It is a blessing for busy educators that online sources for free curriculum are about as numerous as online weight loss advertisements. The Federal Registry for Educational Excellence, for example, is a great resource — so great that it offers over 2,000 online teaching resources for arts and music education, over 11,000 on U.S. history topics and more than 62,000 relating to science. If you happen to have the time to browse these listings, you are both lucky and quite extraordinary.
If, on the other hand, you are like most of us and have limited time to dedicate to your curriculum search, here are some top picks to get you started.
You’ll have no trouble holding your students’ attention with these film-based lessons and activities. Produced by the Independent Television Service, a division of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Community Classroom combines modules created from its compelling documentaries with lesson plans and activities. Its information-laden lessons cover a range of pressing social topics, including teen resiliency, global trafficking and the criminal justice system. Topics are mature and appropriate for high-school students and older audiences.
Customizing your students’ learning experience is key, and that’s the mantra behind this innovative platform that enables teachers to compile their favorite Common Core resources from high-performing schools and create personalized playlists for students. You can browse, search, rate, add, share and organize the site’s grade 6-12 resources, and even let parents and students follow along.
If apps are a tool of choice in your classroom, check out these curriculum developed by long-time teacher Cyndie Sebourn. She has created nearly 20 curriculum (and counting) to accompany popular educational apps, including Treasure Kai, Human Body Detectives and The Mighty League. You need to purchase the apps, but the accompanying lesson plans are free.
A great resource for K-5 educators, Lesson Pathways compiles various online educational resources into ready-to-teach learning units in core subjects. Educators tout the site’s planning tool, which enables you to organize units for single or multiple students.
A large repository for free curriculum, Education World does a great job of featuring and rating new teacher resources as they’re developed. A one-stop shopping site for educators, the site includes teacher tools and templates and also features a handy interactive map linking to state standards.
TeAchnology offers thousands of lesson plans, but its best features are its additional resources for teachers. “Teacher Helpers” include summaries of subject matter ranging from Colonial America to common disabilities seen in schools to information about where English speakers can learn African languages. Particularly helpful is its “Teacher Timesavers” section, which includes templates for all the forms you could possibly need.
Published by the University of Rhode Island, this site offers terrific K-12 lesson plans designed to build media literacy and other critical thinking skills. Topics include digital and media literacy, copyright and fair use, and critical analysis of non-fiction TV. Available for purchase, but too cool not to mention, is its media literacy smartphone, a paper card that helps students learn to critically analyze any media text, using the visual of a smartphone.
iCivics was founded by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in order to encourage civic knowledge and participation. This site offers one of the most user-friendly search features out there for finding curriculum: You can select standards-aligned curriculum by state, topic and grade-level. Subjects include civics and citizenship, culture, economics, geography, government, history and more.
Engaging students in engineering and other math and science skills is eGFI’s raison d’etre. K-12 lesson plans include fun, hands-on projects and offer numerous ways to enliven the classroom. Another great feature of this site is its link to outreach activities, including competition information, and motivational features to encourage interest in the sciences, particularly among young women.
Technology company Intel offers an impressive education program, with resources that include free professional development relating to technology in its myriad forms. With a focus on online education, Intel’s curriculum include lessons on roller coaster design and interactive lessons that teach the anatomy of a computer. For STEM and engineering and design units, Intel’s website is a great place to start.
Margaret Brewster is a freelance writer and non-profit consultant. She writes about education and technology for several websites, and is a contributor to OnlineSchools.com; image attribution flickr user woodleywonderworks