the best free lesson plans

I’ve come across so many lesson plans or units that begged to be saved and savored on a different day or trajectory. And I’ve lost so many links to those lesson plans. This list o’ lesson plans will be organized alphabetically by the title. Parentheses will indicate topic, skill, or grade level. An asterisk marks a printable PDF lesson plan.

HISTORY & SOCIAL STUDIES LESSONS AND UNITS

A Letter to Abraham Lincoln: Find Grace’s Family (American history)*
Read a primary source and then use it to find clues to a historic mystery about slavery.

A Shared Artistic Tradition: Pennsylvania German Pottery (history, folk arts)*
Explore bonds and artistic traditions that define communities through a hands-on study of Pennsylvania German pottery techniques.

A Tree Can Be… (American history, art, sustainability)*
Explore the work of Bessie Harvey constructed from found wood, and experiment with found materials.

Advertising Then And Now (social studies, culture, history, sustainability)*
Compare and contrast handcrafted trade signs and show figures from the world of
nineteenth-century advertising to contemporary advertising, and design original
advertisements for historical or contemporary trades or products.

Challenging Social Boundaries (American history, language arts, doing good)*
Learn how the civil rights movement helped to deal with the legacy of slavery and explore how these ideas apply in your own time.

Character Education Mini-Units (American history, language arts, doing good)*
Units for middle-schoolers on developing good, engaged global citizenship.

Civil Rights and Protest Signs Activity (American history)*

Conduct A Geneological Study (local history, writing)*
Tell your family history by learning how to conduct a geneological study.

Counting Quilts (American history, math, folk arts, social studies)*
Use math concepts to observe an appliqué quilt top and examine the pairs of animals that decorate it. They will then create simple quilts representative of their own families.

Darkroom Detective Activity (American history)*
Examine photos of those who lived in sod houses and tell their stories.

Design Your Own Family Flag (local history, community)*
Tell the story of your family’s history and loves by making a family flag.

Earth Connections Unit (ecology, social studies, language arts, American history, 1st-8th)
Expand awareness of the earth through the study of some traditional Native American beliefs about the concept of “mother earth.” Discover the need to protect the environment and their responsibility to do that for the common good through action and advocacy. Learn about pollution through scientific investigation and how to demonstrate environmental stewardship. Planning and implementing a service learning project.

George Washington (American history, social studies, language arts)*
Introduces high school students to Washington’s life and events of the time.

History Through the Eyes of Individuals: Bill Taylor (American history, language arts, art, social studies)*
Students will study individual accounts of slavery and emancipation through discussion of an artwork by
Bill Traylor, a former slave, and of ex-slave narratives. They will then write a work of historical fiction
from the artist’s perspective

Imagine An Immigration Interview (American history, community, empathy)*
See how you fare during an immigration interview and get a sense of life as an American immigrant.

Imagining Animals (science, art, social studies)*
Explore artists’ interpretations of animals and create a drawing in response to a description of
an unfamiliar and unusual animal.

Investigating Immigration Patterns (American history, social science, graphs)*
Investigate US immigration patterns through data and maps- use numbers and charts to explain history.

Labor Unions in the Cotton Mills (American history, political science)
This lesson for grades 11–12 will help students recognize the value of primary sources in studying and understanding history. Students will learn about the labor union movement in the U.S. by listening to oral histories, and will deliver a persuasive speech arguing for or against unionization.

Lenses and Lighthouses Exploration (American history, technology)*
Find out how lighthouses work and design your own lighthouse.

Life In A Sod House Activity (American history)*
Use your senses to explore how life in a sod house felt to early Americans.

Lunch Counter Songs and Civil Rights (American history, music)*

Make A Quilt Square Activity (American history, traditional crafts)*

Mr. Lincoln’s Hat Activity (American history)*
Explore the life of Abe Lincoln and make your own top hat.

Painting the Town: Picturing My Community (folk art, American history, social studies)*
Examine 2 paintings of communities and compare and contrast the depictions of urban and rural life. Then paint their own community—its places and its people.

Ponce Carnival Activity (American history, culture, crafts)*
Learn about the traditions of the Ponce Carnival and then dress up and participate in your own.

Pueblo Pots Activity (American history, traditional crafts)*
Make a Pueblo style pot and learn about the Pueblo Indians.

Reel History (American history, music)*
Watch a 1930’s silent film and investigate Harlem during the Jazz Age.

Rice Plantation Investigation (American history, technology)*
Study tools used on a rice plantation and learn how they worked and how slaves lived in the US.

Sing, Play, and Cook Railroad-Style (American history, imaginative play)*
Learn about the days of the railroads by acting out their work, play, and life.

Timelines Tell Stories (American history, artifacts, writing)*
Investigate a historical artifact from a US immigrant and use a timeline to tell your family’s story.

CREATIVE WRITING & LANGUAGE ARTS LESSON PLANS

Character Creations (language arts, art, social studies, history)*
Self-taught artist Henry Darger envisioned an epic adventure for a character he depicted in a portrait.
Students will write character descriptions and fictional narratives inspired by their
individual analyses and compare and contrast Darger’s version of this
character’s story to their own imaginings.

Exploring Folk Art Through Poetry (folk art, American history, social studies, language arts)*
Observe, analyze, and interpret an object of folk art, using writing and drawing as observational tools.
Then develop these responses into poems that reflect their individual reactions to the artwork.

Found Poetry Fun (creative writing, poetry, 1st-9th)
Explore the found poetry of Austin Kleon and “find” your own.

Stories From My Life (art, socal studies, local history)*
Look at an artwork inspired by events in the artist’s life and engage in writing and
artmaking based on personal experience.

The Society of Friends (American history, social studies, service learning, 2nd-6th)
Research and study the Quakers and how their beliefs led them to organize community groups to promote justice and kindness in our history.

FINE ARTS & CRAFTS LESSONS AND UNITS

A Personal Diorama (all ages) *
Explore the idea of identity through space with this lesson by artist John Cattapan.

Architecture: It’s for Kindergarten (physics, design, history, shapes, preschool-K)*
Explore shape and building design through images and activities.

Architecture: It’s For First Grade (physics, design, geometry, math)*
Begin visualizing and creating homes and learn about proportion and space.

Architecture: It’s for Second Grade (physics, social studies, geometry, math)*
Relate geometry to structures and learn how to design based on subjects.

Art All Around: Found Objects in Folk Art (American history, social studies, language arts, art)*
Students will look at objects created from a variety of unusual materials, while
considering the various reasons for which artists work with found
materials—including economic, environmental, and creative impetuses.

Art Can Improve Nature (all ages) *
A lesson on using natural materials to create mixed media art by Michael Joo.

Artists Giving Back (2nd-7th, history, social studies, doing good)
Introduces the concepts of supporting the arts and artists “giving back.” This lesson also introduces the concept of serial reciprocity—when someone does something kind for you, you pass on an act of kindness to someone else.

Artful Thinking Routines (5th-12th grade)*
Various activities and exercises to integrate arts across the curriculum. From Edutopia.

Awesome Artists: A Mindful of Art Learning Game (art, geometry, design)
Printable learning
cards on terms and techniques in art made for kids of all ages.

Edo: Art in Japan, 1615-1868 (art, world history, culture, 7th-12th)*
Explore the history of Edo art in Japan with visuals.

Experimental Activities for All Ages (visualization, color, all ages) *
A series of activities to help children see the possibilities of art around them. Created by artist Carrie May Weems.

Family Portraits (American history, art, social studies)*
Create a series of portraits that together represent a family, taking inspiration from painter Jacob Maentel.

What Is Folk Art? (history, design, social studies, culture, 3rd-9th)*
Examine two works of folk art—a nineteenth-century quilt and a sculpture by a contemporary
self-taught artist. By comparing and contrasting them, K- 5 students develop an
understanding of the qualities associated with folk art.

I Am A Hard Worker (Visual Arts, history, upper elementary)
Analyze Man with a Hoe by Jean-François Millet, and learn how the artist’s use of shape and space creates emphasis. Students will discuss their interpretations of the painting and provide visual evidence to back up their ideas. They will create a persona poem that demonstrates their interpretation of how the man in the painting feels. Students will then illustrate their understanding of how shape and space creates emphasis by drawing a person in their family who works hard.

Jazz Duet Activity (American history, music)*
Learn about Duke Ellington and then make an instrument and try call and response series.

Islamic Art and Culture (history, social studies, culture, art, 9th-12th)*
A thorough visual exploration of Islamic art and culture based on a museum exhibit.

Make A Mini-Dance (American history, dance)*
Learn about Martha Graham’s dance technique and create a dance of your own.

Picture Writing (all ages, drawing) *
Artist Xu Bing shows how to communicate without words through drawing.

Rube Goldberg Machine Brains (art, technology, creative thinking, 2nd-5th)
A lesson in which students explore Rube Goldberg’s outlandish machines and create representations of their own brains as machines.

“Seeing” Music (American history, technology, music)*
Explore how computers and technology allow us to visualize music and beats.

The Artist As Activist (social studies, history, art)*
Learn about Purvis Young’s painted protests against the community injustice and create your own activist art.

Treasures of Devotion: Retablos in New Mexico (American history, Latin culture, art history)*
Explore the traditions and meaning of retablo creating in Southwestern culture.

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, & ECOLOGY LESSONS AND UNITS

American Prehistory: 8000 Years of Forest Management (botany, ecology, American history)*
Explore 8000 years of Native American land practices and see how they
compare with current uses and practices.

A Unit Study About Spiders (science, biology)
An elementary unit on spiders.

Beauty All Around You (ecology, American history, community)*
Learn about Lady Bird Johnson’s commitment to native plants and explore local landscapes.

Bird and Caterpillars Lesson (science, biology, 2nd-7th)*
Learn how insects use camoflage as adapative features and behaviors to protect themselves in the natural world.

Botany and Art and Their Roles in Conservation (history, botany, science, 4th-10th)
In the first lesson, students gets to know six endangered plants. They examine illustrations, photographs, and dried specimens of the plants as they consider this question: If a scientist can take a picture of a plant, are there advantages in having an illustration? They go on to consider some of the big questions that botanists themselves must ask: Which of these species are most in need of conservation efforts? Are any of these plants more worth saving than others? In the second lesson, the students try their own hands at botanical illustration.

Constellation Maker Activity (American history, astronomy)*
Learn about Maria Mitchell and then make a constellation for her using needle and thread.

Early Childhood Service-Learning Guide for Environment (ecology, doing good)*
Discover how you can serve your community by being a wise steward of local resources and nature.

Espionage Science (science, history, technology)
Learn how spying was done in the past by making invisible inks and ciphers or codes.

Habitat Awareness (ecology, science, 1st-4th)
Learn about different habitats and what is required for survival.

Healthy Soil, Healthy Food, Healthy People Exhibit and Unit (ecology, science, biology)*
Learn how soils determine the health of our food and citizens.

Torn Insect Art Lesson (science, biology, art, 2nd-7th)*
Explore insect shapes and colors by creating your own insects with adaptive needs in mind.

MATH, GEOMETRY, AND LOGIC LESSONS AND UNITS

Balloon Ride Game (math, history, problem-solving)*
Practice problem-solving techniques by playing an old game of NIM.

Bean Salads and Fish Bowls (pre-algebra, math, problem-solving)*
Explore numbers, logic, and pre-algerbra with this activity for elementary and middle school.

Begin With Buttons (logical thinking, number relations, math)
Use buttons to learn about serial thinking and begin addition and subtraction skills.

Cats and Canaries (algebraic reasoning)*
Learn how to set up a basic equation to solve a word problem.

LESSONS AND UNITS TO ACCOMPANY BOOKS & READINGS

Alexander Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday Lesson (doing good, 3rd-8th)
Students compare how they spend their time to how Alexander (from Alexander Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday by Judith Viorst) spent his money. They discuss positive incentives for donating money and make a plan.

Django: World’s Greatest Jazz Guitarist (music, history, 1st-5th)
Using Bonnie Christensen’s book, Django: World’s Greatest Jazz Guitarist, you will explore free music by Django and create a linear art work based on the piece “Chasing Shadows”.

Living With Fairy Tales (stories, narratives, language arts)*
Roger Taylor’s brilliant unit brings fairy tales to life for children.

My Many-Colored Days Accordion Book (language arts, social studies, preschool)
A craft to accompany My Many-Colored Days by Dr. Seuss.

Queen Victoria’s Underpants (language arts, history, preschool, elementary)*
A lesson plan to accompany Queen Victoria’s Underpants.

Saint George and the Dragon Unit Study (history, language arts, K-6th)
Explore Margaret Hodges’ book, Saint George and the Dragon, and its historic context.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Unit Study (language arts, 5th-12th)
Investigate Mark Twain’s classic book about Tom Sawyer.

The Call of the Wild Unit (language arts, critical thinking, 5th-12th)
Take a multifaceted approach to the study of Jack London’s classic, The Call of the Wild.

The Dot Activity (geometry, preschool, K-3rd)
Explore lines and dots with Peter Reynolds’ book, The Dot.

The Truth About Unicorns Unit (history, art, language arts, science 3rd-6th)
Explore James Cross Giblin’s book, The Truth About Unicorns, and learn about the history of the unicorn legend and its scientific plausibility.

THEATRE AND DRAMA

Characterization and Culture (language arts, 5th-8th grade)
Students analyze a storytelling performance and create their own using The Buzzard and the Monkey.

Elements of Drama (language arts, 6th -8th grade)
Students explore plot development and rising action, turning point, and falling action by viewing a short play written and performed by high school students.

Entrances Drama Activity (4th-10th grade)*
Offers 20 entrance games which prepare kids for how entrances set a scene and tone in theatre.

How To Put On A Free Show (any grade)*
Guide on how to put on a free show by kids for various audiences.

Make Your Own Greek Play Project (history, language arts, 6th-7th grades)
Students dramatize their own play based on Greek mythology and history.

Pantomime (language arts, literature, K-4th grade)
Learn to perform a pantomime from Pinnochio.

Telling Tales Teacher’s Guide (history, language arts, 2nd-7th grade)*
Watch a public televsion series told by a variety of storytellers, including 10 tales from the Appalachian mountains, 4 with African roots, and two grounded in Indian traditions. For each tale, the guide includes a story synopsis, notes on origins, discussion questions, and activities to enhance understanding.


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