Evernote is a great tool for daily lesson planning. Having a record of our lessons, including what went right and wrong with the lesson as well as ideas for next time, is an invaluable tool for being effective and improving as a teacher. Here is how I handle daily lesson planning using Evernote.
Monthly Notebook Stacks
I set up a lesson planning notebook for each month of each course that I teach. The monthly notebooks are titled “(Month Number based on school year)- (Name of Month plus Year)-(Course Name).” For example, at the beginning of this school year, my first lesson planning notebook for my freshmen English class was “1-August 2015-English I.” Within each of the monthly notebooks, I create one note for each day’s lesson, so having monthly notebooks means each notebook has only twenty or so lesson plans in it, making them easy to look at all at once.
I create a notebook stack for each course, so this year I had three stacks: one for AVID, one for English I (9th grade), and one for English II Honors (10th grade). I put a number in the title of the notebook representing the sequence of months in the school year so that when I sort my notebooks alphabetically they will show up in order within each notebook stack. There are two exceptions to this: for the ninth and tenth month of the year (for me May and June), I use the numbers “9a” and “9b” at the beginning of the titles, as using the number 10 causes the notebooks to appear earlier in the stack due to the way Evernote orders them.
If you have not used notebook stacks, they are simply collections of notebooks with a title. You can create them initially by dragging two notebooks together, and then add more by continuing to drag notebooks into the stack.
Daily Lesson Plans
As mentioned earlier, I create one note for each day’s lesson. I title it, “yyyy-mm-dd – (brief description of lesson).” Having the date structured this way allows me to sort my lessons by title and see them in date order. I prefer that the most current lesson shows up at the top of that month’s lesson planning notebook. While I use Google calendar to track the broad strokes of unit planning, such as when a unit begins and ends and the due dates for major assignments, I use descriptions in the titles of my lessons provide me with a more granular view of each unit.
I type each day’s lesson plan into the body of the note for that particular day, providing as much detail as I need to successfully deliver the lesson. I use bold headings within the note to mark the major portions of the lesson, such as the opener, activities, closure, and so on. Underneath each heading, I type whatever details and directions I need. If this is a lesson I have delivered before, I just jot down reminders of key sections of the lesson. However, if this is a new lesson or I am launching new skills with my students, I am often much more detailed.
Lesson Plan Templates
For the weekly routines within my teaching, I use templates for certain days of the week in order to save time. For example, on Mondays I present a grammatical sentence structure called the Sentence of the Week, a strategy I learned from fellow teachers at another school in our district. In addition, I teach academic vocabulary words on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I created notes that contain lesson planning templates for those days, since the agendas from week to week will be similar. I use a “.” at the beginning of the title of the template, again so that they show up at the beginning or end of my list of lessons when I sort my monthly notebook by title. When I am planning my week, I create a duplicate of the template and rename it with my normal numbering scheme. At that point, I make any adjustments to the lesson, which usually does not take long.
If you have this type of structure built into your instruction from week to week, consider setting up a lesson plan template for those days of the week that have repeating activities. This will save you from completely retyping your plans each week.
Keeping Track of Lesson Planning Ideas
I also keep a note titled “.General Lesson Planning Thoughts” in the month’s lesson planning notebook. If I come up with ideas that I need to incorporate into my lesson and unit planning soon, I add them to this note. Each week, I consult this note as I am lesson planning, ensuring that I consider incorporating those ideas.
Underneath each lesson, I have a preparation checklist. When I think of anything that needs to be done to prepare for the lesson, such as making copies, creating handouts, and so on, I add it to this list. Once the lesson is completely written, I move these items to my task list using a program called Taskclone, which automatically finds checklists in Evernote and moves them to certain task managers (I use Omnifocus). This ensures that I will be fully prepared prior to the lesson. For my weekday lesson plan templates, the prep checklist is already ready, ensuring that I don’t find myself scrambling a few minutes before a lesson to copy handouts.
Reflecting and Storing Lessons for the Future
If I feel the need to reflect on a lesson, I add this to the bottom of that day’s lesson plan note, indicating what went well and what needs improvement. Knowing that I will see the reflection in the future makes this time very worthwhile.
At the end of the year, I create a new notebook, titled, “Lesson Plans yyyy-yyyy.” (Example “Lesson Plans 2014–2015”) I drag all of my lesson planning notebooks into this notebook, creating a new notebook stack. All of my lessons stay intact, and I can consult them the following year as necessary. When I have a unit of instruction that is repeating from the previous year, I copy the notes into my current month’s lesson notebook and use them as a starting point for planning. In addition, I use Evernote’s search feature if I need to find specific types of lessons (using search terms like “grammar” or “vocab games,” etc.). I haven’t reached the point of feeling any need to delete old lesson plans, but I certainly could if I wanted to clean up my system.
Lesson planning in Evernote has had a major positive impact on my teaching and has saved me hours of preparation time because it is so easy to plan and to find my previous lessons. Give it a try and let me know what you think!
Thanks to David Sparks and Daniel Gold for inspiration for some of the above ideas. David Sparks suggests a similar date and title structure in his e-book Paperless. I first got the idea of using Evernote note templates from Daniel Gold in his e-book Evernote: The Unnofficial Guide to Capturing Everything and Getting Things Done.