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  • Writer's pictureBethPollak

The Best Middle School Educational Websites for Distance Learning

Looking for learning tools for your tweens? I’ve taught middle school for 12 years, and I’d love to share my curated list of favorite educational websites for upper elementary and middle school learning. These products will work best for ages 9–14 and beyond. I hope that educators, parents and students can use these suggestions while learning from home.

For schools closed during the Covid-19 outbreak, most software companies are making their licenses and subscriptions available for free. Contact your teacher or school administrator to obtain access. It’s also possible that your school already has a subscription to these programs or others — and students might already have usernames and passwords. Ask them to find out!

In addition to the sites listed below, I encourage you to explore websites of your local libraries, museums, zoos, galleries, gardens and nature centers, many of which offer articles and activities for students and families. Visit the website and click on the education link, or use the search toolbar to explore topics of interest. Plus, don’t forget that most libraries allow you to borrow books virtually and download them to your phone, tablet or computer.

Here are my top suggestions, organized by subject area:


Scholastic offers free day-by-day lesson plans for ages Preschool through Middle School during the Covid-19 outbreak, including multiple articles and activities. For middle school, each article includes an interactive quiz that can be linked to Google Classroom or downloaded as a PDF. The articles also include additional resources like videos, worksheets, games and more. The articles provide Lexile levels and Common Core Standards, and include text-to-speech and bookmark functions.

LightSail Education (Subscription Based — fee waived for Covid-19 closed schools)

Lightsail is an e-reading platform that provides students with access to popular fiction and non-fiction texts with embedded activities and assessments. Students can create personalized libraries at their own Lexile reading level and track their progress. Embedded activities include multiple-choice, written-response, and Cloze activities. Teachers can assign texts and monitor student progress.

Newsela (Subscription Based — fee waived for Covid-19 closed schools)

Newsela is a subscription-based news website for students from 2nd grade through High School. You can find articles on current events, science, history, technology, politics, health, sports and more. Newsela’s articles are mostly from original media sources. You can read the original article, or choose the level that matches your reading ability. Teachers can create assignments remotely and share them with students. Users can also group articles into text sets about particular topics. The site offers highlighting and dictionary tools, reading quizzes, writing prompts and activities. Many articles are also available in Spanish. [Note: the author of this article is a freelance lesson designer for Newsela.]


IXL (Subscription Based and Free Options)

IXL’s personalized learning platform offers tools for students to build skills in math, language arts, social studies, science and Spanish learning. Students can work at their own pace to practice skills by grade level and subject area. Questions are mostly multiple choice. You can select activities by grade level and topic. You also can use diagnostics and analytics to assess growth. Some of the tools and activities are free, but users will need a full subscription to access all of the site’s features. Users can purchase a family subscription or use a school/district membership.

Khan Academy provides extensive lessons, videos, quizzes, activities and more in a range of subjects for all ages. Their math and science programs are particularly comprehensive and helpful. Videos include step-by-step instruction and practice. Work at your own pace, and progress from level to level in different subject areas.

Flocabulary (Subscription Based — fee waived for Covid-19 closed schools)

This super fun learning platform teaches academic subjects (Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies and more) using hip-hop songs and animated videos. The videos highlight key concepts and vocabulary. Lessons include vocabulary practice activities, read-and-respond practice, multiple-choice quizzes and “Lyric Lab.” The songs are addictive, memorable and a great way to learn.

Quizlet allows students to create sets of flashcards to learn vocabulary and review spelling. Customize flashcards with the images and definitions that you choose. You also can search through existing flashcard sets to find the one that matches what you are studying. Quizlet includes dozens of games and activities that students can use to review terminology and learn ideas. It’s an excellent resource to build vocabulary, improve reading fluency, practice spelling skills and learn new languages. Flashcard sets can be shared with classmates and other users.

This colorful website provides games and tools to teach students vocabulary, geography and academic concepts. It’s an excellent tool for building memory skills and for helping English Language Learners. Learn about the countries of the world, the periodic table, the food chain and other academic topics. It also provides math games and brain teasers. Search topics by grade level or subject. [Note: You will need Adobe Flash player to use the activities on this site.]


San Francisco’s Exploratorium museum offers hands-on activities and experiments that are easy to launch from home. In particular, their Learning toolbox, designed for kids at home during the Covid-19 outbreak, provides information and explorations to learn about the science of viruses. They also offer “Tinker around the house” activities and “Science of food” units. Lessons include text, videos, interactive graphics and more.

The American Museum of Natural History’s fantastic website features engaging experiments, articles, videos and more that teach about the various “ologies” of the sciences and humanities. Search by topic or type of resource to access the engaging lessons and hands-on activities.

This interactive website for younger learners provides excellent resources for learning about nature, animals, science and geography. The site offers text, games, photos, videos and explorations. It also includes “Cool Stuff Articles” about a variety of social studies and science topics, and “Brain Boosters” with science experiments, homework help, quizzes and more. Great for environmental projects, hands-on experiments and community service ideas.


An outstanding resource with animated videos on topics in science, history, current events and more. It is particularly helpful for teaching academic concepts that are difficult to capture in text. Each video includes four sections: “Watch” the video, “Think” quiz questions (multiple choice and short answer); “Dig Deeper” articles and links, and “Discuss” discussion questions. Includes “Create a lesson” options for teachers to create guided lessons using TED-Ed videos. Students can create TED-Ed talks, clubs and online conversations. Educators can take a Master Class and build their own TED-Ed talks as well.

Brainpop (Subscription Based — fee waived for Covid-19 closed schools)

Brainpop provides short animated videos that teach vocabulary and content about a range of topics. The videos are entertaining and engaging, and review key words for each subject area. Each video includes a quiz, related articles, and a number of activities to practice concepts and expand on the basics. Excellent for teaching complex topics and for English Language Learners.

Ducksters is a low-key website with hundreds of articles and games about history, science, geography and more. It’s written on a kid-friendly level and is excellent for research projects. Articles are written encyclopedia style and link to related vocabulary, biographies and important events. Many articles have bullet-pointed key facts or dates, and include audio so readers can listen to text as they read.

A general resource for kids and families to learn about health and human body concepts. The site features articles, quizzes, activities, videos and word games to teach users about human biology, anatomy and health. It is divided into sections for parents, kids, teens and educators. You can also translate sections into Spanish. Text-to-speech and printable options are available as well.


A comprehensive index of PBS resources on current events, academic topics and student-interest media. The website includes lesson plans for literature, science, social studies and more. Lessons link to podcasts, documentary features, radio shows, investigative reports, community interest articles, student projects and more. Lessons and resources can be streamed, downloaded, shared and/or assigned to Google Classroom.

Facing History and Ourselves provides an outstanding framework and multiple resources to help teach students about difficult topics in our past and present. Topics include: Holocaust, Race in U.S.History, Antisemitism and Religious Intolerance, Justice and Human Rights, Genocide and Mass Violence, Global Immigration, Bullying and Ostracism, and Democracy and Civil Engagement. Topics are divided into units with a variety of lessons featuring images, videos, audio clips, articles, worksheets and activities. Resources include high-quality primary and secondary sources from archives, libraries and news media.

Teaching Tolerance offers extensive materials that focus on social justice and anti-bias learning. Many articles are written on a high school level, but middle grade and elementary school students can benefit from reading and discussing them with adults and educators. It provides lessons, articles, film kits and more to fulfill the mission of “helping teachers educate children and youth to be active participants in a diverse democracy.” Topics include: race and ethnicity, religion, ability, class, immigration, gender and sexual identity, bullying and bias, rights and activism. Many lessons also provide action ideas and service learning projects.


The self-declared “world’s best way to learn a language,” Duolingo is a helpful tool for daily language learning. Choose a language to learn and commit to a 10–20 minute daily practice time and/or specific daily goals. Includes listening, speaking, reading and writing practice. Work at your own pace to learn and practice a new language.

Señor Wooly (Subscription Based — two free weeks for Covid-19 closed schools)

Señor Wooly offers hilarious song and video lessons that teach Spanish vocabulary and concepts. The videos offer plenty of repetition to help students retain new words and encourage them to sing along. The site includes readings, activities and quizzes. Students can earn “Wooly Coins” and level-up as they practice.

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