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Energize Your Lesson Plans—For Free!

From Common Core lessons to K-12 STEM activities and more, these valuable freebies are available year-round.

Looking for more teacher freebies even though Member Appreciation Week has ended? Many organizations offer free resources to educators all year long!

Fun and entertaining goodies such as stickers and classroom decorations are great and have their place, but if you’re looking for education tools, new skills and in-depth support, the following resources can provide long-term value.

Early Childhood Education

The Center for Early Childhood Education at Eastern Connecticut State University provides free resources for early childhood educators. “Primarily, we offer brief videos (2-10 minutes) that demonstrate best practices and give tips for working with young learners, including videos with guidance for teaching math and literacy,” says Program Coordinator Julia Lapp. 

“The videos that are most popular with teachers are our e-clips series, which focus on specific content areas such as math and literacy, and our “Investigating” series,” she adds. They show how teachers engage young students in learning experiences “covering all developmental domains while exploring one topic in-depth,” she adds.

Video clips are designed to support educators reflecting on their current teaching practices and to help them imagine possible changes they can make in their classrooms to implement research-based strategies. You can use them alone, but for the greatest benefit, CECE encourages teachers to view them in group settings such as staff meetings or classroom planning periods.

The site’s “Guiding Young Children’s Behavior” video, for example, includes segments on fostering trusting relationships, arranging the classroom, selecting classroom materials and planning the schedule, establishing classroom rules, responding to behavior problems and resolving conflicts and helping children identify and express emotions.

Videos can be viewed online on the Center’s website or on its YouTube channel, or downloaded as podcasts to computer or iPod/iPad through iTunesU. Check topics of interest in their Alphabetical List of Videos. Sign up for email notification if you want to be alerted when new e-clips and Investigating videos are added. 

Elementary Online Encyclopedia

DKFindOut, a newly-launched (January 2015)  interactive global education website for children, parents and teachers, supports the most current core curriculum subjects such as math, science, geography and history. Content is aimed primarily at children aged 7 to 11 but also appeals to ages 5 through 14.

The free online encyclopedia helps bring key concepts to life using articles, animations, sounds, photos and videos; this multi-faceted approach appeals to every type of learner. Information is current, authenticated by experts and updated in line with changes to teaching practice. (DK specializes in illustrated reference books for children and adults.)

Students, educators and parents who use the site can click on topics such as animals and nature, dinosaurs and prehistoric life, Earth, English, history, the human body, math, space, science, music, art, literature and more. Hundreds of quiz questions support the topics.

The section for educators includes subject-based, curriculum-linked articles designed to support classroom teaching and learning, as well as ideas and resources for projects and homework.

The site is designed to make it easy for all users—children, parents and educators—to find exactly what they need and can be used on all desktop, tablet and mobile devices.

K-12 STEM

K-12 science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) educators and students will find lots of fun, useful and free STEM resources at Michigan Technological University’s MindTrekkers website.

Click on “Activities” to find free worksheets, lesson plans and activities listed by subject. The “Teachers” section includes links to additional support sites such as The Teachers CornerHow Stuff Works and Scholastic Student Activities.

Another Michigan Tech STEM resource is “Water Towers” from Michigan Tech’s Western Upper Peninsula Center for Science, Mathematics, and Environmental Engineering. This exercise challenges users to “build the tallest water tower using the fewest materials that will support the most water (load) for a community.” Each water tower must be built using a ping pong ball, spaghetti noodles, marshmallows, a golf ball, timers and rulers. Participants must describe the engineering design process, explain factors that contribute to stability and take into consideration “real world trade-offs of increasing water pressure and minimizing labor and material cost.”

Social Studies Edu-Games

For social studies and archaeology, educational games from Dig-It! Games can promote critical thinking, cultural awareness and problem-solving skills. Although there’s a charge for some of the games, the company offers many game apps for iPod or iPad at no charge through the company’s iTunes website.

The free games are in three categories: mini-games including MayaNumbers, Can U Dig It! and Artifact Snatch; short-form games to be played over one or two class sessions including Loot Pursuit: Tulum, Loot Pursuit: Pompeii and Roman Town; and a long-form game, Mayan Mysteries, that can be played over a few weeks of classes, worked into a curriculum or used as a stand-alone teaching tool.

Common Core Lessons

Better Lesson teamed with the NEA Master Teacher Project to help educators cope with the challenges of Common Core.

The site contains more than 10,000 curated, classroom-ready, complete Common Core-aligned lessons from 130 Master Teachers (MTs) in grades K-12 math and English language arts (ELA).

“These aren’t just the normal lessons,” says Alex Grodd, Cofounder and CEO of Better Lesson. “They’re super-accessible and classroom-ready. Better Lesson’s MTs even share reflections, real-life insight into what worked, what misfired and tips/tricks to successful Common Core implementation.”

Educators can access the site to find complete lessons for their grade or subject. That reduces the strain of prep time and lets teachers focus on doing what they do best, adds Grodd: “Teach and inspire students.”

“Giving Back” Lessons

To help children learn about “giving back,” try the resources for teachers at Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to finding cures for all kids with cancer. The lessons plans and program guides offer ways educators can use classroom activities to get kids involved in fighting childhood cancers. Activates include talking with kids about cancer, collecting coins, operating lemonade stands and more. Bonus: While students learn about giving back, they also learn math, planning and other skills.

Want more?

You’ll find many other freebies on blogs and websites for educators, such as TEACHERS - Free Stuff & Freebies on MySavings.com, Classroom Freebies on The Organized Classroom blog, Free Teacher Resources on Discovery Education and others. Use your favorite search engine to look for “free + teacher or classroom” to find more!

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