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My Experience with Selling Lesson Plans

posted: 11.25.09 by Traci Gardner

That’s right. I confess. I have sold my lesson plans—and that’s not all. They are posted online. I know. You’re horrified, right?

Last week’s New York Times article suggests that many people are. Questions of ethics, collegiality, and intellectual property rights all arise when a teacher decides to publish and sell an activity that she has used in the classroom, according to the article “Selling Lessons Online Raises Cash and Questions.”

In response, Teacher Leaders Network addressed the question “Should a ‘Lesson Plan Marketplace’ Concern Us?” in their Voices blog and the Writing Program Administrators List (WPA-L) explored the underlying issues in a series of messages. I have spent several days trying to ignore these conversations, certain I’d be flamed for publishing that lesson plan on parody. Fortunately when I finally read them today, I found that most teachers come down on the side of free enterprise.

It also works in my favor that there is no “pay to teach” fee associated with the lesson plans I published when I worked for NCTE. My educational resources appear on a grant-supported site, and teachers can freely access and use the materials. I was paid for my work up front from grant money. My payment doesn’t come from the pockets of the individual teachers who use the materials.

What does all this mean for the college writing classroom? Since I have been involved with an online lesson plan sites since 2002, I can tell you that you can benefit from exploring such sites when you’re planning classes. Even if you only browse these sites for inspiration, they can be very worthy. Here are some suggestions to find and use the best teaching resources online:

  • I highly recommend the free lesson plans and educational resources supported by Thinkfinity and the Verizon Foundation. If you teach writing or literature, the two most pertinent sites are ReadWriteThink and EDSITEment. The materials on these sites are all high quality, peer-reviewed resources written by classroom practitioners and teacher educators. These sites are simply put, the very best materials online (though I may be a bit biased).
  • On ReadWriteThink and EDSITEment, look at the secondary resources, those published for grades 9–12. Most can be easily adapted for the college classroom. Some can be used as is. Most of the secondary lesson plans I have written, for instance, are activities I used in first-year composition or business writing classes. Be savvy about how you look at these sites. Don’t let the grade levels limit you. Look for the subjects you want to teach and tweak the materials to fit the students you teach.
  • In case it’s not clear yet, let me emphasize: customize the materials you find. No matter what you choose, the materials are not going to be perfect as is. You probably won’t need the very specific step-by-step instructions, for example. Remember that these lessons are very explicit, but take them as guidelines rather than a script. The same goes for the related resources. Be willing to adapt the various handouts, assignment sheets, and other materials to match the class you are teaching.

I want to add a couple of tips for those of you who are thinking of selling some of your classroom resources. First, take the underlying warnings of the New York Times article to heart. Some administrators will not approve of what you are doing, so you may want to choose carefully the sites where you publish your work. Let’s face it: You’re probably not going to get tenure for these materials, so use a pseudonym if you need to.

Second, the Times article focused on K–12 teachers. If you look around, you’ll quickly find that college teachers have a harder time selling materials to college teachers. There just aren’t collections of college teaching materials online. The easiest solution is to adapt the activities for the secondary audience. If you’re interested in publishing with ReadWriteThink, begin by filling out the online interest form and mention that I sent you.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Classroom Challenges and Solutions
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One Response to “My Experience with Selling Lesson Plans”

  1. Linda Aragoni Says:

    It amazes me that neither the original New York Times article or most comments about it bothered to look at the federal copyright law. I recommend this publication: