Whether purchased or for free, it’s not always easy to differentiate good online materials from mediocre. Glowing reviews may be accurate — or could be biased.
“It’s important to have criteria for evaluating these materials,” says Jacqueline Campbell, a fifth-grade teacher at York Elementary School and adjunct faculty member for National University’s Graduate School of Education. “There are so many materials out there on the Web that it can be overwhelming to try and select the best resources.”
To prepare her student interns for choosing the best lesson plans on the Web, Campbell assigns them the task of analyzing various online lesson plans. “It’s a real eye-opener,” says the Hawthorne Elementary Teachers Association member. “But it’s good because they pick up lots of ideas.”
Here are some of the criteria Campbell has her students look for:
- Does the lesson plan offer various activities that differentiate instruction so that it can meet the needs of all students with diverse learning styles, whether they are visual, kinesthetic or auditory learners?
- Does the lesson “scaffold” vocabulary to help English learners or struggling students by including simplified language, visuals and graphics, and hands-on learning opportunities?
- Does the lesson tap into students’ prior knowledge and experience, enabling them to make connections between what they already know and the new material?
- Does the lesson offer whole-group as well as small-group instruction?
- Are there provisions for teacher-directed instruction, guided practice and independent practice?
“As teachers, we are always looking for creative strategies and tweaking lesson plans that will best meet the diverse needs of our students,” says Campbell, who presented a workshop titled “Fabulous Tips and Fun Tricks for Teaching Math” at this year’s CTA Good Teaching Conference. “Our profession is rewarding, demanding and challenging, so it’s important to provide the best learning materials for all students.”