Thursday, January 21, 2016

Why Evernote is the best lesson/unit planning tool ever

By User:ZyMOS [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons

I've written about Evernote as a lesson planning tool on this blog before, but now that I'm going on five years as a complete Evernote convert, I thought I'd celebrate that anniversary by discussing how I've been using some of its tools and apps to step up my unit planning game.


First of all, a quick recap on how I use the notes in Evernote as templates for lesson and unit planning. I created a note called "Lesson Plan Template" that I just copy and paste into a new note for every lesson I plan. It's easy to edit the template as my teaching needs change because it's just another note -- just type in whatever edits I need and I'm ready to go. Also, I added the template to my Shortcuts sidebar in the Evernote app, so I can access it quickly whenever I need it.
My Shortcuts sidebar

Often, I'll go back to a lesson I've conducted and add notes to myself about timing or what went well or not so well. I've also attached photos of student work (evidence of learning!) or writing on the whiteboard to notes as a reminder of what we did.

All of the notes/lesson plans for a particular unit go into the dedicated notebook that I created for that unit, which is then organized into a "stack" of unit notebooks for the course.

I also created a "Unit Plan Template" to help me backwards-design my activities and assessments (of course), which I use much like I use the lesson plan template. I found I still needed a calendar-like view of "skeleton" lesson plans so that I could plan around holidays or put in a mental placeholder for certain activities or assessments before I was ready to develop the whole lesson. In my current school, my classes only meet four days a week on a rotating schedule, so I created a four-day-week table for quick planning purposes.

But now on to the really good stuff: the Web Clipper. Anything you find on the web, you can clip and save into the appropriate notebook. You can clip bookmarks to websites, PDFs, screenshots, full articles, even videos. Once it's saved into your Evernote notebook, you can just click on the resource and it will open -- like magic! -- in your browser. When I'm in unit-planning mode, the Web Clipper is essential. It's how I organize anything I find on the internet that might be of use in the unit I'm developing: authentic cultural resources, savvy blog posts from fellow educators, PDFs of graphic organizers or even movie guides, background information... I might not use all of it in class or even as I develop the unit, but it's all there, in the appropriate notebook, in one app. And because Evernote is totally searchable, I can find resources and plans that I organized or created years ago -- or even last trimester -- that could help me plan tomorrow's lesson.

(I should mention that Evernote did not pay me for this post... but maybe they'd like to? Hint, hint, powers that be.)

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