Teachers work an average of 10 hours and 40 minutes per workday. They also take home an additional 2-3 hours of work each weekend. Add in summer work days and professional development, and the average American teacher works 2,000 hours a year—more than the average worker at 1,811 hours per year.
There’s not enough time in an educator’s day. When we talk to educators, two of the most common questions we hear are: “Is this hard to learn?” and “How easy is it to teach?” When we press further, the reason is always the same: “I don’t have a lot of time.”
Source: Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation
What if we told you there was a way to make teaching STEAM & coding easier while also reducing teacher workload over time? It all comes down to having flexible, modular, and ready-made lessons to form the foundation of your STEM instruction.
How Ready-made Lessons Reduce Teacher Workload
“Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it’s always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins.”
― Neil Gaiman
That quote has always resonated with me. Not just because it’s true (ask any writer), but because it reveals something useful: that modifying something that already exists is much easier than creating it from nothing.
This is the case for lesson plans as well. While state standards ensure that teachers always have a target to aim for, creating a custom lesson plan is still more time consuming than using a ready-made one.
Ready-made materials also provide a foundation which can be customized to fit your class’s needs. You don’t need to sacrifice the strengths of customized lesson planning, so long as your pre-written lessons make customization easy (like SAM Labs’ do). You can have both.
The Top 5 Things to Look for in Ready-made Lessons
Here are the attributes you should be looking for in ready-made STEAM & coding lessons that will decrease, rather than increase, your workload:
- They should be modular. A 1 hour lesson is wonderful if you have 1 hour to teach it. But what if you only have 30 minutes? Look for lessons that can be quickly and easily adapted to fit different instruction times, or split up into multiple sessions.
- They should be complete. Or at least, some of them should be. (Short STEAM activities are different.) If you’re planning to teach full STEM lessons, your ready-made materials should include everything you need. Look for teacher guides, student step-by-steps, lesson slides, planning documents, extension activities, and similar.
- They should be academically rigorous. Some STEM lessons are little more than excuses for students to play with toys. And fun is important! But they need to be academically sound as well. It should be clear what each lesson is teaching, and it should be backed by research.
- They should be aligned to standards. This pairs with the previous point. When your STEM lessons are standards-aligned, it means you don’t have to teach an additional lesson to fulfill requirements.
- They should be customizable. Not only should lessons be modular, it should be easy for you to change them to suit your students’ needs.
The Best Sites to Find Pre-written K-8 Lesson Plans
With those in mind, where are the best places to find these lesson plans?
- Teachers Pay Teachers is one of the best resources for lesson plans and other materials available today. Everything is written by educators, so you know it’s backed by real classroom experience.
- Better Lesson hosts a huge collection of lesson plans. Their material is notable for its academic rigor, and you can rate (or ❤️) lessons to help other teachers find the best material.
- PBS LearningMedia is a treasure trove of support materials. Their materials may require adaptation to fit into a lesson plan, but as add-on materials to strengthen a lesson, they’re rock solid.
- Curriculum Pathways provides free resources and quick activities in all manner of subjects. Use their materials to supplement core subjects and lessons.
- Share My Lesson is another site that hosts lessons created by educators. Elementary is a big focus, and you can sort by resource type, content type, and standards.
- Scholastic offers lesson plans, unit plans, extension activities, and other materials specifically for K-8 classrooms. Excellent for ELAR teachers.
- ReadWriteThink is the go-to resource for ELA and Social Studies teachers, with a lot of content to choose from.
- EDSITEment for the humanities, including art, language, culture, history, and more. Its content sets a high bar for educational impact.
- National Geographic offers robust, modular lessons for Science and Geography teachers.
- And SAM Labs, of course! All of our STEAM & coding lesson plans are available for download, and are designed to be complete, modular, academically rigorous, standards-aligned, and customizable.
So the next time you’re stressing about your next class and don’t have enough time to prepare, reach for a ready-made lesson plan. Good pre-written lesson plans will reduce your workload while delivering a high-quality educational experience for your students. That’s a win-win.
Stephen is an author, writer, and storyteller. As the Content Manager for SAM Labs, Stephen spends his time talking to educators and crafting cool free resources to help them teach STEAM & coding with confidence. In his free time he enjoys writing fantasy novels, playing board games, kayaking, scuba diving, and being ridiculously tall.