Saving Hours Upon Hours with Digital Lesson Plans

Shameless Plug:

I have created an aesthetically appealing lesson planner already. If you want to save even more time, and receive additional pointers on how to properly utilize a digital lesson planner, I’ve got you covered! If you favor Etsy, it’s here. If you like TpT, it’s here

A few years back, I decided to start recording my lesson plans in a Google Sheet. I did this for two main reasons: 1) I have a well-organized infrastructure in my Google Drive and wanted to utilize it for lesson plans, and 2) I am notoriously bad at the actual “planning” for lessons; flying “by the seat of my pants” was an exciting way to teach without having to address my gross procrastination. (Of course I’m speaking in hyperbole; I wouldn’t hold a job for more than a few months if I didn’t plan.)

Why spend time writing down what I might do when it will probably be interrupted by a fire drill? (Here, Procrastination is attempting to hide behind a mask of Reason.)

So when I began the process of recording my lessons, I simply started tracking what I was teaching in each subject, then filled in the missing gaps based on our year-long plan in a Google Sheet. Our 5th grade team has a super-specific schedule and well-detailed calendar, so a huge percentage of what we teach for the year was taught the years prior.

What had started as a quick way to write down what I’d already done for my Math rotations ended up turning into an annual celebration of having the year planned out, thanks to the spreadsheet.

I’ve always loved returning to a new year with the bulk of my lessons readily planned. Now, with COVID, my team is even more heavily relying on collaborative work. I showed this strategy to them, they were impressed, and then we created a 5th Grade Team lesson planner that we all share, ensuring that we stay on the same page throughout Distance Learning.

This is an example of what my Google Sheet looks like.

Now, a disclaimer must be stated: this type of lesson planning works best for teachers who find themselves repeating a lot of the same materials year after year. (I make changes and adaptations every year for the specifics of each unique class, but those changes are typically made in the lessons themselves, not the plans or schedule.)

Another disclaimer: it does take a hot minute to get said spreadsheet ready. But if I told you that you could have years of work scheduled and planned out in exchange for a few hours of initial planning and some dedication to tracking your activities daily, you’d take it, right? 

1. Start Recording Your Activities As Soon As You Can

It’s ideal to start your lesson plans at the beginning of the year, but remember, the purpose of this Sheet is to provide information for the years to come.

If this post finds you at the beginning, middle, or end of your academic year, fill out as much as you can. The more you do now will carry over to next year. Future You will thank Past You for any help you give.

2. Keep Your Language Simple

Yes, posting standards is important in a lesson plan. Yes, guided questions are important too. But if you look closely at my example, I simply have a few words to name my activity; essentially, I only use extended clarification when I absolutely need it. (Also, having an organized Drive will help you know exactly what/where a specific activity is.)

3. Correlate Days and Weeks to a Master Schedule

If you always do “Compare and Contrast” in Week 3, or you practice Area and Perimeter in April, make sure your activities match the weeks/days of the year. If you accurately record your activities, next year when you’re planning, all you have to do is change the dates to match. Your annual plan is ready; let technology keep your work organized for you! 

Closure

There are many more advantages to having digital lesson plans. You can have access to them anywhere, share them with colleagues, edit, link, and tabulate subjects if you want. 

My spreadsheets are what I have used and developed over the years. Feel free to create what works best for you, and lean on the images I’ve provided if you need any guidance. Digital plans might not be for everyone; however, I implore everyone to at least give it a try. We teachers don’t get paid by the hour, so why work on planning and scheduling into the evening hours on a daily basis? 

With digital lesson planning, procrastination is no longer an option for me! … at least for right now.

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