July/August 2013 Issue
June 20, 2013

New York educators share lots of lessons

Author: Darryl McGrath

As the American Federation of Teachers' innovative Share My Lesson website celebrates its first year, the site has gained popularity with educators in the Empire State: New Yorkers use the free resource to access successful lesson plans more than anyone else.

New York educators form the largest statewide group among the site's 255,308 subscribers; at last count, they numbered 20,000. Three New York educators are in the top 10 list of most frequent "uploaders" to Share My Lesson.

"We encourage all our members to register and join in this professional community," said NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira, noting the site allows practitioners to collaborate on a local and global level.

Nationally, the Share My Lesson site, launched last June by AFT and Britain's TES Connect, draws more urban users than suburban or rural users. That's no surprise, because the AFT tends to represent educators in large urban districts, said Natalie Dean, a spokesperson for the Share My Lesson program at AFT headquarters in Washington, D.C.

But New Yorkers from smaller districts are among the site's biggest boosters. Joe Karb, a social studies teacher in Erie County's Springville-Griffith Institute Central School District, which has about 2,100 students, spoke at the NYSUT Representative Assembly in April, telling delegates that the site offers "peers helping peers, not materials from on high," or from corporations.

That teacher-to-teacher grasp on what makes a lesson compelling also appeals to UFT member Adam Feinberg, a top Share My Lesson user who teaches high school social studies at the Secondary School for Law in Brooklyn.

Much of the curricula available for sale to teachers or through other Internet sources "ignore things like race and poverty," Feinberg said. "I have been making up content that's a little more realistic and also speaks to the fact that my students are smart and sharp."

Feinberg has found that his students enjoy acting out historical scenes that illustrate the difficult choices often made by characters and major figures in history, and he has shared some of these ideas on the website.

A student reading about an uprising a century ago in a British colony might wonder why more oppressed people didn't rebel. When the students debate how best to present difficult decisions before their classmates, they better understand the challenges that come with taking a stand for freedom. Feinberg loves seeing the reactions to this and other ideas he's shared.

"One of the lessons I've uploaded has been viewed about 1,200 times and downloaded about 400 times," he said. "Having content ready to go is really valuable."

UFT member Amy Bernstein, a speech therapist at P.S. 272 in Brooklyn, another top user, plans to demonstrate Share My Lesson at an upcoming professional development meeting. She customizes lessons she downloads to meet the Individualized Education Programs of her students with special needs.

"It's useful, and the best part about it is that it's free, and you're finding real quality lessons based on the Common Core," Bernstein said.

The Share My Lesson website has a digital "suggestion box," and Dean said that, as more educators become familiar with the service, the AFT expects to see good ideas for increasing teacher feedback. Teachers who have received feedback say it can be very beneficial.

UFT member and science teacher Rashad Brown, P.S./I.S. 224 in the Bronx, uploaded a lesson on conduction, convection and radiation that has been downloaded 300 times by other teachers.

One of the teachers who reviewed Brown's lesson plan suggested that having the students hold an ice cube in their hands to see how fast it melted drives home the point of conduction even better than Brown's original lab, in which the students first put the ice cube on a block of wood, and then on a metal tray.

Getting that feedback, and knowing that a fellow teacher cared enough to offer a good idea "really gave me some motivation," Brown said. As for his students? "They loved that particular unit," Brown said.

Quick Facts about www.sharemylesson.com

  • 255,308 subscribers; New York is the top subscriber state.
  • Number of resources: 263,170
  • Number of page views: 13,978,014
  • The most popular lessons come up first on a search.
  • You need only an email address to join. The site has easy-to-access links to find or share a resource. The site also provides information on the Common Core Learning Standards and sources for topics such as anti-bullying.