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?