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On-Line Lesson Plans: Fresh Approaches for Tired Topics

Looking for ways to liven up the classroom lessons you teach year after year? This week, Education World takes you on a tour of some of the best on-line sources for creative lesson plans and other classroom activities.

No matter how enthusiastic and energized you feel in September, there comes a time in almost every school year when students are listless and you are fresh out of new ideas and creative inspiration. For many teachers and students, that time comes right about now. So this week, Education World turned to your best resource for ideas and inspiration -- other teachers! -- as we explore the wealth of lesson plans and related activities available on the Web.

Ed World begins its search for lesson plans at the largest sites, those that link to lesson plans at a large number of other sites.


When you are searching for Internet-based lessons and activities, we hope one of the first places you will turn is ... Education World! Click on Lesson Planning on the Education World home page, and scan the list of topics covered in recent stories. Ed World provides lessons for many of the most frequently taught classroom topics.

In addition, Education World has the largest education-specific database around. So be sure to use our search engine when searching for lessons or Web sites related to a specific topic. Just type the topic into the search engine window on the home page and click GO. See what great resources you find!


The Gateway to Educational Materials (GEM), a "gem" of a catalog of Web-based educational resources, is probably the most comprehensive and accessible source of on-line lesson plans. At this site, which currently boasts more than 4,500 educational resources, visitors can browse by keyword or subject list or search for specific topics at specific grade levels. All the major subjects (and then some) are included. Each subject area is divided into a list of subtopics, which are further divided into even more specific topics. Finally, each of those topics is linked to lists of on-line educational resources, including activities and lesson plans.

All a busy teacher needs to do to find activities for any topic is to follow the marked path. Once you've located a topic, you'll find that each activity or lesson at this site comes with a description of the activity, a suggested grade range, the lesson's source, and more. If you like what you see there, you simply Go to Full Text to view the complete lesson.


The Apple Learning Interchange, from Apple Computers, is another site that offers an extensive array of classroom lessons and activities. This site also draws from a number of on-line educational resources to provide access to thousands of lesson plans in almost every educational area.

Although the formats of the activities vary, depending on their source, most include all the information, resources, and directions necessary to complete the activity with minimal additional effort.


In addition to the larger sites, we also visited some self-contained sites that offer their own lesson plans.

Encarta Schoolhouse
One of the most comprehensive of those is Encarta Schoolhouse -- a great place to find a large number of lesson plans that are sure to capture the interest of students at almost every grade level. Here, visitors can choose from an extensive list of subject areas. (Many activities are cross curricular and are referenced in each applicable subject area.) After choosing a subject area, you'll find a list of available lesson plans that includes suggested grade levels as well as a brief synopsis of each activity.

For example, in the Techno Zoo: Designing a Zoo Habitat activity -- found in both the Information Technology and Science lesson lists -- students in grades 4-8 will "integrate math, science, communication, and technology skills as they research the habitat requirements of endangered species and then design a zoo."

All Encarta Schoolhouse activities include an overview, objectives, a materials list, a suggested procedure, and an evaluation activity, as well as all resource and extension links.

This is a great site if you are looking for creative activities that really work in the classroom.

AskERIC Lesson Plans
Another great site, The Educator's Reference Desk (previously known as AskERIC Lesson Plans), contains more than 1,000 lesson plans in many subject areas written by teachers from all over the United States. Here, visitors click one of the major subject areas to find related activities and lessons.

For example, you might click Health and find a list of health-related topics, such as Body Systems and Senses, Nutrition, Safety, and Substance Abuse. Click Substance Abuse to find a list of activities on that topic. One of those activities, Group Rope Squares Grade 5-Adult, is a lesson that reinforces teamwork, cooperation, communication, and problem-solving skills as part of a drug-prevention program.

Most AskERIC lessons include an overview, objectives, a list of required resources and/or materials, suggested activities and procedures, and a wrap-up, as well as links to related activities and information.

Columbia Education Center (CEC) Lesson Plans
Another self-contained site, CEC Lesson Plans, from the Columbia Education Center, provides lesson plans in language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies at three different educational levels. This is not a pretty site. It includes no graphics or bells and whistles, but it does provide lots of lessons and easy classroom activities -- usually between 20 and 40 at each level of each subject area. The practical and useful lesson plans were obviously developed by teachers who understand the limitations of time and resources in many classroom situations.

For example, under Miscellaneous, visitors can click Intermediate (6-8) and choose Football Review. The lesson, which provides a fun way of reviewing classroom material, includes an overview, a purpose, objectives, required resources and/or materials, suggested procedures, a classroom activity, and a wrap-up.

All the activities at this well-organized and easy-to-use site follow the same format, making it easy to navigate and use.

Lesson Plans from National Core Knowledge Conferences
Lesson Plans from National Core Knowledge Conferences is another site that provides its own lesson plans -- all of which have been presented at Core Knowledge conferences by classroom teachers. Unlike most sites, this one groups lesson plans by grade level rather than by subject area. Visitors choose a level from preschool through seventh and eighth grade and then browse the activities provided. Though not as extensive as many of the sites listed, this one does provide a good number of activities at each grade level in various subject areas. Most notably, it provides seven preschool lesson plans, including hard-to-find science and math activities.

Be sure to check out the preschool activity Oceans, which includes a number of cross-curricular activities suitable for students both in and beyond preschool.

Each activity at this site includes an abstract, an overview, background information and resources, possible lessons, and wrap-up. The lessons here tend to be text-heavy, and many look intimidating, but they're all full of information and activities. They're all well worth the effort.


There are, of course, many more excellent sources for on-line lesson plans -- too many to list in a single article. However, some additional sites are also worth a mention -- and a visit. Those include the following:

Daily Lesson Plan
This site from The New York Times provides lesson plans based on the day's news for students in grades 6-12. A new lesson plan is available each day, and archived lesson plans are also available.

Discovery Channel School K-12 Lesson Plans
This site provides on-line curriculum support materials, including activities and lesson plans, that complement Discovery Channel programs. Some great activities, developed by classroom teachers, can be found here, although subject areas are limited to science, history, and technology.

The Education Page
This site is not large, but it contains links to some excellent and unusual lesson-planning activities in a number of subject areas.


The following sites, though valuable, are either less comprehensive than most of the sites above or they focus on a limited number of subject areas.

H. T. Coutts Library Teacher's Page
This site provides a list of sites that offer on-line lesson and unit plans.

Teachers Net Lesson Bank
Find some great ideas for lessons in a variety of subjects at a variety of grade levels. All lesson plans and suggestions are contributed by classroom teachers -- and you're invited to post your own best ideas as well.

These on-line lessons are based on children's literature.

The Teacher's Desk
Presented are more than 250 lesson ideas for spelling, writing, English, reading, and vocabulary suitable for students in fifth or sixth grade.

The Drama Teacher's Resource Room
This site provides lesson plans; resources on costumes, props, set design and lighting; and links to drama Web sites.

This valuable resource suggests sites that provide lesson plans in specific subject areas. If you are looking for sites that provide educational resources in language arts, science, social studies, math, or physical education, this site is a good starting point.


The following sites are geared toward helping teachers write lesson plans.

The Internet and the Classroom Teacher
Preparing an Instructional Lesson Using the Resources of the Internet The site describes step-by-step the process of developing lesson plans that utilize the Internet.

Lesson Design and Performance Models
This site discusses Dr. Madeline Hunter's eight elements of lesson design.

Article by Linda Starr
Education World®
Copyright © 2005 Education World

Originally published 05/17/1999
Links last updated 08/09/2005