Pinterest used to be my go-to app to find great lesson ideas. Now, not so much. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great lessons pinned there. But when I’m looking to do something innovative, then I’m in the market for FREE. And I used to find that on Pinterest. But, it seems, the days of people pinning helpful websites out of the goodness of their heart are gone. At least this is my experience in the education space. Now, I see Pinterest as platform to advertise crafty projects, some of which are not easy on the budget.

In the last few years, when I have plugged in keywords for a lesson idea, clicked ‘search’ and eagerly awaited the app to assemble all the search optimized pins, I would be hopeful I could find a quick solution. Eventually I found that I was giving up my searches after the top 5 pins would all direct me to Teachers Pay Teachers.

For the record, I think Teachers Pay Teachers is a great space for what it does, but I want to go there on my own terms. Not be redirected through Pinterest.

So, if Pinterest is out, what should we do instead? Fortunately, I have hack to share with you.

Instead of Pinterest, use ‘Google Image Search.’

That’s the trick! If you’re wondering how that’s better than searching from Google’s front page, here are two reasons an image search is superior.

1. Google Images takes the guess work out of links. Sometimes when I have used the usual Google web search, I’ll click a link that looks like it will lead to the sort of lesson I am looking for, maybe something for a novel I am reading with students. But instead of finding lesson ideas, I will get a site crowded with ads and some basic information about the theme of the book.

When I use a Google Image search, I get a preview of what I will see when I click over to the website. Instead of wondering what’s on the other side, I get a peak at the content. It makes the question “to click or not to click” much easier to answer. I eliminate choices faster and find more rewarding content quicker.

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2. It’s much easier to find lessons in action. When I click on a preview of a handout, sometimes the lesson is good and sometimes it’s not. Most of those instances where I am clicking on the image of a paper exercise, I will get the document, but no information about how to use it. No scope and sequence.

But when I come across picture previews of handouts that are filled out by students and marked up by the teacher, I know I am hitting pay dirt. A picture of a teacher instructing students that was taken from a cell phone? Click it! You’re probably going to land on a teacher’s blog, one who got really excited about a lesson she taught and wants everyone to know about it. Those are exactly the sites I’m looking for!

A rule of thumb here: the cruder the picture quality, the better. If the photo looks like it was taken by a professional photographer, it probably was. That means the picture was staged and you’re most likely looking at a website that is trying to sell you something. Avoid the pretty pictures!

Keep this hack in mind as we enter the back-to-school season. There is plenty of great, free content out there waiting on teacher blogs. They are excited about what they are doing in their classrooms and want to give away their great ideas to you, the innovative and clever teacher who is always looking for a new material. And if you happen to find some good sites, leave comments saying thanks because they made your job a little easier.

What tips do you have for teachers searching the web looking for lessons? What are the sites you frequent? Please comment below!

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