I have tried every kind of lesson planning book or program known to man!
OK, maybe that is a *slight* exageration! But seriously, it started when my department chair (❤️ you Brenda Fischer!) gave me a stack of different lesson plan books and told me to look through them and order the one I wanted. I found out quickly that none of them had what I wanted. I mean, fresh out of college I was used to preparing 1-2 page lesson plans. (I don’t anymore) How was I supposed to fit it all of that information into that little box?
To rectify this, I started making my own lesson planners in excel, printing them out and having them bound at Kinko’s. This worked for a quite a while. I believe I have about 9 books that I have made and used. I was able to customize it to my needs, in fact, no two are the same because I was constantly changing them to make them work for me However, I still never seemed to hit on that one design that just worked perfectly. Plus, it was a lot of work each year! I also still struggled with standards and how to reference them easily. I didn’t want to have to write them in, but I wanted to be able to see them. I even experimented with printing standards on labels so that I could just stick them into my planner. Uugghh, the struggle!
More than anything, I wanted to save time during this incredibly time consuming process. Being the “techi-kinda gal” that I am, I began looking at digital lesson planners. It wasn’t until about 3 years ago that I found one that I really feel hit all of the elements I was looking for in digital lesson planner. And let me tell you, when you finally find planner peace, everything is right with the world!
What I look for in an digital planner
Elements of a good digital lesson planner (in my humble opinion?) I could go on and on because I am pretty particular, but these are the 5 things that really make or break a lesson planner system for me.
- Input needs to be simple and user friendly. Ain’t nobody got time for difficult!
- Must have customization! I need to be able to make a planner what works for me. As I said, I’m pretty particular. But, what works for me, won’t work for everyone. That’s why a planner that allows for customization is a must.
- State standards (or whatever standards your school uses). Adding the standards to lesson plans is always a pain. Do you write it out? use a number code? reference them in another way? I struggled with how to do this for years. Intuitively, I wanted to have the whole standard there so that I could read it before the lesson and make sure I am making all relevant points…but who wants to write that into a paper planner??? Not me!
- Cheap! I do not want to pay a fortune for a digital lesson planner. Teachers spend way to much money on supplies as it is!
- Can be carried over year to year. I never do things the same way year to year, but wouldn’t it be nice to have last years lesson plans as a starting point and NOT having to input everything from scratch each year!!!!
*I am not being paid to write this review, nor will I receive any bonus if you sign up. I just love it and think you will too!
*Cue the sound of angels singing* Guys, I’m telling you, this program has saved me so much time! It is everything that I was looking for in a digital lesson planner! If you read my 10 Favorite iOS Apps For Teachers post you know that I looooove Planbook.com. They do have great features but what’s even better is that their development team is awesome and listens to teachers! Imagine that. They have a forum where you can request features, or you can vote for features other people have already requested and they get them done. I liked this program 4 years ago, but it has improved so much in those 4 years that I would never use anything else! What’s so great about it? I’m glad you asked.
I really have no time to spend hours on new software and neither do you. That is the first reason I love Planbook.com. I was immediately able to figure out the program and start entering information. When I did run across something I couldn’t figure out, I would send them and e-mail or look at their tutorial page and was able to get the answer very easily. I bullied many of my colleagues into using the program as well and even some that were *ahem* not so tech savvy and they had no problem using this program.
This is so customizable! Colors, sections, time blocks. It just goes on and on. If you teach high school like me, you can have plans for each of your classes. You can have different colors for each subject you teach in a day for lower grades. It is really whatever you want to make it.
You can customize the different boxes or sections in your planner. These will show up as tabs in the lesson editor. You can make these different colors as well. I use these for reflections, consumables, connections to prior lessons, todays goal, and changes I want to make for next time. It really puts everything you need all in one place. No more sticky notes! *note – you can hide all this stuff when you print or share with a substitute.
When you first set up your planner, you enter start and end dates as well as any other important dates that happen throughout out the school year. You have the option to make these dates “school days” or “non-school days”. This is great because the program will skip those days when you are shifting lessons around. TIME SAVER!
Templates! Create your own template for your lesson plan boxes. That way when you start a lesson, you have any headings, colors there waiting for you. TIME SAVER! You can even create a different template for each class, each day or each section that you create. I mean, just think of the possibilities!
By mid November every teachers planner looks the same. You know what I’m talking about, when we have to somehow shift everything from the day we planned to teach it to the day we actually get to it? All those circles and arrows start to make our lesson plan books look like some sort of weird mind map.
This program has the ability to “bump” your entire planner over a day, 2 days, as many as you want. So, if you have a sudden epiphany and want to add in a lesson it is so simple to do. Likewise, when you realize you need to stop and review some information, or school surprises you with a fire drill that wipes out an entire block, it is so nice to be able to bump your lessons over and keep right on truckin’.
They have a huge database of standards. US, Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, Scotland, Mexico, New Zealand…just to name a few.
All US State standards, all subjects, Next Generation Science Standards, Common Core, Blooms Taxonomy. You can sign up for a free trial to make sure they have the standards that you need. But even if they don’t, e-mail them!
When I first started using Planbook.com, my state was in the middle of a standards update. As a result, the new standards that my school wanted us to use, were not yet incorporated into Planbooks standards database. However, when I e-mailed them to ask them about it, they let me know that they would be happy to incorporate a custom set of standards for me if I put them into an excel file. AND THEY DID! I was just so impressed with their customer service and their desire to accommodate me.
Sometime around September my husband goes on the same rant about how much I’ve spent on back to school. This program costs $12 dollars a year. THAT’S IT! Most paper planners cost at least this much! They also offer a 30 day trial so head over there and try it out for free. Better yet, keep reading. But I’m telling you, you will fall in love with it!
Yes! You can roll over your lesson plan book from year to year! I do this for all of my classes, even if I am not teaching that particular class a certain year. It’s very easy to select which of your classes are viewable. You can see in the photo below that I can choose to only view Honors Chemistry if that is all I happen to be teaching.
You can give viewing access to your students if you want. Older students may want to know whats ahead or check what the homework was if they forget. You get to decide which sections they see if you do this. You can also share lessons with other teachers or administrators. This is great for collaboration and observations.
But the biggest reason I love this function is because it is so easy to e-mail a lesson plan to a colleague or department chair when you are dying in your bed, sick (because teachers don’t stay home unless they are dying). All you have to do is grab your phone, pull up todays lesson e-mail it! Then you can rest easy and sink back into your NyQuil oblivion. Sold.
You can download free apps for Android and iOS systems and you will always have your full planner with you wherever you go!! As a science teacher there are always supplies to buy for labs and things. I don’t know how many times I have found myself at the grocery store knowing that I have a lab coming up but didn’t have my list of reactants with me. Not any more! I created a section in my planner for consumables where I would list items that need to be on hand or purchased for any given lesson plan. It is on my phone wherever I am!
Here is a link to Planbook.com’s tutorial page. You can learn this on your own VERY easily but even if you are having trouble figuring something out, there is probably a tutorial for it. I mean, how nice is that?
Save time? Check✓ Save money? Check✓
So $12 a year is not a ton of money, but who doesn’t love free stuff? I contacted Planbook.com and asked them for a promocode for my readers and they came through!!! If you enter promo code “free6Siler” you will receive 6 months FREE! Yeah! This is not an affiliate link, I am not getting paid for my review, nor will I get paid if you sign up. I just really love this program and think that it will save you time and effort in your life as a teacher.