreadsheet. At this website I typed in my list and got out a professionally formatted crossword-puzzle in about 5 minutes.
    As far as lesson plans go? Not quite! A crossword-puzzle assignment as I’ve described is good for about 30 minutes work out of the whole week from the students, and maybe half of that if the math instruction for that week was effective. It’s just a good thing to do periodically to confirm the students’ understanding of math definitions and terminology.

  4. Julia Smith says:

    Joanne, I’m a post-secondary, not K-12, teacher, but I’ve often surfed the net for lesson plan ideas when I’m teaching a text for the first time. I don’t think I’ve ever followed one exactly, though–certainly not moment-by-moment. The main problem I see with “master” plans written by someone else is that, well, they’re written by someone else. If the teacher is really enthusiastic about a particular lesson, great; that enthusiasm will carry over into the lesson. But sometimes, not having written a lesson oneself could easily lead to a very uninspired class.

  5. Ross (The Heartless Conservative) says:

    If you do the google search include “site:.edu” in the search and it will only return results from “.edu” sites. The might make it a little easier to find things. You can also use that to filter results for a website. For example, “site:www.joannejacobs.com/” could be use to search this site.

    Also, MIT announced a project about 4 or 5 years ago to start making their lesson plans and other materials freely available online. I don’t if that ever went anywhere but it might be worth checking on.

  6. I’m a college teacher, so what I have to say may not be useful.

    However, I’ve noticed a trend in textbook publishing to offer pre-digested chapter summaries (some with PowerPoint presentation for lectures already made up) to the profs. I won’t use ’em, because, as someone else said, “somebody else” wrote them.

    I much prefer to generate my own material and course plans, based more or less on the ordering of chapters in the textbook.

    There was a move afoot this spring to “standardize” certain courses across all the state universities in my state – have them use the same textbook, same general syllabus, etc. There was even talk of “slipstreaming” – having one faculty member do all the work for one semester’s course (in terms of course-material-generation) and then pass it off to other faculty, with the expectation that all their hard work would be rewarded at some point by their being able to sit back and let someone else digest the material.

    Not to carry the digestion metaphor too far, but that idea left a really bad taste in my mouth. Partly because I suspected the first wave of people who worked on it would be the ones to work hardest, partly because quality control would be an issue, and partly because I just resist anything that smacks of centralization to me.

    I understand the time constraints when one teaches – but somehow, it doesn’t seem right to me (especially among profs, who are supposed to be experts on the areas where they are teaching) to use material that some drone in a textbook’s R and D office wrote.

    And from what little I’ve looked at, it’s uninspiring, very general, and not 100% error-free. I’d rather write my own stuff than police someone else’s for mistakes or inaccuracies.

  7. Ken Two says:

    Re: Ricki’s comments

    I was introduced to a independent group who were in the process of creating a series of parochial history books for middle schoolers. One of the complaints the venture ran into was that the series did not come with prepared materials for the teachers as did the texts from the well known publishing houses. I’m curious as to the age of the commentators to this site who can’t imagine not writing their own lesson plans. And I wonder if they can speak for others with whom they work.

  8. I use the internet all the time for planning lessons.

    How else could I have found out what Juliet meant when she said “happy” dagger?

    Our school library doesn’t have Romeo and Juliet but I can easily download several versions from the net including a great 5 minute version.

    I have never come upon a lesson plan that I could use — most are painfully stupid — but I’ve found some great material for lessons.

    I’d be lost without the internet.

  9. First-year k-12 teachers need as much help as they can get. Textbook materials, internet lessons, and computer programs can help a fledgling teacher stay afloat while coping with the incredible stress of mere survival.

    Also, any teacher changing grade level or subject matter will, at least initially, rely more heavily on prepackaged materials. That’s not a weakness.

    That said, if you’ve taught the same subject for two or more years, and know you’ll teach for awhile, internet lesson plans and other resources become peripheral adjuncts to your own lessons. You might pull out one or two features of the lesson to match your goals. At this point in my career, though, I can’t borrow anyone’s complete plan any more than I could wear her shoes.

  10. aschoolyardblogger says:

    The Georgia Public Schools web site has a link to a lesson library their teachers are creating. Most of the lessons I saw were elementary and middle school. They included all necessary modifications that might be needed for children with disabilities, as well as which standards the lesson was directed toward.

  11. In response to Ken’s question: I’m 35.

    Secondly, it’s not that I NEVER use the Internet (or other textbooks; I have quite a library and pick and choose examples from different sources), it’s just that I prefer to synthesize the information I find myself, rather than having someone else do it.

    I also don’t like (and don’t use) the textbook-specific “test banks”. Invariably the best questions are over the topics I gloss over, and the topics I do cover in depth are the ones with the very low-level questions. (Also, I prefer to give mostly-essay tests; it’s one of the pleasures of not teaching mass lectures).

    I will say I’d love it if all my textbooks came with CD-Roms with .jpeg files (or other image files) of the different diagrams, figures, and charts in the book. That’s about the only “ancillary” material I use regularly.

  12. I have taught kindergarten through grad school. Presently I am teaching high school and college. I use the internet to troll for info and for ideas. I don’t use canned work because, as SuzieQ indicated, it’s like wearing someone else’s shoes.

    I do get a lot of info off the net when I am first doing lectures on new topics for me. I reference those sites for my students, so that they know where the information came from. When they go to the sites, they often expect it to be exactly what I said, which it’s not, because I synthesize and rephrase. But I get a great deal of my lecture material from the internet.

    I have a PhD in English, but they keep changing the texts I’m to teach, so I’m not an “expert” on them. I am an expert on how to teach writing, my major field, but the heads of both my departments have given me “how to” books which do not match or mesh with the theories and work I learned. So even in the field I’m an expert in (one would hope), my teaching isn’t derived from my expertise.