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Lesson Planning

How to Be More Organized This School Year From the 1st Day of School

Documentation, Lesson Planning, Teachers Pay Teachers, Teaching, Time Saver
Hey y’all!  I hope you had a festive 4th of July!

I’ve been thinking about how I ‘m going to organize all of my “teacher stuff” next year outside of myself/lessons. You know, all of those meeting papers and “extra” stuff you get and have to keep straight throughout the school year?

Well, I began looking at teacher binders online and wasn’t satisfied with ones I was coming across so I created my own! In this file you will get 2 cover options (a black and white polka dot cover and a colorful cover) as well as black and white printables to match! This product is an ink saver and will have free updates for life!

I created covers of each type for the following categories:
-Student Assessments
Professional Development
Substitute Binder
Faculty Meetings
Lesson Plans
IEP Caseload
Class Information
-Team Lead Information
Attendance Binder
Behavior Binder
Evaluation Binder
State Standards
-Teacher Binder
-Parent Communication Binder
Data Binder.

Colorful Cover Option

Black and White Cover Option

There are also printable sheets that can be inserted in your teacher binder. The printables include:
-Class Birthdays
-Dates to Remember
-Usernames & Passwords
-To Do List
-Substitute Report
-Weekly Planner
-Task Tracker
-Locker Assignments
-Parent Teacher Conference Form
-Daily Schedule
-Class Roster
-Seating Chart (Graph Paper)
-Parent Communication Log (page layout for 1 student)
-Parent Communication Log (page layout for multiple students)
-Calendars At a Glance August 2016-July 2017 (Monthly Layout, 2 months per page)
-Monthly Calendar August 2016-July 2017 (1 Month per page)
-Checklist Page
-Year at a Glance
-Sticky Note Suggestions 
-Gradebook Grid
-Attendance Grid

Sub Report Sample Printable
Parent Teacher Conference Form Sample Printable
I hope you love it! I can’t wait to get to school and print mine out! If you think of anything I missed let me know and I can create it and provide it in an update of the product!

p.s. Want to start a teacher blog just like this one? My friend, Suzi, wrote an ebook that can help you get started and grow your blog!

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Erin Condren Teacher Planner vs. Life Planner with Pictures

Erin Condren, Lesson Planning, Life Planner, Middle School, Teaching

Last Friday was the last day of school for me which means (1) IT’s SUMMER! and (2) now I have so much more time I can devote to the blog (so exciting!).  I can’t wait to roll out some things I’ve been working on!

Anyway, while summer means a break from grading/lesson planning/organizing/decorating/copying/counseling/calling parents and the million other things teachers do during the school year, it also means it is time to reflect on the past year, and to begin prepping for next year. Whether you are a TYPE-A teacher who plans very meticulously, way in advance, or a TYPE-B teacher who approaches things in a more laid back way, I know that every teacher plans for the next year in some way…so this post is for you!

In this post I will show you the Erin Condren Teacher Lesson Planner, detail how I used it, and explain why I just purchased the Erin Condren LifePlanner. This post isn’t sponsored (if you’re wondering why I’m plugging EC!), I just want to share a product I am passionate about and help out if you’re trying to decide if you want one, or which one you should choose…keep reading!

Erin Condren Teacher Lesson Planner

Last year about this time I was trying to decide if I wanted to get an Erin Condren planner or not. They are somewhat expensive compared to the regular ‘ol planners I’d get at Target, or wherever,  but I’d heard so much hype about them that I was intrigued. I always start the school year with grand plans on how I’m going to organize my school “stuff” but had yet to find a way that really worked for me that I kept up with, so I did my research to figure out if I wanted the Teacher Planner or the LifePlanner. I ended up buying an Erin Condren Teacher Planner. (Note: Sub-Par iPhone pictures ahead! 🙂 )

Below is the cover I chose of my Teacher Lesson Planner. When you visit the site, you will notice the MANY options you have to choose from. If you don’t really care about the personalization, they also have some cheaper “Grab and Go” options where you get the generic version (the only difference is there is no name added). The cover is laminated with a very, very thick laminate, so it is heavy duty (mine even endured a few spills!).

When you open the Lesson Planner there are a few introductory pages. Then it is divided into tabs: Dates, Absent, Graph, Year Plan, Monthly Tabs, Lessons, Check list. Each tab’s page has a cute motivational/inspiring quote on it…see the picture below. 

Dates tab: 

Under the dates tab there is a section for “Holidays and Dates to Remember” and class birthdays.
Absent Tab:
Under the Absent Tab there were 6 full pages of absentee logs. 
Graph tab:
There are 8 full pages of graph paper under the Graph tab. As you can see, I doodled out a seating chart on one page!

Year Plan tab:
This is the “Year at a Glance” spread, where you can note/plan out things in advance for you classroom. Behind this page, there is also a notes page. 
Monthly tabs:
The planner includes a monthly view for each month, and I’ve included 2 pictures below. The standard planner comes with regular open circles where the dates go, but I added date stickers 🙂
Lessons tab:
Now, the best part, and the reason you’re buying this thing in the first place…the lesson planner part! The picture below shows the wide view. The top left has a “Week #” box. The top row has “Grade/Subject” and “Date”. The left side has boxes for Monday-Friday. 
I used mine this year by putting my class periods across the top (since I teach all 8th grade English), and the last 2 columns were reserved for “PLC stuff” and “Team Stuff”. In those 2 columns I would bullet out things I needed to do/remember. In the open space below the date labels, I would put things I needed to remember generally for that day like, “Pep Rally @ 1”, “Call Katie’s Mom”, etc. On the lines listed, for each day and period I would list Bellwork, Lesson Focus, Exit Ticket, and Homework.  
Below is the zoomed in view of the lesson planner pages. 
Check list tab:
Part of the hype surrounding the Lesson Planner was that it is an “all-in-one” planner. This is one reason why that is the case…it includes checklist pages! I’ve seen this used as a grade book, portfolio checklist, essential form checklist, etc. There are 7 spreads, like in the picture below, of checklist pages. 
The Teacher Lesson Planner comes with a lot of stickers. There are teaching specific ones, and also an entire page of blank ones you can personalize for yourself!
In the back of the planner there is a 2-sided folder, a large plastic cover to keep things in, and a plastic pouch (perfect for keeping extra stickers and pens in!). I really appreciated the pen pouch because I am particular about color coding and I always lose my nice pens!

See below for a size comparison. The EC Teacher Lesson Planner is on the left and the Life Planner is on the right. I’m loving the smaller size of the Life Planner!

Erin Condren LifePlanner
Just like the Teacher Lesson Planner, you can choose to get a personalized cover, or a “grab and go” cover. I chose one of the metallic covers and had my initials added. 
Each life planner has a monthly view calendar, like in the picture below. 

A cool feature of the LifePlanner is that you get to choose if you want a horizontal or vertical layout on the daily pages. I chose horizontal because I like to make bulleted lists.

LifePlanner Extras: Stickers, stickers, and more stickers! Again, just like the Teacher Lesson Planner, the LifePlanner comes with pre-made stickers, and a page of blank stickers for you to fill out for however works for you!

In the back right before the last cover the LifePlanner also has a pocket folder and plastic pouch to hold your stuff (hello, awesome pens!). To my surprise, when I ordered, they also threw in a recurring  dates calendar (the little pink booklet) that I can fill out and move from planner to planner each year!

Why I Switched From the Erin Condren Teacher Lesson Planner to the LifePlanner

Both products are great, but this year I chose to switch from the EC Teacher Planner to the Life Planner and digital lesson plans.

I switched because I found that I didn’t use all of the fabulous inserts simply because of the number of students I have as a Middle School teacher. If I taught elementary aged students, and had 30ish in a class, the checklists and other pages would be plenty sufficient, however, I don’t, and was using the check lists for only some things  because of space, thus, defeating the purpose of having an “all-in-one” book for me.

I also switched because I began to run out of room on the lesson planning pages. I absolutely loved to look at the week in the format that the EC Teacher Lesson Planner has, but I wasn’t able to be as detailed as I wanted so I was inserting other pages (the longer lesson plan, or slides, etc) and then I just had a bunch of extra materials stuffed in there.

The Life Planner has allowed me to plan my personal stuff, as well as create “To Do” bulleted lists for school things on each day. I have been using Planboard (a free site…I wrote about it here) to store my digital plans/worksheets/slideshows/resources all in one place and have really liked the flexibility of having everything together digitally to “remember” for next year, and also to keep resources attached with certain lessons (I am NOT a file cabinet girl!).

Hopefully this information has been helpful if you’re in the market for an Erin Condren planner. Which ever route you go, you will get a fabulous product! (This is not sponsored, I just really like the planners 🙂 )

If you want $10 off, you can use my referral code here.

So what do you think? Are you getting an Erin Condren planner or do you have one and use yours differently? Let me know!

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How to Lesson Plan: The Easy Way

Lesson Planning, Middle School, Teaching, Time Saver
Each year, like most everything else in my classroom, I adjust my lesson plans and create newer materials for all of my lessons (powerpoints, bell ringers, exit ticket activities, worksheets, rubrics, etc.). Each class each year is different, and what kids struggle with from one class or one year to another changes. You have to differentiate differently. You figure out what works and what doesn’t work.
When I first started teaching, like most first year teachers, a lot of times I found myself working “harder, not smarter” and re-creating the wheel for every little thing. Even after my first year, I never had a great way to organize  my lesson materials.
I’ve tried many systems. I made folders on my computer and labeled items by topic, but at the end of each year I’d look back at my documents folder and have a bunch of videos, powepoints, and worksheets labeled with just a date. “9.17.15”, for example. What the heck did I do on September 17th? That would lead me to have to click each folder, or document, and figure it out. Out of frustration, when I couldn’t find things, I would end up just re-doing something I knew I had somewhere.
I’ve also tried to keep a “Master Copy” binder. That doesn’t work for me either. I will start off the year strong and then stop following through with including everything in there. I had struggled to find a system that is efficient, and that works for me, until this year. 
Now, I’ve found a system that is efficient, easy to use, and keeps everything all together in a calendar style (by date), and also by units and now I couldn’t lesson plan without it so I’m excited to share it with you: PLANBOARD.
Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 4.11.52 PM
Planboard is an “online, free lesson planning tool designed to help educators simplify their planning. The site allows teachers to save and share calendars and schedules, making it easy to re-use these plans in the future”. So far, this has been a lifesaver for me.
Planboard has cut down my prep time, and organized my lessons in a way that I could never do effectively before. If you’re an educator looking to try another system of organization and prefer a paperless model, you should try Planboard.
Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 8.07.57 PM
image found here
  1. It’s free. Enough said. There are a few other similar tools out there, but many have a monthly subscription. No thanks.
  2. You can make your own schedule. Have a weird bell schedule, or a rotating system? No problem. When you set up the classes, you can put in the times of the classes each day and it automatically situates it on a calendar for you.
  3. You can create your units. This feature has hands down fixed the date naming epidemic that my documents folder was plagued by and organizes anything I do (or throw in last minute) by unit, and chronologically–so I can look back when I plan for next year and see the progression I followed the year before!
  4. There is a sticky note feature. Automatically on the side of each lesson plan page there is a “sticky note”. Need to remember to tell 3 students to go to the band room at 10:45am? Have a faculty meeting after school? Whatever you write on the note will show up on the  calendar at the top of the day to help keep you organized!
  5. You can make a lesson plan template to use each day. I am a stickler for following a specific format each day, thus, I use a specific lesson planning template. You can start off with a blank slate each day, or create a template you may have to use for your school to fill in. If you’re a middle school or high school teacher like me where you teach multiple periods of one subject, you can copy your lesson onto other days/periods for convenience.
  6. You can stay organized  from year to year and plan for future years more easily without having to re-create the wheel.  As I’ve touched on above, this is the best system for me to pull up the calendar and see the progression of what I did the year before, keep all of the powerpoints/activities/rubrics, etc. together by how they were presented, and to see how many lessons went into each unit. I am so excited to start planning for next year just because I already know all of this will make it so much easier!
Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 8.08.12 PM
Image found Here
7. You can attach the standards to your lessons and track progression. You can attach a set of Common Core Standards to your account, then just search the standards and attach! Done! This has saved me so much time! No more checklists of when standards were taught and re-taught!
Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 8.08.30 PM
Image Found Here
8. Collaboration and sharing is made easy. You can easily export your lessons into a PDF format, or email them to a group of people. You can also import documents from Google Drive, or from other resources shared with you from other members of Planboard.
9. Color-coding! I color code everything, as many teachers do, from classes, to groups, and everything in between. You can color-code your class periods and documents within your schedule, which may sound like a small thing, but ultimately, makes looking at the calendar format more user-friendly.
10. The system is intuitive. If you spend a lot of time on your computer and are a technology guru, or just want to move to a paperless system but aren’t an expert with technology–no worries, the Planboard system is easy to use, has a clean, simple design, and can be navigated around with ease!
That’s it! I just had to share a secret that has helped me so much stay organized. Do you use Planboard or any of the other products? Or do you use another online system? I’d love to hear from you!
p.s. Want to start a blog just like this one? My friend, Suzi, wrote an ebook that can help you get started!