Best Lesson Plans

Updated August 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best lesson plans

Last Updated August 2020

A lesson plan is like a blueprint a teacher follows in order to teach effectively. Good lesson plans contain several elements: a learning target, a list of steps to take, and a list of materials needed. Teachers may craft their own lesson plans or purchase premade plans that they adapt to their needs.

Teachers teach with the end in mind. The end, in the case of lesson plans, is what is referred to as the learning target. You might use lesson plans with learning targets established by your governing body. You might use lesson plans with learning targets established by your church. Regardless of where the learning targets originate, the best lesson plans are focused, developmentally appropriate, and scaffolded so learning progresses in the most natural way possible. 

If you’re searching for a set of lesson plans, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we explore lesson plan collections that you can buy, touching on where to find them, how to choose them, and how to use them. Read on for our recommendations and tips for finding and using the best lesson plans.

Some lesson plan books consist solely of materials for the teacher’s use. Others include puzzles, worksheets, or other materials that the student can use as well.

Key considerations

Curriculum vs. lesson plan

When you purchase a book of lesson plans, you are not necessarily purchasing an entire curriculum. However, a book of lesson plans is sometimes part of a larger curriculum. 

Let’s explore the difference between a curriculum and a lesson plan. 

Defining “curriculum”: A curriculum is a collection of academic content designed to help students reach learning targets. Public schools often purchase specific curriculum materials for teachers to use. For example, you may have heard of the Everyday Math curriculum that gained popularity in the last decade. The materials for Everyday Math are sold by a publishing house, purchased by schools, and followed by lots of teachers. 

Defining “lesson plan”: A lesson plan is a segment of a larger curriculum. Think of it as a piece in a jigsaw puzzle. For example, the Everyday Math curriculum consists of hundreds of lesson plans for teachers to tackle with their students, usually no more than one per day.

Deciding what you need: If you’re homeschooling a child, it’s a good idea to invest in lesson plans based on a curriculum so you cover all benchmarks and your child advances to the next level. That’s not to say that you can’t purchase additional lesson plan books that appeal to you or cater to your child’s interests. For example, if your child has a passion for writing, you may wish to invest in a lesson plan book that provides writing prompts. It may not be part of a larger curriculum, but it’s still great for the child.

If you’re looking for structured educational activities to supplement a curriculum that’s already in place, a collection of lesson plans is a great place to start. Whether the collection belongs to a larger curriculum or not is up to you.

EXPERT TIP

If you’re homeschooling, consider joining a support group in your community. These groups often meet regularly to exchange ideas, share resources, and socialize.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Standards-based learning

Teachers strive to align their lessons with certain agreed-upon learning targets, which are often called “standards.” In the United States, the Common Core serves as a beacon to shine light on those standards. 

What is the Common Core? People sometimes mistake it for a set of curricula or even a set of lesson plans. In fact, it is neither. Rather, the Common Core is a set of agreed-upon learning standards that schools in some states strive to meet. 

You may wish to purchase a lesson plan book that centers on the Common Core. For example, if you’re preparing your child for a state standardized test, a Common Core-based book may be your best choice. Bear in mind, however, that the phrase “Common Core” printed on the cover of a book doesn’t guarantee quality.

NCTM and NCTE

Some lesson plan books flash the acronyms NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) or the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) on the cover. Both of these discerning organizations embrace rigorous academic standards. Often, these standards align with Common Core.

SMART

A lesson plan book that boasts an affiliation with Common Core, NCTM, or NCTE may be a good book, but those words alone don’t signify quality. Let’s take a look at an acronym you can use when evaluating the quality of lesson plans: SMART.

SMART is a term coined in the 1980s by George Doran, a Washington State businessman. Doran’s term originally described a practical way for businesses to achieve their goals. Over time, educational professionals embraced the concept as their own.

You may wish to look for the following SMART characteristics in a book of lesson plans:

(S) Specific: The lesson plans address specific learning targets.

(M) Measurable: There is a visible or tangible way for you and the student to know if the student achieved each learning target.

(A) Achievable: The goals of the lesson plans are achievable. They are developmentally appropriate and realistic.

(R) Relevant: The lesson plans are relevant to the student in such a way that the student is motivated to participate.

(T) Timely: The lesson plans adhere to a realistic timeline of implementation and conclusion.

One of the best ways to determine whether a book contains SMART lesson plans is to lift the cover and read. When buying online, most publishers allow you to glimpse the inside of a book for a preview, which may include a table of contents and a few pages of plans.

Grade level and subject matter

Even if you’re not worried about Common Core or SMART goals, it’s imperative that you investigate the following two criteria before buying a collection of lesson plans: grade level and subject matter.

Grade level: Some lesson plan books are designed for broad age categories. For example, you might see the term “middle school” on the cover. This indicates that the book is for kids between sixth and ninth grade. Other books are designed for specific grade levels, such as kindergarten or first grade. 

Remember that “grade level” is a relative term. Your child may be a bit below or above grade level, so it’s a good idea to investigate books on either side. A first grader who excels at language arts may feel more at home with a lesson plan book for second or third graders. A fifth grader who struggles with math may appreciate a lesson plan book designed for fourth or third graders.

Subject matter: Unless you splurge on an entire curriculum, you’re unlikely to find comprehensive lesson plan books that cover all core subjects. (The exception to this is lesson plan books for kindergarten, which often do touch on all core subjects.) You may find that you need to buy a separate book of plans for math, language arts, science, and social studies.

Note that some books roll several academic areas into one. For example, a lesson plan book may claim to “build thinking skills” by featuring lesson plans that combine reading, vocabulary, math, and reasoning skills. There are also STEM-focused lesson plan books that incorporate science, tech, engineering, and math skills and STEAM-focused books that integrate artistic studies with STEM.

Digital vs. hard copy

If you enjoy books or articles on an e-reader or other device, you know how convenient it is to go paperless with your reading material. The same holds true for lesson plan collections. While some are only available as paperback or hardcover books, many are available for download. 

On any given day, a school teacher may enact several lesson plans: one for math, one for science, and one for social studies, for example. Each plan comprises a learning target and an activity to go with it.

Lesson plan prices

Inexpensive: Digital lesson plans almost always cost less than print versions. Expect to spend around $10 (and sometimes less) for a digital copy of a lesson plan book. You’ll find very few hard copies in this price range.

Mid-range: Between $10 and $20, you’ll find more elaborate digital copies of lesson plans (the sweet spot seems to be around $12) and many paperback versions of the same for around $18.

Expensive: For $20 and above, you can buy hardcover copies of lesson plan collections as well as longer, more elaborate lesson plan books with illustrations.

DID YOU KNOW?

“Blended learning” is a fairly new term to describe a combination of online learning and classroom learning. Some lesson plan books include an online component to help you achieve blended learning.

Tips

  • Strive for variety. Many kids are visual learners, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid other modes of instruction. In fact, research suggests that kids do best when lessons are presented in several modalities. This may include kinesthetic learning, musical learning, aural learning, and social learning. 

 

  • Use the chunking strategy. If a learning target seems particularly daunting, break the lesson into smaller pieces that are easier for the student to digest. You may have to modify the lesson plan a bit to do this.

 

  • Create a graphic organizer. Learning can have a big impact when a student creates a visual representation of the information. Play with Venn diagrams, story maps, sequence charts, and timelines. If you need more ideas, search for free graphic organizer templates online.

When children play, they develop cognitive, emotional, social, kinesthetic, and creative skills. Playtime is extremely important for the development of the human brain.

FAQ

Q. Why should I buy a book of lesson plans when I can find them online for free?
A. It’s true that you can find some lesson plans online for free. Open educational resources, or OER, range from single lesson plans to entire curricula. But to find what you need online, you may have to spend hours digging through the internet. The streamlined act of spending a few dollars and receiving lesson plans in one convenient package is often worth the money.
 

Q. What if I don’t have all the materials required for a lesson?
A. Lesson plans can always be tweaked to suit your needs. For example, if a lesson plan calls for Unifix cubes and you don’t have any, open your child’s LEGO drawer and grab a handful of those pieces instead. If a lesson plan calls for ten frames and you’re without, try making your own with popsicle sticks and glue. The possibilities are endless when it comes to creating your own materials, especially in the earlier grades.
 

Q. My child is just not “getting” this lesson. Help!
A. If you’ve tried teaching the lesson by the book and it doesn’t work, it’s time to think outside the book! Try presenting the lesson in a different way. 

For example, a child who is a highly kinesthetic learner may benefit from acting out the lesson, bouncing on a mini trampoline while talking about the lesson, or manipulating physical objects that relate to the lesson. A child who is a highly visual learner may need to draw pictures that relate to the lesson or fill out a Venn diagram or other graphic organizer to visually express the lesson.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Digital Content Producer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor
  • Steph
    Steph
    Web Producer

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