Top Websites for Curriculum and Lesson Plan Ideas

It’s hard enough to be a teacher these days without struggling for curriculum outlines and lesson plans to support the new curriculum and requirements. Whether you are a new teacher or an experienced one who’s trying to keep up with the latest changes, there are a number of websites and resources that can help.

Here are twelve of the best sites you can use to make your job that much easier so you aren’t spending hours developing your own materials.

1. Scholastic

Scholastic, one of the world’s leading children’s publishers, has an impressive website full of educational and creative ideas. They offer a wide range of lesson plans by grade, subject and types of resources.

Search for your topic and keywords and discover a wealth of information you can use to transform your teaching. Contains videos, tips sheets, worksheets, printables and more.

2. The Utah Education Network (UEN) website is packed with resources for K through 12 learning. Get support for Core, particular subjects, and more.

3. Share My Lesson has more than 900,000 members and makes it easy to share teaching materials with colleagues. Download a wealth of curricula and lesson plans, or upload your best plans to help other teachers and classes. The site is packed with free K-12 lesson plans, teacher resources, classroom activities and more.

4. Have Fun Teaching

As the name says, this is a bright, cheerful site with lots of interesting materials in all subjects and for all grades.

5. New Teachers: Lesson and Curriculum Planning

Explore a diverse collection of curriculum-planning tips, guidance, and other resources meant to help new teachers plan effective activities, lessons, and units. Adapt and apply these to the new Core requirements as needed.

6. Common Core Sheets

As the name says, this site contains a wealth of Common Core-related materials. Grab these free resources and use them as needed.

7. UDL Exchange

UDL, Universal Design for Learning, is a tool that can help you create, organize and share resources. Put together collections and use the built-in guidelines to come up with lesson plans for any age that can then be stored and shared.

To access resources at the site, use the search box and filter by grade, subject, common core standard, and so on.

8. Illuminations

This is an excellent resource for teaching math, with featured lesson plans, games and more. Never struggle with finding remedial to advanced learning lesson plans again.

9. Read Write Think

Read Write Think has great resources for all ages and topics, for both teachers and parents. Search by lesson plan types, units, learning objective and more.

10. Edutopia

Edutopia has excellent guidelines for new teachers trying to plan their own curriculum and units, to make sure you don’t miss out on anything important. It is a big site that will take some time to explore, but you will be amazed at the hidden gems you will find to help advance your skills as a teacher.

11. BetterLesson

This site offers coaching and enables teachers to master common core and more. If you feel you need more professional support, this might be the right solution.

12. Proteacher Community

This is not the slickest-looking site but it does have a wealth of materials and links worth looking at, and material to support your career as a teacher.

If you’ve been struggling to develop your course materials and keep your students occupied and on task with all of the learning requirements, try one more of these websites and see what a difference it can make to your classroom teaching and your students’ academic achievement.


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Nine Management Strategies for a Successful Classroom

 A successful classroom is not a question of luck, but of management. Here are ten of the best ways to manage your classroom successfully, for a productive and pleasant working environment.


1. Take Charge

If you are a new teacher, taking charge can seem the most challenging part of teaching, but it is actually very easy if you are clear from the outset that you are in charge. Demand respect and attention, and give it in return as appropriate. The clock is ticking in every lesson, and every school year. There is a lot to get through if your students are going to enjoy academic success. Make this clear to them in age-appropriate language.

2. Manage the Seating

Some students might have issues with seeing the board or hearing instructions. Other students might clearly show causes for concern, either being too quiet, or too loud. Seat them alphabetically by last name as far as possible when you first meet them so you can learn their names, and then adjust the seating plan for any special circumstances. A seating plan will also help any substitute who might have to cover your class to keep order.

3. Be Clear about Expectations, Rewards and Punishments

Students want to see that you are fair, consistent and not playing favorites, and that the punishment fits the crime. When you first meet your class, outline the rules and create a display to remind them.

4. Be Consistent

Once you have set the rules, you need to enforce them. Be consistent and students will feel they are being treated fairly. Consistency is also important personally. Don’t let your moods make the punishment too harsh, or cause you to ignore a serious infraction.

5. Plan Every Lesson – Don’t Try to Teach on the Fly

It can take ages to organize each lesson, but if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. A structured lesson with a clear introduction, aims and a conclusion at the end, and homework setting, rather than them rushing out the door when the bell rings, makes for an orderly learning environment and measurable results. Added bonus: Save all your lesson plans for future use.

6. Create an Atmosphere of Cooperation

Cooperation with your students, and they with you, and with each other, can eliminate a lot of stress, attention and even academic rivalry. Make it clear that you all want to succeed in the year’s work and that the only person they need to compete with is themselves, to always try to do better.

7. Deal Effectively with Attention-Seeking Students

These students can eat up a lot of time and energy and sidetrack the lesson if you are not careful. They might be “showing off” by answering all the questions, or playing up by breaking the rules. Remind them that everyone is there to learn, and about the class rules. A “naughty corner” approach or exclusion from the room should only be used in the worst instances.

8. Make Sure Everyone Can See and Hear You at All Times

This establishes your control and makes you available. If someone comes to the classroom and interrupts, either tell them to come back at the end of the lesson, or stand by the doorway with the door open. Do not vanish from the students’ line of sight.

9. Take an Appropriate Personal Interest in Students

No one wants to feel like an object. Let students express their likes and interests in their work, such as dinosaurs and so on.

Bonus Tip and VERY IMPORTANT–Be Careful What You Say and Share

It is fine to take an interest in your students, but only share information and say things you wouldn’t mind the world and every parent and school principal knowing.


What Goes Down Better Come Up a.k.a. Adventures in Hbase Diagnostics

Earlier this year, the feedly cloud had a rough patch: API requests and feed updates started slowing down, eventually reaching the point where we experienced outages for a few days during our busiest time of the day (weekday mornings). For a cloud based company, being down for any period of time is soul-crushing never mind for a few mornings in a row. This led to a lot of frustration, late nights, and general questioning of the order of the universe. But with some persistence we managed to get through it and figure out the problem. We thought it may be some combination of instructive and interesting for others to hear, so we’re sharing the story.

But first we’d especially like to thank Lars George. Lars is a central figure in the HBase community who has now founded a consulting company, OpenCore. It’s essentially impossible to find a great consultant in these situations, but through a bit of luck Lars happened to be in the Bay Area during this period and stopped by our offices for a few days to help out. His deep understanding of the HBase source code as well as past experiences was pivotal in diagnosing the problem.

The Cloud Distilled

Boiled down to basics, the feedly cloud does 2 things, downloads new articles from websites (which we call “polling”) and serve API requests so users can read articles via our website, mobile apps, and even third party applications like reeder. This sounds simple, and in some sense it is. Where it gets complex is the scale at which our system operates. On the polling side, there are about 40 million sources producing over 1000 articles every second. On the API side, we have about 10 million users generating over 200 million API requests per day. That’s a whole lotta bytes flowing through the system.


feedly Cloud diagram
the main components of the cloud

Due to this amount of data, the feedly cloud has grown significantly over the last 3 years: crawling more feeds, serving more users, and archiving more historical content – to allow users to search, go back in time, and dig deeper into topics.

Another source of complexity is openness. As a co-founder, this is one aspect of feedly that I really love. We allow essentially any website to be able to connect with any user. We also allow 3rd party apps to use our API in their application. As an engineer, this can cause lots of headaches. Sourcing article data from other websites leads to all kinds of strange edge cases — 50MB articles, weird/incorrect character encodings, etc. And 3rd party apps can generate strange/inefficient access patterns.

Both of these factors combine to make performance problems particularly hard to diagnose.

What Happened

We experienced degraded performance during the week of April 10th and more severe outages the following week. It was fairly easy to narrow the problem down to our database (HBase). In fact, In the weeks prior, we noticed occasional ‘blips’ in performance and during those blips a slowdown in database operations, albeit on a much smaller scale.

Artist depiction of the feedly cloud raining down destruction
The feedly cloud was not so happy that week, my friends.

Fortunately our ops team had already been collecting hbase metrics into a graphing system. I can’t emphasize how important this was. Without any historical information, we’d be at a total loss as to what had changed in the system. After poking around the many, many, many HBase metrics we found something that looked off (the “fsSyncLatencyAvgTime” metric). Better still, these anomalies roughly lined up with our down times. This led us to come up with a few theories:

  1. We were writing larger values. This could occur if user or article data changed somehow or due to a buggy code change.
  2. We were writing more data overall. Perhaps some new features we built were overwhelming HBase.
  3. Some hardware problem.
  4. We hit some kind of system limit in HBase and things were slowing down due to the amount or structure of our data.

Unfortunately all these theories are extremely hard to prove or disprove, and each team member has his own personal favorite. This is where Lars’s experience really helped. After reviewing the graphs, he dismissed the “system limit” theory. Our cluster is much smaller than some other companies out there and the configuration seemed sane. His feeling was it was a hardware/networking issue, but there was no clear indicator.

Theory 1: Writing Larger Values

This theory was kind of a long shot. The idea is that perhaps every so often we were writing really big values and that caused hbase to have issues. We added more metrics (this is a common theme when performance problems hit) to track when outlier read/write sizes occur, e.g. if we read or wrote a value larger than 5MB. After examining the charts, large read/writes kind of lined up with slowdowns but not really. To eliminate this as a possibility, we added an option to reject any large read/writes in our code. This wouldn’t be a final solution — all you oddballs that subscribe to 20,000 sources wouldn’t be able to access your feedly — but it let us confirm that this was not the root cause as we continued to have problems.

Theory 2: Writing More Data

This theory was perhaps more plausible than theory 1. The idea was that as feedly is growing, we eventually just reached a point where our request volume was too much for our database cluster to handle. We again added some metrics to track overall data read and write rates to hbase. Here again, things kind of lined up but not really. But we noticed we had high write volume on our analytics data table. This table contains a lot of valuable information for us, but we decided to disable all read/write activity to it as it’s not system critical.

After deploying the change, things got much better! Hour long outages were reduced to a few small blips. But this didn’t sit well with us. Our cluster is pretty sizable, and should be able to handle our request load. Also, the rate of increase in downtime was way faster than our increase in storage used or request rate. So we left the analytics table disabled to keep performance manageable but continued the hunt.

Theory 3: Hardware Problem

As a software engineer this is always my favorite theory. It generally means I’ve done nothing wrong and don’t have to do anything to fix the problem. Unfortunately hardware fails in a myriad of oddball ways, so it can be very hard to convince everyone this is the cause and more importantly to identify the failing piece of equipment. This ended up being the root cause, but was particularly hard to pin down in this case.

How we Found the Problem and Fixed it

Here again, Lars’s experience helped us out. He recommended isolating the HBase code where the problem surfaced and then creating a reproducible test by running it in a standalone manner. So after about a day of work I was able to build a test we could run on our database machines, but independent of our production data. And it reproduced the problem! When debugging intermittent issues, having a reproducible test case is 90% of the battle. I was able to enable all the database log messages during the test and I noticed 2 machines were always involved in operations when slowdowns occurred, dn1 and dn3.

I then extended the test to separately simulate the networking and disk write behavior the HBase code performed. This let us narrow down the problem down to a network issue. We removed the 2 nodes from our production cluster and things immediately got better. Our ops team found out the problem was actually in a network cable or patch panel. This was an especially insidious failure as it didn’t manifest itself in any machine logs. Incidentally, network issues was actually Lars’s original guess as to the problem!

sync latency
The metric in question when we fixed the problem. Notice the immediate change in behavior.

Lessons Learned

The important thing when dealing with performance problems (outside of, you know, fixing them) is trying to learn what you did well and what you could have done better.

Things we did well:

  • Have a good metrics collection/graphing system in place. This should go without saying, but lots of times these types of projects can get delayed or deferred.
  • Get expert help. There’s lots of great resources out there. If you can’t find a great consultant, lots of people are generally willing to help on message boards or other places.
  • Stayed focused/methodical. It can get crazy when things are going wrong, but having a scientific process and logical way to attack the problem can make things manageable.
  • Dig into our tech stack. We rely almost exclusively on open source software. This enabled us to really understand and debug what was going on.

Things we could have done better:

  • Communicate. While Lars suggested networking, I initially discounted it since the problem manifested everywhere in our system, not just one machine. I would have learned there are some shared resources specific to data center build outs.
  • Gone more quickly to the hardware possibility. We did a lot of google searching for the symptoms we were seeing in our system, but there was not much out there. This is kind of an indicator something weird is probably happening in your environment. A hardware issue is pretty likely.
  • Attacked the problem earlier. As I mentioned, we had seen small blips prior to the outages and even done some (mostly unproductive) diagnostic work. Unfortunately not giving this top priority came back to bite us.
The feedly cloud today, hardy and hale.

But there’s a happy ending to this story. As this post hopefully demonstrates, we’ve learned a lot and came out stronger: the feedly cloud is faster than ever and we have a much better understanding of the inner workings of HBase. We realize speed is very important to our users and will continue to invest in making the feedly Cloud faster and more resilient. Speaking of resilience, though we had a small downturn in feedly pro signups in April, we are back to normal. This speaks to what a great community we have!

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How to Create a Wish List for Your Class, School or Club

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Wish lists are everywhere, for different reasons.

From people getting married or having babies, to charities like animal rescue groups desperate for donations of products to care for the pets they save, wish lists are an acceptable part of trying to live the best life. And that includes wish lists for your classroom, school, or club.

Unless you are independently wealthy and a hoarder, as soon as you become a teacher you are going to start a wish list of things you need or want to improve your teaching and enhance students’ learning, and wondering how to pay for it all.

Types of Wish Lists

There are three main wish lists related to schools. The first is a list for the entire school. It’s tough to keep up with the latest technology and books, and schools are always in need of basic supplies.

The second is a wish list for a particular class or grade. Needs change from term to term, and from year to year, as new regulations and assessments come in. With budgeting tight everywhere, it can be hard to find the money for all new books and equipment due to a change in the curriculum.

The third is a wish list for clubs, such as the chess club or camera club. This gives students access to these items during the time the club is being held. These should be treated as assets of the club and taken care of as appropriate. Students should see the equipment and all related pieces and so on are all put back at the end of each club meeting. One or more teachers will need to take responsibility for the club assets by locking them up in a safe location.

Creating Your Wish List

No matter which kind of wish list you want to create, there are a couple of important steps to take. The first is to brainstorm everything you need, or would like to have. Then you can prioritize the needs. After that, prioritize what you would like to get if it could be managed.

Next, price the items and see what the best deals and sources are. One of the most popular places to post wish lists for schools is at Amazon. You can create the list, share it with colleagues, and invite others to view it using this link: Parents can then search for the list and donate whatever they feel is appropriate.

Classwish,, creates lists of the standard kinds of equipment that schools and classrooms need. Donors can then contribute one or more sums of money in a shopping-cart style system, with the cash being allocated to the chosen category such as school supplies, AV equipment, and so on.

A third site to try is TeacherLists. You can upload your own list, or use one of their Quick Start School Supply Lists; These starter lists include the school supplies most commonly requested by thousands of teachers and schools. You can view grade specific supply lists from pre-K to high school level and adapt them as needed.

You can also check to see if your school has already posted lists by searching via zip code.

Finally, check the quantities of what is needed, depending on where the item is to be used. A couple of copies of the latest popular children’s books is fine for the library, but a full set of class readers would mean one book for every student, a few spares, and any teaching copies that might be available.

People love to make lists. There will be certain items you and your students really can’t live without. Try to use one of the above-mentioned sites to make your students’ and staff’s wishes come true.




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11 Ways to Give Praise and Influence Students

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Praise is one of the best ways to influence students, but…..

it can be a double-edged sword if you are not careful. Everyone loves to be praised, but there is a difference between well-earned praise and empty praise.

Well-earned praise can help a student grow. Empty praise because you think it will encourage the student can backfire. If you praise them all the time, they might think you are lacking in value judgement, and that everything makes you happy – no matter how small or great the effort.

Excessive praise can also create jealousy in the classroom, especially if you make a big deal about praising someone who is clearly not as able as another student.

Excessive praise can also distort a student’s sense of their own worth, value and accomplishments. If you are an art teacher, for example, excessive praise might make them think they are the next Rembrandt or Picasso, when they can barely draw. If you are a music teacher, they might think they are the next American Idol when they have a voice like an out-of-tune frog croaking.

So, how do you give meaningful praise that will influence students? Here are eleven suggestions:

1. Praise effort and accomplishment rather than ability

A student many not be the best at math, but praise their efforts to improve. This will make them want to do even better.

2. Praise at the right time

Praise the effort or good behavior with a quiet word at that moment, or a note on their test. Don’t save all your positive comments for end of term or year.

3. Don’t be too public in your praise

Write down positive comments, or ask to see the student at a time when others are not so likely to overhear.

4. Use public praise as a tool to motivate

Little class competitions that anyone can win means students will feel motivated to try. Examples might include the most interesting word in the dictionary – call five people at random and choose one. Praise for good behavior also helps give students an example to aspire to.

5. Don’t be too excessive in your praise

If everything is “awesome,” it will soon become less so. Don’t praise a 60% on a test compared with an 80%.

6. Link it to future accomplishment

“Well done, I knew you could do it,” can then be followed up with, “I can’t wait to see more of your work.”

7. Show in an age-appropriate way

Student love stars and stickers. Even older students will like the surprise of a yellow smiley face sticker in their book. Just don’t overdo it.

8. Be sincere

Only praise when you feel it is deserved.

9. Practice praising

Having said to be sincere, some teachers do need to practice praise more. It might not come naturally, especially if you had hypercritical parents or teachers when you were growing up. If your mom or dad rarely said, “Well done,” practice it in your verbal and written communications to your students.

10. Make it worth paying attention

Single out students who are very helpful to others or really go out of their way.

11. Change your notice boards regularly with the best items from their schoolwork

Every student loves to see their work up on the board as good enough to show others. Rotate the board and the assignments so those good at art, music, writing and so on can all have a turn.

Extra tip: 12. Be consistent

Praise the same items to the same degree for all students. Hold everyone to the same standard but then praise students who have clearly gone the extra mile.

Use these twelve easy ways to praise, and see what a difference it can make to student motivation.

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9 Mistakes New Teachers Make

There are many mistakes new teachers and substitute teachers make that can turn their dream job into a total nightmare. Knowing what not to do can make your career a lot easier and more enjoyable. Here are nine of the main mistakes to avoid:

1. Not Controlling the Classroom Layout and Seating

First, decide on rows, a U-shape, clusters of four desks, and so on. There are pros and cons to each. For example, the clusters are nice, but will mean either some students with their backs to you all the time, or students constantly having to look sideways to see you and the board.

From the moment you meet them, learn their names as you seat them. You can adjust the seating arrangement later based on who needs to see the board, or which disruptive students would do better up front where you can keep an eye on them.

For any substitute teacher coming in, they should follow your attendance book and seating chart.

2. Not Being Clear about the Classroom Rules

As soon as you meet your students, be clear about the class rules – which should be age-appropriate. No calling out, getting out of your seat without permission, and so on, are all good starting points. Have them make posters to remind them of the rules and to post on the wall.

Any substitute teacher who comes in will then know the rules and should follow them.

3. Not Paying Attention to Essential Administrative Tasks

Taking attendance, gathering sick notes, and other day-to-day administrative tasks are important for legal and student management reasons. If your students see you take them seriously, they will as well.

4. Not Being a Good Timekeeper

Be on time yourself, if not early. Expect students to do the same. Stick to the number of minutes allocated per lesson and make sure settling in, your planned lesson, and time at the end to round things off and assign homework, are all built in to those minutes.

For substitute teachers, have a number of activities of differing lengths you can use just in case no work has been set in advance. Keeping a set of “go to” lessons you can use for a wide range of situations can be a lifesaver.

5. Not Being Prepared for the Lesson

You need to know your stuff, and show you know it. Otherwise, students will lose respect for you. The newer you are to teaching, the more prepared you should be.

6. Not Differentiating for Each Lesson

Some students will be weaker, others stronger. Be prepared to modify the requirements, or give extra work to those who finish early. Otherwise, you could have disruptive children on your hands who are either frustrated or bored, who will then interfere with the learning of the rest of the class.

7. Not Getting to Know the Students

You don’t have to be their best friend, but it does help to know a little about each student.

8. Not Being Clear about Instructions

Students do best when they are clearly told what to do. Set the instructions and stick to them. Don’t try to get too “creative.”

9. Not Being Clear about Grade Standards

Students need to know what is expected of them, and that those standards will be fairly and consistently applied. Don’t let a bad mood affect the way you mark essays, for example, or be overly generous with a weak student at the expense of a hard-working one.

There are quite a few other mistakes to avoid that are due to inexperience or bad advice, but watching out for these nine should make your teaching a lot smoother and more successful.

You need to know your stuff, and show you know it. Otherwise, students will lose respect for you. The newer you are to teaching, the more prepared you should be.



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Certification Resources for Teachers

Education Professionals!!

When you need to check on your certification status, please check here:

Educator Information

No need to contact your district technical staff!! This link gives a wealth of information concerning
recruitment, certification and much more.


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