Analog girl in a digital world
I love, love, love technology! And I hate technology! I mean, are computer problems not the worst??? Last week I wrote a post about my absolute favorite digital lesson planner. But digital planners are not for everyone. I get it. For my personal planner I am totally analog and use a bullet journal. There is just something about being able to hold it in your hands and putting pen to paper. Before I went digital with my teacher planner I struggled to find a planner that worked for me. I began making my own planners early on in Excel. Did you know you could do that? Well, you can and it’s easy! So, If digital planning is not for you this is the best planner!
Why make your own planner?
Well, simply put, I wanted a planner to fit me, rather than me trying to fit a planner. When I first started I liked to write down materials I would need for a lab or activity, standards, reflections and changes to be made and most planners just were not set up like that. My needs changed as I progressed though my career, so my lesson planner had to change with me. I was pretty proficient in Excel (thanks Mom!) so, that was my software of choice. You can totally do it in Word or even, Powerpoint if you are more comfortable in those programs. The important thing is that you make it fit your needs.
Once the planner is printed, I simply take it to anywhere that offers binding services. Check with your school, they may be able to bind it there. My school actually had the capability of doing comb binding, but I really wanted it to be spiral bound so I took them to FedEx Kinkos. It costs about $5.00 to have it bound and add plastic covers on the front and back. It costs more if you want them to print it as well. I usually printed it at school and made 100% sure everything was in the right order so that I handed it to them the way I wanted it bound.
What I put in my planner will probably differ from what you want in your planner. That’s what is so difficult trying to find a physical lesson plan book. No planner will fulfill the needs of all teachers. I’m going to talk about the things that I have included in my planners over the years. Hopefully, this will give you some ideas.
The evolution of my planners
Here they are! What a walk down memory lane. Now…I’m going to show you pictures of my pages and I changed nothing. So, you will see the nitty gritty of my lesson planning (or lack thereof) which is a little terrifying. Please don’t judge me. ?
My first planner
This is my very first planner. Lots of boxes for lots of information. This was similar to how I did lesson plans in college, only scrunched into a very small box. I had a “today’s special” which was basically one question about the previous lesson or about the upcoming lesson that I would put on the board every morning. I had a place to write the standards, materials needed, procedures and even a box for the homework. This worked OK, but flipping through my book I can tell I got tired of writing all that information so it got pretty sparse.
My first DIY lesson planner
Close-up of my first lesson planner
My second planner
I changed some things up for the next year. This planner includes an objective box and I made the standards box bigger. The plan was to write a summary of the standard because the coding system didn’t work for me. I wanted to easily see the standard that I needed to hit. I also added a “Word” box for my word of the day. The previous summer I had taken a Bio Lit class and my professor was from Spain. He wanted to increase his English vocabulary so he asked us all to bring in words so he could learn. I realized that there are so many really cool words in the English language! When school started, I continued word of the day with my students…even though I teach science!
Next year, some small alterations
Added “word of the day”
My third planner
Simplification was my primary objective with the next planner. I got rid of most of my boxes, keeping only objectives, standards, and lessons. Mostly because as you grow as a teacher, you just need to write down less. I also changed the sizing of the boxes to accommodate nifty removable labels for the printer. (more on that below)
I pretty much kept the same format for the next several years. Only tweaking fonts and other appearance things. I also began experimenting with labels and sticky notes in the planner so that I could try to maintain a neat planner book. All those arrows drive me nutty. As you can see in the photo below, I still have some arrows, still looks a bit messy, but it was easier to live with.
I always start with a plan for color coding but by the end of September, I am just slapping any sticky notes I can find on there!
In the early days I added my standards to the back of my planner so that I could simply check them off as I went. This is one option.
But, I still wanted to see those standards right on my lessons. So I bought some removable labels for my printer. I copied and pasted the standards into the template and voila! Standards in my planner! Writing the full standard out was never an option, I mean, look at how small those boxes are! I hated just writing the short codes for them because who has that memorized? I wanted to be able to look over my planner for my next lesson, read the standard, and make sure my students are learning what they need to. Plus, since the labels are removable, I can move them around in my planner if (when) I need to change a lesson plan. No more messy arrows all over the place. I really loved how easy it was to stick the standards into my plans. You can print out the labels and create pockets in the back of your planner for storage.
But what I ended up doing was having them bound right into my book when I had it bound. This was such a great thing! None of the sheets fell out or got lost. All the standards right there, plus it was easy to see which ones you still need to cover.
Some days I covered multiple standards. When that happens I folded the label over on itself and only stuck a small portion down. I could flip though them to read each one.
Additions to your planner
Since you are binding this yourself you can add whatever you want to your spiral bound lesson planner. Just think of the possibilities! Things that I wish I had added include behavior logs or observations, a phone directory, a page for noting websites that you use or want to remember. There really are so many options. Below are a few things that I have added to my lesson planners over the years.
Parent contact Log
This has been truly useful to me. I am not the greatest of remembering when I made a phone call or when I sent an e-mail. Plus, I had 100 students at any given time. I needed this to keep track of all those conversations.
You can add calendars in the format you like (I think mine were different every time).
Sometimes you just need to jot things down quickly.
Pacing guide, core map, common core, etc. etc. etc. We all have them and have to refer to them often. Put them right into your planner.
Ideas for additions to include
There really is so many things you can add to your planner.
- Periodic table: I always added a periodic table because when grading homework, lots of times I need to refer to it to check a students work.
- Information Page: If you are a new teacher, or new to your school, you many want to have a list of offices, staff and who to go to for different things.
- Special education accommodations or health concerns: When you are planning, it’s handy to know if you need to create a differentiated lesson for a students on your roster. Having the list in your planner means you can simply flip over and check as you are planning. If you are concerned about writing students names, you could just use initials to maintain some privacy.
- Logins/passwords: Teachers have about a gazillion of these!
- Blank pages: Rosters change CONSTANTLY so you really can’t put those in there before school starts, but you can leave empty pages where you tape (with removable tape) rosters in.
- Lined pages: Keep meeting notes right in your planner.
- Email/phone directory
I think you get the idea. Make your planner work for you, instead of changing how you do things to fit a planner. As I said at the start, I have since gone to a digital lesson planner but I have obviously not thrown out my paper planners! Paper planning lends itself to reflecting on how your teaching has changed year to year. What changes have you made to a lesson? What have you added? Trashed? There is something to be said for having a physical artifact from your year of teaching.
If you don’t want to start from scratch, you can download my Excel Template from my TpT Store. It includes my latest template, parent contact logs, calendar and notes pages. They are all completely editable, and just waiting for your customization!
How do you lesson plan? Do you prefer paper or electronic planners? I’d love to hear, drop a comment below.