How to Lesson Plan: The Easy Way

Each year, like most everything else in my classroom, I adjust my lesson plans and create newer materials for all of my lessons (powerpoints, bell ringers, exit ticket activities, worksheets, rubrics, etc.). Each class each year is different, and what kids struggle with from one class or one year to another changes. You have to differentiate differently. You figure out what works and what doesn’t work.
When I first started teaching, like most first year teachers, a lot of times I found myself working “harder, not smarter” and re-creating the wheel for every little thing. Even after my first year, I never had a great way to organize  my lesson materials.
I’ve tried many systems. I made folders on my computer and labeled items by topic, but at the end of each year I’d look back at my documents folder and have a bunch of videos, powepoints, and worksheets labeled with just a date. “9.17.15”, for example. What the heck did I do on September 17th? That would lead me to have to click each folder, or document, and figure it out. Out of frustration, when I couldn’t find things, I would end up just re-doing something I knew I had somewhere.
I’ve also tried to keep a “Master Copy” binder. That doesn’t work for me either. I will start off the year strong and then stop following through with including everything in there. I had struggled to find a system that is efficient, and that works for me, until this year. 
Now, I’ve found a system that is efficient, easy to use, and keeps everything all together in a calendar style (by date), and also by units and now I couldn’t lesson plan without it so I’m excited to share it with you: PLANBOARD.
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Planboard is an “online, free lesson planning tool designed to help educators simplify their planning. The site allows teachers to save and share calendars and schedules, making it easy to re-use these plans in the future”. So far, this has been a lifesaver for me.
Planboard has cut down my prep time, and organized my lessons in a way that I could never do effectively before. If you’re an educator looking to try another system of organization and prefer a paperless model, you should try Planboard.
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  1. It’s free. Enough said. There are a few other similar tools out there, but many have a monthly subscription. No thanks.
  2. You can make your own schedule. Have a weird bell schedule, or a rotating system? No problem. When you set up the classes, you can put in the times of the classes each day and it automatically situates it on a calendar for you.
  3. You can create your units. This feature has hands down fixed the date naming epidemic that my documents folder was plagued by and organizes anything I do (or throw in last minute) by unit, and chronologically–so I can look back when I plan for next year and see the progression I followed the year before!
  4. There is a sticky note feature. Automatically on the side of each lesson plan page there is a “sticky note”. Need to remember to tell 3 students to go to the band room at 10:45am? Have a faculty meeting after school? Whatever you write on the note will show up on the  calendar at the top of the day to help keep you organized!
  5. You can make a lesson plan template to use each day. I am a stickler for following a specific format each day, thus, I use a specific lesson planning template. You can start off with a blank slate each day, or create a template you may have to use for your school to fill in. If you’re a middle school or high school teacher like me where you teach multiple periods of one subject, you can copy your lesson onto other days/periods for convenience.
  6. You can stay organized  from year to year and plan for future years more easily without having to re-create the wheel.  As I’ve touched on above, this is the best system for me to pull up the calendar and see the progression of what I did the year before, keep all of the powerpoints/activities/rubrics, etc. together by how they were presented, and to see how many lessons went into each unit. I am so excited to start planning for next year just because I already know all of this will make it so much easier!
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7. You can attach the standards to your lessons and track progression. You can attach a set of Common Core Standards to your account, then just search the standards and attach! Done! This has saved me so much time! No more checklists of when standards were taught and re-taught!
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8. Collaboration and sharing is made easy. You can easily export your lessons into a PDF format, or email them to a group of people. You can also import documents from Google Drive, or from other resources shared with you from other members of Planboard.
9. Color-coding! I color code everything, as many teachers do, from classes, to groups, and everything in between. You can color-code your class periods and documents within your schedule, which may sound like a small thing, but ultimately, makes looking at the calendar format more user-friendly.
10. The system is intuitive. If you spend a lot of time on your computer and are a technology guru, or just want to move to a paperless system but aren’t an expert with technology–no worries, the Planboard system is easy to use, has a clean, simple design, and can be navigated around with ease!
That’s it! I just had to share a secret that has helped me so much stay organized. Do you use Planboard or any of the other Chalk.com products? Or do you use another online system? I’d love to hear from you!


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