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Learning to Share: Teachers Collaborate on Quality Lesson Plans

By Kenneth Quinnell

Think about facing a classroom of kids every day and being expected to walk in the door with something new, fresh, compelling and challenging.

Creating the massive volume of quality instructional material required is among a veteran teacher’s greatest challenges. Needed resources are often hard to come by, expensive and it can be difficult to evaluate their effectiveness. So a group of teachers attempted to solve these problems by creating a valuable new online resource where educators can share their best lesson plans, Share My Lesson.

Share My Lesson is free and pledges to remain that way forever. It was developed by teachers so they could "collaborate with, encourage and inspire each other" online. At the end of November 2012, the site, a joint project of the AFT and TES, the world's largest online network of teachers, with more than 2 million registered users in 197 countries, contained more than one-quarter of a million teaching materials.

In introducing the project, AFT President Randi Weingarten explained:

So much is expected of teachers today, but too little is offered in the way of resources, support and professional development. To meet this need head-on, we have formed a somewhat unconventional partnership to provide teachers in the United States with a new digital platform where users can upload their best resources, review and rate materials to provide quality control and download these resources at no cost. This site, called Share My Lesson, is by teachers, for teachers, and it will become the largest online community for educators in the United States.

The teaching materials are organized by grade level and include general information, as well as topic-specific materials. For example, the kindergarten through second-grade section contains information on arts, English and foreign languages, health, math, physical education, science and social studies. Then drilling down into the social studies category leads to resources on the American Revolution, civics and government, current events, early civilizations, economics, exploration, geography, research skills, the colonies and westward expansion. 

Individual lessons range from brainstormed lists of potential activities to very specific lesson plans that include not just what to do, but why each aspect of the plan is important. And teachers have the ability to rate the lessons and the better ones rise to the top and are seen, and therefore likely used, by more site visitors.

Much of the initial content was provided by the partners and sponsors of the project, including AFT, the Folger Shakespeare Library, Colorín Colorado, Teaching Channel, TES iboard and Student Achievement Partners, and vetted by some 200 teachers before the site was launched.

In addition to lesson plans and discussion boards, educators can find resources on tips for student discipline, teaching successes, test preparation materials, cooperative learning strategies and specific resources for dealing with special populations, including gifted and talented students, English language learners and students with disabilities.

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