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Freely Available K-12 Teaching Resources

As part of the open education movement, K-12 teachers are creating and sharing reusable, remixable learning materials. This guide is a gateway to finding K-12 lesson plans, worksheets, and other learning materials available for free to use.

What is this guide?

This guide introduces the open education movement, open educational resources in K-12 schools, and what that means for you as a teacher.

The goal is to help you understand how freely available open educational resources (OER) can be put to use in your classroom, saving you time and effort in creating materials, saving money, and increasing student success.

Here you can:

  • Learn about open education and what OER is.
  • Assess the benefits of using OER in your classroom.
  • Understand how OER can be made possible by removing restrictive copyright.
  • Discover where to find OER that you can adopt, adapt, and put to good use in your teaching.

Questions about OER in K-12?

The guide is maintained by Haley Walton, Librarian for Education and Open Scholarship at the Duke University Libraries. Triangle- and Triad-area teachers are welcome to contact Haley with questions about using OER. Duke's mission is to share knowledge in the service of society—including North Carolina teachers!

What is Open Education? A blue, red, and green icon with the letters OER. Underneath it says Open Educational Resources

Historically, textbooks and many teaching and learning materials in K-12 classrooms are copyrighted and cost a great deal. The open education movement was founded on the principles of reducing those costs by sharing teaching and learning materials created by educators freely online, leveraging the internet to exchange ideas and resources that can be adapted to your classroom and teaching practices at no cost to you, the students, or the school.

Open Educational Resources (OER)

At the epicenter of the open education movement are open educational resources (OER)OER include textbookstopic-specific learning tools for classwork, syllabi and lesson plansvideosassignments, worksheets, and tests created by professional educators and shared openly for others to modify and reuse in their own teaching.

They are published under open licenses that describe how materials can be used, reused, adapted, and shared in your classroom.

What does using OER do for me as a teacher?

The benefits of OER for teachers are significant. They include:

  • Reducing the burden of creating activities, worksheets, etc. from scratch for your lessons. You can find OER content in numerous repositories online that you can use as-is or adapt to suit what you're teaching. Rather than creating your materials by yourself, you can borrow, change, and build on the work other educators have already done. OER is a collaborative community!
  • Allowing you, as the teacher, to change and remix OER in any way you want to so that they suit your lessons. There are no copyright restrictions on changing OER materials; they're meant to be remixed by a new user so they fit your classroom.
  • Enabling you and your students to keep them indefinitely. Once you have an OER that you've remixed, you can keep it for reuse next school year without restrictions. You can update them as needed in perpetuity.
  • Costing nothing for you, your students, or your schools. As the open education movement in K-12 grows, some districts are moving to fully OER textbooks and materials. While this might not be on your school's radar right now, you can still leverage OER in your own classroom on a smaller scale.

The 5 Rs of OER

When using OER, there are five aspects of use that make it so flexible. They are the Five Rs.

  1. Retain - the ability make, own, and control a copy of the resource (such as downloading and keeping your own copy).
  2. Revise - the ability to make edits to, adapt for your own use, and otherwise modify your copy of the resource (like changing a worksheet for your lesson).
  3. Remix - combine your original or revised copy of the resource with other existing material to create something new (like a mashup video or your own course pack of readings modified and combined for your course).
  4. Reuse - share your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource publicly (such as on a website, in a presentation, in a class).
  5. Redistribute - share copies of the resource you have created or modified with others (posting it online or handing it out to your class).

This material is an adaptation of Defining the "Open" in Open Content and Open Educational Resources, which was originally written by David Wiley and published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license at

What are the challenges of using OER in my classroom?

All classroom materials come with some level of challenge. Commercial textbooks are expensive and can't be modified. Creating your own teaching materials takes a great deal of time and effort. OER have challenges of their own. Below are some tips for overcoming them to make your use of OER in the your classroom smoother.

  • It takes time to search for OER online. It can, but you can search using one of the repositories of OER for K-12 listed here. These are community-driven and -curated collections of OER ready to be adapted for your classroom.
  • It takes time to edit OER to fit my teaching or lessons. It should take less time to adapt an existing resource than to create one from scratch, and other teachers' shared OER might offer a new perspective or twist on your usual lesson planning. If you spend the time editing an OER, share it in the same place you found it for others to use!
  • Are OER good quality? OER communities are vibrant and filled with educators who care about creating high-quality materials for their students. Some might not be perfect or could be a few years old, but they are adaptable in whatever way you want.
  • I have a mandated curriculum. OER can replace many teaching materials, but if you have a mandated curriculum, you can still search for activities, homework, test questions, and more that can supplement your required lessons and assignments.