Monday, August 20, 2012

A PlanbookEDU Tutorial & GIVEAWAY

I've had a couple of emails and comments about using for my lesson plans. They have some great tutorial videos and overviews available in their Knowledge Base to help you get started but I know that it is often easier to get a feel for something when it is recommended by someone else who has actually used it.

Note: Yes, I DO collaborate with as a guest blogger but they are not paying me to write this content here. Not a single thing on this blog is sponsored by anyone but myself. Everything I write here is true, honest and directly from me. [If someone WANTS to sponsor my blog, I would probably say SURE, but not one does so it's all just me!]

That being said, I stumbled upon the site in the spring sometime. I honestly can't remember if I saw an ad or how I found it but I knew I wanted to be able to have some flexibility and ease with my plans and be able to quickly and easily make changes as needed. PlanbookEDU makes this very easy. 

I do have a paid version which is $25 per year. After playing with the free version for a couple of weeks, I went ahead and upgraded because of the features. To me, the $25/year cost is totally worth it. Here's a breakdown of the difference:
As you can see, you do get a lot of features for the free cost. The average school year is somewhere between 33-36 weeks long. That means upgrading would cost you about $0.70-$0.75 per week. When you break it down like that, you can see it is VERY cost-effective. And look at all of the added features: you can attach files to your plans, add Common Core standards or your own standards, put your plan book directly on your website/blog, share the plans (ie with your principal), and print from your browser or save as .pdf files. I spend more money on fountain diet cokes per week than I do on this software so its definitely worth the price in my mind.

Throughout this post, be sure to click on the pictures to enlarge them for best viewing!

When I log into the site, generally I am brought to the last planbook I had open. You can go to your list of planbooks by clicking on "Planbooks" along the top. This is what I see when I do that.

This is my home screen. (Sorry I had to point out that when I wrote this tutorial, it was MY blog post featured up in the corner. I'm almost famous! At least in my mind *wink*) I have four active plan books: one for 2011-2012 and 3 for 2012-2013. I only used one last year since I had one grade for all subjects. This year I am using three plan books since I have a 4th/5th grade combination class. I can open any of my plan books simply by clicking on the name. You can name them whatever you like. The site allows you to customize "off days" (ie planning days where you don't have students plus holidays) which is great because then they automatically show up in your book for that particular week.

Since I have 3 plan books this year, I will briefly show you each one. I have one for math, one for Reading Workshop and a general one. I did this because math and reading are the two subjects that I need to teach separately as the standards and some of the content are not the same. Putting together separate plan books makes it easier for me visually to separate those subjects since I have to tackle them a bit different.

Let's start with Math since it's been on my mind so much lately. When I click on any of my plan books, I am brought to a page that looks like this:
It will have the name of my plan book across the top and show the calendar of my year. (You customize your start/end dates when you create the plan book.) In Michigan, our first day with students is September 4 this year so I started my plan book on September 3 and ended it on June 7 which is our last day of school. From any of the plan books, when I am at this screen, I simply click on the week I want to work on and it will pop up.

Here's a sample of my Math plan book for the week of September 10. I have filled it out as a template already. It's blank of course because we haven't gotten there yet! (Go to PlanbookEDU's knowledge base for specific tutorials on how to create templates.) You can see that I have decided to use a modified Daily 5 for Math as well as my calendar board time. 

This is the same screen shot as above except that I have color-coded my boxes. This is a freebie feature! You can do this without upgrading! This is a nice feature to be able to highlight specials classes and/or events that might be different one week so they stand out in your plans. We aren't able to use colored ink at school so I would need to print these at home if I wanted to color code my boxes but it would be worth it if it was something I felt really kept me organized (and honestly I think it's a great feature for a sub--see the BLUE BOX in the plan book--or whatever so that the substitute teacher would be able to jump right in with what you've left for the class to do).

Here's a printable version of my Reading Workshop plan book. I can export to PDF because I have the upgrade. This is what it would look like if I were to print it as it stands. I am also doing a modified Daily 5 for my reading block which you can see here. I left a box at the bottom that I called "notes for tomorrow" so I can add, tweak or change anything that we didn't finish or that I noticed and need to address the following day. (I simply typed the words in and then hit enter a few times to leave the empty spaces since the plan book boxes default to the size of the text included in the box.) This way I can make notes and don't have to fret over rewriting my plans if a big change or reteaching needs to happen.

Here's a sample of my regular plan book. You can see that for my math and reading times, I simply wrote "see attached plans". That way anyone who is checking them will see that those plans are included behind the overall plans. Of course this plan book will change as I have no idea when my specials classes will be but you can see how easy it is to use.

One of my favorite features is that you type into the boxes like a Word Processor. You can bold, underline and italicize as well as add color (not simply to the whole box but you can actually highlight words in other colors if you want). See?

I can embed my plan book on any website or share it with a colleague too. Here's a sample from last year's plan book. (I only let 2 days be visible so you could scroll down to see it since the width of my blog is small.)

When I am ready to edit and input my lesson plans, I simply click on the edit button or double click the box and it will open up like this:
Now I can type my lesson plans into the box, adding word processing features (bold, italic, highlighting, etc) and you can see underneath that I have the option to attach files. This would not be there with the free version. You can also see the Standards window. I can begin to type in my standard code and it will show up in that box.

I clicked on the little green plus sign next to the Standards box and this popped up. It's a brand new feature and I LOVE it. When I set up my plan books, I selected the standards I plan to use, which are Common Core for 4th and 5th grade. Now whenever I am planning, I can simply click that green plus sign and my standards pop up. I just select one and on I go!

I selected 4th grade math and up pops a box with ALL of the 4th grade Common Core standards for math! I just scroll and select the standard(s) that apply and they will automatically appear in that box on my plan book.
Here's the math standard I added for that particular day. You can also select to simply add the code OR to include the entire standard per your preference or school expectations. 

As you can see, I am quite in love with PlanbookEDU. I love the features, I love that I can embed my plans to my website for parents/administrators to view if I want to do so. It is SO easy to use it and since I hated hand writing my plans, this is an amazingly easy way to ensure that I don't have to do that anymore.

Would you like to WIN a free year of PlanbookEDU? Erika, co-founder of PlanbookEDU, whom I collaborate with for my blogs, found out I was doing a giveaway and graciously offered THREE free one-year subscriptions to the site!! Exciting! (And proof that they ARE awesome!)

Follow these super simple steps to enter my giveaway!  In honor of my upcoming 7th year of teaching, you have seven chances to win. 
1. Follow my blog and leave a comment (with your email)  that you are a follower (1 entry)
2. Leave a comment letting me know how this software would help you with planning and organizing for instruction (1 entry)
3. Like PlanbookEDU on Facebook (2 entries)
4. Blog about my giveaway and leave a comment with a link back to the post (3 entries)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note: A super HUGE thanks to Erika and Matt at for stepping up and offering the free codes for this contest. It was unexpected and is totally appreciated!