'Lesson Planning Flow Chart' photo (c) 2011, VMFoliaki - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

I’ve been less-than-impressed with a lot of lesson plans I see out there on the web. I decided to make a short “The Best…” list of sources for consistently good lesson ideas.

The lessons at these sites are not necessarily focused on English Language Learners.  Good teachers, of course,  can modify decent lesson ideas.

For resources on lessons plans specifically for English Language Learners, you might want to visit these two previous lists:

The “All-Time” Best Resources, Articles & Blog Posts For Teachers Of English Language Learners

In addition to offering very good lesson plans free-of-charge (though some might offer a paid “premium” service, too), in order to make it on this list the sites also had to offer ones that promote higher-order thinking.  Another criteria is that they did not necessarily only have plans that required technology use or showing a particular video or DVD. The final criteria is that I have actually used a lesson plan or idea in my own class that I’ve found on the site.

I decided not to give a description of each site because they all are pretty similar in how they are set-up.

Here are my picks for The Best Places To Find Free (And Good) Lesson Plans On The Internet:

The New York Times Learning Network

Learning For Justice (formerly Teaching Tolerance)

Facing History

Oxfam Education

PBS Teachers

Teachable Moment

Read Write Think

The American Federation of Teachers has unveiled a new site where educators can upload lessons to share (and, of course, download them, too). It’s called Share A Lesson, and you can read more about it in the New York Times article, Teachers’ Union to Open Lesson-Sharing Web Site. Registration is certainly simple — it takes about ten seconds. It’s just beginning, so it doesn’t have a zillion resources, but I suspect it will grow quickly.

The PBS News Hour has completely redesigned their webpage providing teacher resources.

Teach UNICEF is an excellent resource for lesson plans and materials on social topics. I haven’t quite figured out the exact way to navigate it — it has an organized collection here, and then they have “Global Citizen Brief” like this one on Syria that appear to be elsewhere on the site.

The lesson materials are top-notch and provide versions based on grade-levels. Some of the student questions in the lesson plans themselves seem a little too UNICEF oriented, so I suspect most teachers will modify them.

Here is how the organization describes itself:

TeachUNICEF is a portfolio of global education teacher resources designed and collected by the U.S. Fund for UNICEF’s Education Department for teachers, afterschool instructors, and parents. The units, lesson plans, stories, videos and multimedia cover topics ranging from the Millennium Development Goals to poverty and water and sanitation.

The great This American Life radio show has a series of lesson plans.

I learned about this next resource, The Global Oneness Project, from Valeria Brown:

The Global Oneness Project offers free multicultural stories and accompanying lesson plans for high school and college classrooms.

Reading Like A Historian is an impressive collection of almost ninety U.S. and World History lessons from The Stanford History Education Group  (Editor’s Note: The Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) is going through some changes.) Here’s how they describe the lessons:

The Reading Like a Historian curriculum engages students in historical inquiry. Each lesson revolves around a central historical question and features sets of primary documents designed for groups of students with diverse reading skills and abilities.

This curriculum teaches students how to investigate historical questions by employing reading strategies such as sourcing, contextualizing, corroborating, and close reading. Instead of memorizing historical facts, students evaluate the trustworthiness of multiple perspectives on historical issues. They learn to make historical claims backed by documentary evidence.

They look good to me. You have to register to gain access to them (though you can get a “quick view” of them without registering), but registering is a pretty painless process. The same organization also sponsors Beyond The Bubble, a history assessment site that I have previously posted about

Newseum Unveils New Education Site

Smithsonian’s “Our Story” Is A Valuable Resource For Teachers & Parents

The Peace Corps has a nice collection of lesson plans for all subjects — they’re not about the Peace Corps, but are lesson plans they and their volunteers developed for teaching around the world.

I wouldn’t say they’re the most sophisticated ones around, but many seem to offer some interesting perspectives you won’t find elsewhere. Because of that “freshness,” I’m adding it to this list.

Speaking of the Peace Corps, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — they have published two of what I think are the best guides for teaching English Language Learners classes, and they’re both free: TEFL/TESL: Teaching English As a Foreign or Second Language and Teaching English As A Foreign Language To Large, Multi-Level Classes.

“Words Without Borders” Looks Like An Excellent New Source Of International Texts & Teaching Ideas

Wow! It Looks Like iCivics Wants To Be THE One-Stop Shop For Social Studies Teachers

The Pulitzer Center has a large selection of lessons that look quite good.


PBS’ “Above The Noise” videos are great – they always have accompanying lesson plans and transcripts, and they cover timely topics of interest to young people.

National Museum of American History has a lot of very impressive lesson plans that can be used online or in the physical classroom.

Science in the City from Stanford has equally impressive ones.

ReHistory has a couple of nice critical thinking lessons.


CommonLit Unveils Some Pretty Nice-Looking Multi-Week English Units

PBS NewsHour Classroom

The Strategic Education Research Partnership (SERP) seems to have a ton of excellent lesson plans and student materials for most subjects, including many accessible to ELLs. It has a pretty impressive Board of Directors, including Gloria Ladson-Billings. I’m embarrassed that I hadn’t heard of it until now.

Teaching With The News is from Brown University, and offers a regularly updated collection of  very well-thought-out and complete lesson plans on current events – all for free.

New American History is a new site with lots of history resources, including a separate section sharing well thought out lesson plans.

Again, feel free to offer feedback and additional suggestions.

If you found this post useful, you might want to look at previous “The Best…” lists and also consider subscribing to this blog for free.