Friday, July 27, 2018

My favorite resources by and for teachers - UPDATED

One of the most urgent issues for teachers, beginning and veteran, is what lesson, lab, activity to use to teach a topic.  Some teachers are in schools that have very prescribed curricula and have the lessons laid out for them, but most of us have to create or find lessons on our own.

New teachers can be dazed by this process - where to start? how to choose?  When EVERYTHING is new, this can be overwhelming.  Even veteran teachers, when charged with a new curriculum or just looking for a better lesson, can get lost in everything that is available.

Developing a lesson from scratch takes a crazy amount of time.  Even if you get an idea from someplace else, making it your own can be time-prohibitive, especially if you are a newbie and still learning classroom management, the culture of your school, data management systems, and all the other "stuff" that comes along with this crazy, wonderful profession.  However, I encourage all new teachers to create their own lessons as time and experience allows.  This is really the best way to get a lesson that is just right for you class.  They will have to be tweaked year after year, but that just makes the lesson better and better. It's also a great way to allow your creative side out.  

A Google search for "any topic lesson" can yield thousands of hits.  Some pretty good, most...not so much.  And who has time to wade through all of them anyway?  So what are our other options?

  • Material that comes with textbook adoptions - ugh.  often low-level, cookbook labs, what many veteran teachers are trying to escape in the first place.  Still, often they can be modified  into really good activities.  The adaptation takes some time, it is fairly easy for most seasoned teachers, and a good exercise for novices.
  • Lesson collections of the web There are several large lesson banks out there.  Many are teacher-contributed lessons.  I love the idea of teachers sharing with each other, but again the lessons are hit or miss.  If you are looking for ideas, though, these collections are not a bad place to look.
  • Teachers Pay Teachers I have mixed feelings about this.  I certainly don't begrudge teachers making extra money, we certainly deserve it, but it seems to take away the collaborative nature that I have always loved about teaching.  I have found some very poor quality activities on TpT, and I do not like how we are not supposed to give negative feedback, but contact the author instead.  That just bothers me.  On the other hand, I found SCIENCE TEACHING JUNKIE, and oh my word! - her stuff is just wonderful.  I have used her materials a couple of times in a pinch.  I have not been disappointed. There are several big-time sellers that are pretty good. At least one major seller is way over-rated in my opinion.  Despite what is said, any materials may not be truly aligned with any particular set of standards.  There may be content errors. The activity may go deeper or not deep enough for your standards.  Many times the seller does not want the material to be adapted. And you don't really know for sure until you have purchased the product
  • Other teachers who made their materials available for free.  THESE ARE MY VERY FAVORITE PEOPLE EVER!!! 
    These teachers have put the materials that they use out on personal websites or blogs to share with their colleagues.  They are not sellers, they are real teachers sharing what they do in their own classrooms.  They don't make promises, they just make their materials available for others to use as needed. These folks are examples of the best of our profession.  I have listed my favorites below. 
  • My site (of course) I have long believed that sharing is the best way to support each other.  Let's face it, most of what we create came from an idea of someone else's or is an adaptation of something someone else has done. Very little of what we do is 100% original.  And even if it is, I still think sharing is a good thing to do. That's just me.
  • The Science Spot and Middleschoolscience - these ladies are the absolute queens of sharing! Years ago, when I first built my website for my classroom, I found these sites. As I transitioned my site from a totally classroom oriented one to a place to share, I used them as a model. Both of these teachers and their websites are amazing! Their materials are high-quality, fun, and appropriate; they are made for middle school.  You will love them.
  • If you are a Texas teacher, make sure to check out MissDoctorBailer, she will make your life much easier!  Her materials are all aligned to the TEKS; although they could be used with other standards also. Don't skip over her just because you are not in Texas. Her resources might work with your curriculum too.
  • Two newer finds are Ann Gordon and Sparkle in ScienceBoth are sharing their materials for everyone.  They believe, like me, that sharing is the best way to help our colleagues.  Good stuff!
  • Two sites that are biology, not strictly middle school are Biology Corner and Biology JunctionHowever, I have found both of them to be useful over the years.  Check them out for Life Science resources. 
  • I found a new site for Earth Science Teachers - Earth Learning Ideas. It's full of creative, fun, and practical lessons and ideas for Earth Science.
I know there are more marvelous, sharing teachers out there, and I will be happy to include them on the list, if their materials are totally free and teacher made.  We have a tough job, but the internet has given us an amazing platform for supporting each other. We really need to take advantage of it.

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