Teaching comes with significant pressure — not only are teachers responsible for their students’ academic success, but they also need to accommodate students of different ages, abilities and learning styles, all while adhering to state and national educational standards. On top of that, teachers have very little time outside of the classroom in which to design lessons from scratch, what with grading, staff meetings, professional development days and extracurricular support responsibilities.
Planning their lessons ahead of time can vastly improve a teacher’s ability to stay on track and cover the necessary course content, even when the unexpected happens. Lesson plans provide a framework to follow, which helps minimize teachers’ stress when they need to be “on.” Since teachers with adequate lesson plans know what they need to accomplish for each lesson ahead of time, there’s no need to make up course content on the spot.
Besides segmenting course content into manageable units, lesson plans can help teachers:
- Organize classroom activities
- Highlight specific areas of focus
- Give students a sense of structure
- Experiment with new learning engagements
- Set goals for student achievement
If you think you’re too busy or unable to learn a new teaching strategy, keep in mind that teachers around the world needed to quickly adapt to remote teaching during the 2020 onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. If millions of teachers could adopt new tools and methods in a matter of days or weeks, any teacher can learn and implement a new way of building and organizing their lessons.
There are plenty of tried-and-tested lesson planning methods and strategies that currently help teachers and their students stay focused. No need to build something from nothing when others have done the legwork! Here, we share 12 of the best lesson planning resources available today.
Top 12 Lesson-Planning Resources for Teachers
There are thousands of resources on the internet that aim to help teachers plan their lessons, ranging from award-winning to questionable at best. The following are 12 vetted resources that will help take some of the pressure off your lesson planning sessions. Please note that resources are listed alphabetically.
Along with lessons and workshops on topics like teaching strategies and educational funding, BetterLesson provides free printable lesson plans to users who create an account.
Free with account
With over 30,000 worksheets, games and lesson plans, Education.com offers plenty of easy-to-follow lesson plan ideas for a rainy day, and can be a life-saver in the event of a substitute.
Free with account
How do educators approach some of the most complex and potentially divisive topics of our time? Learning for Justice gives teachers a structured way to engage their students in conversations about race, bodily autonomy, social justice and environmental issues while leaving space for differing viewpoints. Aligned with the mission of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Learning for Justice focuses on Southern American educational systems, but is applicable to school districts nationwide.
Resources free to save with account
Formatted like slide decks, lessons in National Geographic’s Resource Library cover the world’s most pressing issues using age-appropriate language and context. Lessons are enhanced by the beautiful and striking photographs for which the magazine is famous.
OER lays claim to “tens of thousands” of free educator tools, including lesson plans, assessments, case studies and teaching strategy frameworks. Users can filter resources by material type, student age and education standards.
Free with account
PBS provides teachers with free lesson plans, as well as guides for creating their own lessons. The site also has a separate, student-only portal where learners can access lesson materials.
This site provides teachers with free reading and language arts resources. Downloadable assets include lesson plans, calendars, checklists and more.
Products or collections priced individually; blog posts are free to access
Rather than specific lesson plans, Scholastic curates blog posts and book collections that address certain grade levels and topics, both academic and social-emotional. For example, teachers can find lists of age-appropriate books that cover mathematics, history, feelings and emotions, or diversity and inclusion.
Smithsonian’s History Explorer is the go-to hub for downloadable history lessons. The site even offers opportunities for cross-curricular connections, enabling educators to incorporate elements of core subjects like math, science, writing and even performing and visual arts.
TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Talks are wildly popular with adults of all ages, primarily because they present compelling, sometimes revelatory topics with charismatic presenters. TED Talks are useful for teachers in that they distill sometimes complicated topics into an entertaining, easily digestible format that keeps students engaged. TED-Ed provides free, age-appropriate videos on topics as varied as Juneteenth, the cost of gold and Alzheimer’s disease, and even allows teachers to customize lessons to their classroom needs.
Free with account
Wakelet provides a place for teachers, students and everyone else to curate their own collections of lessons and educational resources. Teachers can browse other users’ collections, and even use ready-made collections for their own lessons on topics like ocean life, internet culture and virtual field trips.
What about lesson planning in mobile, remote or unconventional classrooms? There are planning tools for those teachers too! Many are available for desktop, iOS and Android and provide an easy-to-use alternative for planning on the go.
Free for individual teachers
Both a website and an app, Planboard (by Chalk) brings lesson planning, scheduling, grading and progress monitoring under one digital roof. Teachers can edit saved lessons and share them with colleagues. The app version makes it easy for educators to carry all their teaching materials in the palm of their hand during class. For $9/month or $99/year, Chalk Gold offers additional planning features and integration abilities.
$15/1 yr.–$36/3 yrs.
Special pricing available for schools/districts
Similar to Planboard, Planbook is a versatile tool designed for both teachers and students to use. Teachers can choose which academic standards they’d like their lessons to align with and print completed lesson plans right from the app, while students can easily review their assignments and schedules.
Free with limited features
$159–$397 or more/year
Teachers can create digital, slide-based lesson plans from their phones and easily share them with students. Nearpod also allows teachers to track students’ progress within the app.
Tips for Finding Lesson Planning Resources
The freedom teachers have with their lesson plans may vary by district, but there is no shortage of resources and other professionals to offer their tips and best practices for planning ahead.
Ask around your school district for advice on lesson plans. Your district may even have a list of vetted resources you can pull from; if it doesn’t, other district teachers can suggest resources that have helped them.
Graduate school programs can provide helpful links or guidance. You don’t need to be enrolled in a full program to access some of these resources, which can include videos, sample lesson plans and webinars. Alumni can often retain access to their graduate school’s library materials and services.
Make lesson planning resources a topic of discussion at staff meetings. Ask that teachers come prepared with their go-to resources and tools so they can discuss what works, swap ideas and offer each other suggestions.
Join an organization that aligns with your teaching passions. Professional educator groups provide valuable networks and resources to support teachers in all subject areas.
Use Facebook or other online networking groups like a crowd-sourced resource library. Ask for advice or resources on a public online forum. You never know who might be paying attention and able to help.
Pinterest can give teachers a chance to see what tools others are using. Be wary of the links provided though — vet the sites to see if they would actually be valuable or align with academic standards.
Check your state-specific resources. State Departments of Education set and uphold their own standards and often provide resources to help teachers adhere to them. Look up your own state’s DOE and search their website for standards-aligned lesson plans and templates.
It should be clear from this article that digital resources are the present and the future, but some teachers can feel intimidated by the move to digital-only resources. Fortunately, there are professional development courses and advanced degree specializations available that focus specifically on technology in the classroom, so teachers can support their students in becoming responsible, successful digital citizens.
Remember, teachers aren’t expected to know it all! Sometimes, the smartest thing a teacher can do is seek a little assistance. If they are prepared and feel confident in their lesson plans, they’ll be able to focus more energy on engaging and connecting with their students.