Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Planning and Organizing

Like most teachers, I absolutely love being organized. Sometimes it might not look like it from the piles and piles I end up having on my desk at home and sometimes even at school (yikes!) but I try my best to keep everything clean and neat. It makes for a happier teacher and ultimately, a happier classroom. Kiddos can learn SO MUCH BETTER in a clean, well organized environment that they know how to navigate without a lot of teacher direction.

One of the biggest ways that I stay organized is with my planning system. I like to plan ahead when it is possible. At least with somewhat of a general outline. I rarely ever stick to the outline I make but it gives me somewhat of a starting point over the summer as I begin to prepare for the big units that I need to teach that year. Here are the components I tend to use to help me stay organized:

1) A Year-Long Plan

Here's a peek at this coming year's Year-Plan.

Since I've never had 3rd grade and I will also be in a new building, I simply went onto my district's curriculum server and pulled the major units that we have during the year in writing, science and social studies. I also mapped out a plan for our reading stories--those I suspect will change once I learn how my new school does them (some take two weeks per story and some, like my old school, do a story per week). Math is basically a lesson per day but they are also making some changes to that for this upcoming year so I didn't go too far ahead. I just know I should be planning to do our first big assessment by the end of September. (Language Arts isn't filled in yet because I have to go back and look at the skills for each week and decide what to focus on since Reading Street has SO MUCH.)

I never, EVER print that plan. It just stays on my computer for me to refer to as necessary. Often I don't even look at it again after the first couple of weeks of school (which is why I don't bother to print it). Maybe that seems like it's a big waste of time then but it truly just helps me to mentally know where I need to get to and I plan like this before school begins so I can tweak as needed to ensure I can spread out the essential units. If I notice I'm short on space on this plan, I can move things around a bit.

2) Lesson Plan Book
Like many teacher bloggers this past spring, I jumped on the Erin Condren bandwagon and splurged on one of her planners. It helped that several people had posted about them, shared videos of the features of the planner and pointed out the video Erin herself has on her website. Its a steep price for a lesson planner but once I watched those videos, I knew I had to have one.
 Mine is only personalized with my name and school year because when I ordered it,
I had no idea what school I would be at. I had to order it in May to take advantage
of the teacher appreciation sale! 

 You had me at hello tabs.

 LOVE the two page spread for the monthly notes. We tend to have sooooo many things going on month-to-month that it is nice to be able to jot them all down here and always have them. I keep a paper planner as well but that is mostly for notes for home life. I love that I can keep a calendar right in my plan book and have everything literally at my fingertips.

 This isn't a ton of space....but it will serve it's purpose for what I will use it for. I LOVE the design, the different colors and the horizontal style by day. Plus that handy little bookmark is moveable so I can always flip to the correct week. 

Now, I KNOW that this planner style will not be big enough for the detailed plans I like to keep for my small groups in reading (and sometimes math). That's totally fine, however, because I could NEVER give up on my super favorite planbookedu.com!! Before school started last year, I gave a super detailed tutorial of how I use this website (find it here). I ♥ PlanbookEDU. So much that I even blog for them monthly. I super ♥ them!

 This is what I see when I log in. The coolest part about this website is that it saves my planbooks until *I* delete them. So the top is last year's and the bottom is this coming year's. LOVE. Last year, because I had a split, I actually started with more than one planner (which you'll see in my tutorial above) but I combined them into one big ole planbook in October and deleted the spares. I absolutely love that I can go back and find an activity that I did last year if I want to do it again. (Best of all, because I have a premium account -- worth the $!!!, just sayin'! -- I can add attachments and therefore, from year to year I can actually just move the lesson over if I am going to replicate the exact lesson. It's sooo awesome.)

This is this year's planbook (so far). I know this will change because I don't know how things are set up at my new school....but my plan is to keep most of my lessons in my super fun Erin planner and keep my detailed workshop plans on the site and then print them if I need to do so. 

Why would I do this? Because I tend to be someone who keeps IN-SANELY detailed plans for my reading and math workshops and this way I can keep them in a binder for ease of use for myself during my small groups if I want, or simply keep them on the server and share them with my principal via email if she asks to see them. Shorthand notes about the lesson (such as the skill or strategy) will go into the spiral planner but  my detailed notes will be housed online so that I have them if I want/need to print them.

3) Checklists!

I am a checklist queen. (At least I should be.) I have used all kinds of systems in the past. I've made my own checklists with the kiddos' names, with the students' numbers, etc. I use them for EVERYTHING. Checking homework, reading logs, behavior sheets being returned, field trip slips, etc. The problem is, I am always LOSING my checklists! That's not cool. (As organized as I am, I tend to lose paper right in front of my face, which is a story for another post!) Do you know what really sold me on this planner? THE CHECKLISTS! I ordered the 28 extra pages for $10 more. Worth every penny. I have checklists to last me all year now and they will stay right in my planner so I don't have to worry about losing them because they are housed right with everything else that I may need at my fingertips.

Erin is my hero simply for these checklist pages! ♥

So that is how I keep myself organized during the year (or at least try to! haha). It's all about the proper techniques that work for you. I have used binders, online only plans and more. I am really excited about this system, however, because the Erin planner has so much important stuff (seating plans, etc) that I normally don't have enough space for in my binder planners and it's neat, not super huge and let's face it, is pretty to look at!

How do you organize your plans?
The Caffeinated Teacher


  1. It seems obvious now, but I had no idea there are online planbooks available! I have used a template I made in Word with a weekly layout since I started teaching. Each Monday morning, I print the plans, put them in page protectors, and clip them to my clipboard to reference throughout the week. May have to look into that website though!

  2. The one thing I already realized about my Erin Condren planner is that I wish there were more blank pages for notes after the monthly calendars, but I guess I will just have to plan accordingly and write smaller or something...I am excited to get more summer planning done, but I loaned my unit 1 reading manual to our new Kinder teacher because she didn't get one. Even though it's a new program to me too, she is new to Kindergarten from middle school so I think she needs it more than me for summer prep.