How Evernote makes lesson planning better

Up until last September I wrote out my lesson plans as a cryptic list of agenda items squeezed into one of those tiny boxes on the pages of the lesson planbook handed out to all of the teachers in my school. Using pencil (to make it easier to revise plans if necessary), I created a kind of shorthand that only I could decipher, sketching out daily and weekly plans as I hunched over my desk or pretended to monitor student behavior during cafeteria duty. (Oops. I mean, as I diligently observed student behavior during cafeteria duty.) At the beginning of a new school year, it was always my intention to go back and reflect on what I had done in the previous year. But the pages of the planbook had rubbed together from constant use, smudging the penciled notes and rendering my old plans illegible. So I relied on my memory and my computer files to guide me through the curriculum. As I realized that I had to consciously integrate ACTFL standards and proficiency guidelines, Bloom's Taxonomy in its revised and digital forms, and 21st century skills in order to improve my teaching practice, I realized that the old paper planbook, with its tiny boxes and smudgy skeleton lesson plans, had to go.

There are some elegant and affordable web-based planbooks available, such as Planbook.com and Hellmansoft's Planbook, which was created by a teacher and has a native iPad app. Both of these programs are highly customizable and user-friendly. But... planning with them felt like wearing someone else's shoes. I needed a tool that I could personalize even more, that made attaching related resources a snap, that would be quick to use and intuitive to me.

Enter Evernote. This beautiful tool is multi-platform (PC, Mac, iOs, Android) and works in concert with other top-notch apps (see the Trunk) to make it pretty much anything you want it to be. I was already using Evernote to organize interesting articles and resources I found on Twitter and elsewhere on the web, and I had read about teachers using it to streamline the planning process. How could I do the same? I wanted to keep the flexibility and the in-the-moment utility of the agenda list, like I had in my paper planbook, but I also wanted to make sure that I had a way to track standards, Bloom's and 21st century learning skills used in my plans. I also wanted to remind myself to assign meaningful homework. After tinkering for a little while and revising several versions of a lesson plan template, this is what I came up with. It's a lesson plan "template" that is really just a blank lesson plan note, which I could then copy and paste into the appropriate notebook and fill in with my plan for the day's class. To organize, I created notebooks for the classes I teach, and then "stacked" notebooks for each unit within the course notebook. I can add web-based resources for units and lessons to the appropriate notebook by using Evernote's web clipper, and I can even attach files and modify them within Evernote. Adding key words makes it easy to search for lessons by topic. Here's an example of a completed lesson plan. By the time I'm finished planning the lesson, I usually know it inside and out, but I can always check the plan on the Evernote app on my iPad while I'm in class or pull it up on the classroom computer using the internet. I can share my plans with my supervisors prior to class observations or with colleagues to facilitate collaboration. And I can always revise the template if I want to add or take away elements--which will come in handy whenever the school decides to integrate the Common Core.

There are a lot of apps out there that promise to be your do-it-all app, but I think Evernote is one of the few that actually deliver. It's my desert-island app (along with Spotify, Kindle and Safari, as long as the desert island has wifi). How do you use Evernote? What apps do you want on your desert island?

Comments

  1. Katherine, I'm glad I'm not the only person who has felt a need to move from the "old way" of lesson planning to a new, better way. In my case, the "old way" was a form that the school had developed several years ago – but it was still all about the LIST OF ACTIVITIES rather than the MEANINGFUL LEARNING for students. Did you see my blog post about my adventures in lesson planning? http://joyfullatinlearning.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/the-lens-of-the-week/

    I just love the idea of using Evernote to organize plans!

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  2. Justin, thanks for reading & commenting! Love this collaboration!

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  4. Thank you thank you thank you for sharing this! I am now required to submit lesson plans and I am using Evernote. Your template is beautiful and so easy!

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    1. Thank YOU for reading! I'm glad you find it useful.

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  5. I'm wanting to use evernote as a plan book. How did you create the dropdown fields? Do you need wifi to use this on your ipad?

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    1. Hi Adelle, thanks for reading. I didn't create dropdown fields on the template; I don't think Evernote has that capability. I just typed titles in bold for each component of the lesson that I want to be sure to include, and then when I create a new lesson plan using the template, I type the activity or task underneath it in regular text. As for using it on the iPad, you'll need wifi or a 3G connection to sync your notes to your Evernote account so that you can access them from the web or other devices. If you create and modify notes on the iPad without wifi, you'll be able to access them on the iPad only. Hope this answers your questions!

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  6. I am fascinated with your lesson plan template. I am also just beginning to explore ways to use Evernote for planning and organizing my lessons. I am still unclear re: how you designed the check boxes. Would you explain in greater detail? This is perhaps the most intriguing feature to me of your lesson plan template!

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    1. Thank you! The check boxes are an option on the editing toolbar when you're creating a note in Evernote. It's next to the bullet points button. Very easy to insert!

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  7. Thank you for addressing my question. Much-appreciated. :)

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