Teachers know there is a ton of stuff out there on the internet we can use in our classrooms. But it’s a bit like trying to drink from a firehose (a metaphor my old school used all the time which is now permanently etched in my brain). You can spend your entire planning period falling down the rabbit hole of educational sites on the web. Plus, I tend to use a site once and forget all about it. Occasionally, if I really really like a site, I’ll give up some of my precious Favorites Bar space to bookmark it. Those are the sites I find myself going back to again and again.
Here are 10 sites that have stood the test of time and are super easy to use:
While you do have to sign up the first time you use it, the site is free and you can turn off emails. NewsELA is a source for articles on many kid-friendly subjects. The great thing about the site though, is that you can search by grade level to make sure the article is targeted to your kids’ reading level. Often you can find the same article with several different reading levels — perfect for differentiating. I use it all the time for my ELL/ESOL kids. Just save or print, and you’ve got what you need for your lesson.
Exactly what it sounds like and just as awesome– a website with videos in which famous people have rap battles against each other. You can even vote for who “won.” For example, Dr. Suess vs Shakespeare, Stephen King vs Edgar Allan Poe, and Romeo & Juliet vs Bonnie & Clyde. HOWEVER, after you have a great laugh at these with your teacher friends during lunch, you’ll need to search YouTube for “Epic Rap Battles of History Clean Version” if you are thinking about showing them to your class. Even then, watch them first to make sure they are clean. Consider yourself warned.
A super cute cartoon drawing video with, well, the history of English in 10 minutes. It’s divided up into chapters, so you can play just the piece that matches what you’re discussing in class, like “Shakespeare – The History of English” or “American English.” My kids always love this, and there are some fun factoids that catch students’ attention when you’re introducing a lesson.
SO, this is how you make your own crossword puzzles. (On the site they call it a “criss-cross puzzle” but whatevs.) It’s ridiculously easy. You can also make word searches and scrambles and hidden message puzzles. You might have already known about this one, but if you didn’t, you probably love me right now.
5. Teacher Tube
Like Puzzlemaker, Teacher Tube is not some big secret, but it’s a huge help for classroom teachers. It’s basically YouTube with a filter, so you don’t have to worry about the video having a commercial for Viagra at the beginning. Because that is pretty much the worst thing that could ever happen to a middle school teacher, no? It’s also great for if you want students to find their own YouTube clips without stumbling upon something scary. Plus, Teacher Tube is not usually blocked even if your school blocks YouTube.
The educational site built by the Ted Talks folks, Ted-Ed is a site where you can search for videos complete with lessons you can use alongside them. They are polished, detailed, and fun. You can also search by categories, like “Literature and Language.” So much good stuff! (I also love using plain old Ted Talks in the classroom, and once we did an entire Ted Talks unit where we watched a Ted Talk each day and then the kids had to deliver their own. It rocked.)
As the name implies, you do have to pay for much of the material on here. However, there are some great free resources, and the paid materials are top-notch. You remember when you started teaching and that awesome teacher down the hall gave you an entire CD with all her Power Points, handouts, quizzes, and links for her unit on The Scarlet Letter? It’s basically that. It’s the place you go when you realize that you have to teach The Giver next week and you haven’t even read it yet. True story.
This vocabulary site asks kids to find the synonym for SAT-type vocabulary words. You can set it to 60 different levels, and for each correct answer, the site donates 10 grains of rice through the World Food Programme to end hunger. When I taught high school, I gave my students 1 bonus point for every 100 grains of rice donated — they just had to print out the screen shot of their final tally and turn it in. Many of them liked the game aspect, and even more of them liked the idea of donating to those in need. Easiest extra credit solution ever.
9. Poetry 180
I have loved this site since I stumbled upon it during my first year of teaching back in 2004. Billy Collins, former poet laureate of the United States, created the site with the idea that a teacher could read aloud one poem each day for the entire school year — usually 180 days–to allow students to hear great writing and gain an appreciation for poetry. The poems on the site are short, targeted to teenage interests, and perfect for reading aloud. Although I love that idea of reading poetry daily, I haven’t yet been able to carry it out. I use the poems for all kinds of things in my classes, though. Find the list of all 180 poems here — the first one is my favorite.
This is the site where you can order those awesome free posters. I always have at least three hanging in my classroom. You can also sign up for them to send you a quote of the day (perfect for a bell ringer in an English class), search one-minute videos about different values (sportsmanship, making a difference, character), send inspirational eCards, or download Values bookmarks. If you have a “mentor” class or homeroom, this site is perfect, and I’ve used many of the resources for language arts as well.
Teachers out there — any favorites I should add to my list? Leave ’em in the comments below!
PS: If you teach Shakespeare — this is the bestest ever Shakespeare YouTube video of all time. You’re welcome.
PSS: I am going to need middle school-level Holocaust stuff here in a month or so. If you have anything for that, please share! :)
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