We’ve all experienced it — the power of Google to display before us a dizzying array of choices: items for purchase from companies you’ve never heard of, articles and blogs on any topic from sources that run the gamut from highly reputable to downright odd. The world of online curriculum is no exception. Any K-12 educator knows that the power of a search engine knows no bounds when it comes to getting access to curriculum, lesson prep, classroom management tips, and classroom decor.
While the likes of Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers have produced countless colorful classroom activities and valuable tools for student engagement, the sheer number of available resources often proves to be overwhelming for teachers searching to prepare their next lesson. Which of the hundreds of results yielded by the Google search for “grade 5 math lesson plan” can be trusted? What online curriculum is of high quality, and how can you separate thoughtful, precise, well-researched lesson plans from simple fluff?
A huge amount of teachers — over 90%! — have leveraged online resources found through Google and Pinterest searches to plan their lessons and build their curriculum. But this approach to lesson planning has been rightly criticized by many education professionals focused on the research around high-quality curriculum: with little-to-no vetting for the majority of available online resources, teachers run a significant risk of leveraging resources of mixed quality and poor alignment to the standards. Further, compiling an assortment of online resources can lead to a fragmented educational experience for students, while research shows that coherence between units and activities is vital in supporting student learning.
What if we could increase the odds of teachers finding high-quality vetted content when they hit that search button? Match Fishtank is trying to do just that, by offering free, high-quality, common core aligned K-12 curriculum materials in Math, ELA, and Science and Social Studies that are easy to find online and freely available for download.
Last week, EdReports, a nonprofit independent organization that reviews instructional materials for their quality and alignment to common core, awarded high marks to Match Fishtank’s elementary ELA curriculum for its text quality and knowledge building. Match Fishtank is now the second open source elementary ELA curriculum to receive passing grades by Ed Reports. While others offer highly scripted lesson plans, Match Fishtank’s lesson plans are intentionally skinny and pedagogically neutral to allow teachers greater freedom to adapt them to their students’ needs and their own teaching style.
While brand new to the field, Match Fishtank’s popularity among teachers is growing rapidly. The site has quickly accumulated a user base of more than 400,000 teachers, almost all finding the site through internet searches. Once on the site, teachers are drawn to Match Fishtank’s leaner, less prescriptive instructional materials, the diverse, high-quality texts that are the focus of the units, the flexibility of its content, and its easy to navigate web design.
As teachers and school administrators look to open-source curriculum resources to supplement their lesson planning, the existence of independent organizations like EdReports has become crucial: teachers cannot reasonably be expected to devote extended amounts of time towards vetting curriculum resources, and the presence of reliable curriculum reviewers allows them to devote more time to planning out their lessons and building relationships with their students. The recent positive reviews of open-source curriculum resources like Match Fishtank seem to point towards a new, inspiring trend in the K-12 landscape: the free curriculum resources found online and independently chosen by teachers could also be of high quality, and accredited by top organizations like EdReports.
Match Education is an education reform, non-profit organization in Boston comprised of a free, public K-12 charter school, a graduate school of education, and a series of open-source resources for teachers. The latter is our effort to share our knowledge with educators everywhere, predominantly through free online resources: Match Minis, Match Fishtank, and Match Schoolhouse. Match Minis is a website offering short, animated videos on teaching and coaching teachers. Match Fishtank is our free K-12 curriculum website offering common-core-aligned lesson plans in math and ELA, instructional guides, assessments, and much more. Match Schoolhouse is our take on a new kind of professional development, providing short, on-demand online courses for busy teachers.