For the last two years, I have been using a website called Planboard to plan all of my lessons. I am one of those people that prefers using technology to writing on paper, so this is the perfect paperless solution for me. The best part is, all of the main lesson planning features of Planboard that an individual teacher would use are FREE. They do have premium pricing for some of the additional features, but I have never found that I have needed them.
Why I Love Planboard
Basically everything about Planboard is designed to make a teacher’s life easier. It’s an online tool, so you can access and edit your lesson plans from any computer, phone, or tablet. There’s an iPhone app as well as one for Android available to download. I love this feature as I often use my phone to quickly glance over the day’s lessons in the morning when I’m still at home so that I can remind myself what I have planned.
It’s a bit time-consuming initially to set up your semester dates, holidays, off days, and custom timetable, but once it is done, you don’t have to do it for another year. When you start planning, I recommend that you create one or more lesson templates. These templates that allow you to apply the same formatting to multiple lessons so you don’t have to keep retyping the same elements of a lesson over and over again.
After you have created a template, you are ready to start writing your lesson plans and there are several ways to do this. Planboard has a daily, weekly, and monthly view, as well as my favourite – the unit view. Each day also has a virtual Post-It note where you can write daily reminders to yourself. Within each lesson, you can link the standards from your curriculum that relate to that specific lesson and also attach the files required for that lesson that are either on your computer or already in Google Drive.
Once your lesson plan is complete, you can print or save it as a PDF and even send it to someone (like an administrator) via email. This is why I like to use Planboard to write up and print out detailed sub plans for when I am away.
Finally, Planboard has amazing customer service. If I ever have a problem or don’t know how to do something, I just open up the chat window at the bottom of the page and ask my question. I usually get an instant response!
How to Set Up Your Semester
When you sign up for a Planboard account, the first thing you will have to do is set up your semester. I like to use the whole school year as my “semester” simply because my schedule doesn’t change from term to term. If yours does, you will want to set up multiple semesters for each term that you teach. On this screen you can also customize the days of the week that you teach if you only teach part-time.
How to Add Your Subjects
The first thing Planboard will direct you to do is to add your subjects that you teach. Since I teach Spanish to four different grades, I created one “subject” for each grade called Spanish 5, Spanish 6, Spanish 7, and Spanish 8 and then one called “Prep” for when I have my planning periods. Within each subject, you can also create sections. I have two to four sections of each grade level, so I put each class name in here. I like to colour code the subjects and sections in the same shade of one colour, but you can choose any colours you want.
This screen is also where you can link your curricular outcomes to each subject. On Planboard they are called “Standards”. Many standards are already on Planboard, so I would search for yours first. To search, click on the subject you would like to search first, then click in the “Search for Standards & Expectations” text box. Try typing in your subject name, or your location. Usually there is a huge list to choose from, so make sure to scroll down. If you can’t find your standards here, just leave this blank for now and I will describe how to upload your own standards later on.
When you are finished adding your subjects, sections, and standards, click the “Timetable” button in the top right corner of the screen.
How to Add Classes to Your Timetable
First of all, you will need to choose your Rotation Schedule. You can choose a weekly rotation or one with a specific number of days, up to 12 days. Then to add your classes, click the “Insert Class” button in the top left corner of the screen. To add each subject or section, you will have to choose one from the dropdown list. Then edit the star and end times of the class, and check the boxes to select the days of rotation you teach that class at that specific time. This is the most time-consuming part of the process, especially if you schedule is very irregular, like mine. I have to enter almost every class one-at-a-time as they don’t usually happen during the same period. When you are finished, you screen should look something like the image below.
If you prefer to use letters instead of numbers in your rotation schedule, you can change this setting. Just open the main menu by clicking the three horizontal lines in the top left corner of your screen (beside the word “Planboard”). Then click on “Settings”. Turn on the “Use Letters for Day Cycles” setting. I also recommend enabling the “Off-days Affect Rotation” setting if your rotation needs to regularly shift forward following a professional development day or another “Off-day”. Otherwise you will miss those days on your rotation.
At this point, you should also add holidays and off-days to your schedule. To do this, open the main menu again and click “Semesters”. By choosing the country you live in, Planboard can automatically add in any national holidays to your schedule. Then you will need to manually add any other off-days, including longer breaks, professional development days, and other organizational days. Now you are all set up and ready to start lesson planning!
How to Create a Template
I definitely recommend you take advantage of the Templates offered by Planboard, as it takes the repetition out of lesson planning. My template (seen below) is pretty simple, but it saves me from typing the same thing for every class that I teach. You can create a template like mine by opening the main menu and clicking on “Templates”. From here, you will have to create a template using the “+” button. Give your template a name, and then get creating! Make sure you put any formatting in that you want to at this point, and then click the “Assign to Classes” button in the top right corner. Choose the classes that you want to use this template for and click the “Close” button. Everything will save automatically, just make sure the classes you picked have a checkmark beside them. The best part is you can create a different template for each subject that you teach. I only teach Spanish, but I also like to create a blank one for my Prep period and I just put a single space in it so that it stays blank.
How to Add Your Own Curricular Outcomes as Standards
If you didn’t find your standards already on Planboard in the steps above, you will have to add your own if you want to include them in your lesson plans. From any screen, open the main menu by clicking the three horizontal lines in the top left corner of your screen (beside the word “Planboard”). Then click on “Standards” and click the “Upload Standards” button in the top right corner. Unfortunately you will have to individually type in (or copy and paste) each standard and give each a unique code as well. I did this for all four grades of Spanish that I teach, and it took a few hours, but it is doable and worthwhile if you have to include these in every lesson plan!
How to Set Up Units
I prefer to set up my units first, as it allows me to see the dates I have a lesson with each section. That way I can cross-reference this information with my year plan to see how many classes we have to complete a specific unit. To get to this screen, just click the “Unit” button on the home screen. From here, I select a class from the dropdown menu and click the “Units” button. Click “Add a New Unit” and give it a number (to help to keep your units in the right order) and a title. You can also change the colour of the unit by clicking on the eyedropper icon. Then you can leave the other boxes blank or fill them in with the relevant information (a description of the unit and standards covered within the unit). The resources used in the unit will show up automatically when you link them to a specific lesson plan within the unit.
How to Plan Your Lessons
I don’t actually plan my lessons from the unit screen. Once I have the unit information filled out, I switch over to the Resources area. From any screen, open the main menu by clicking the three horizontal lines in the top left corner of your screen (beside the word “Planboard”). Then click on “Resources” and click the “Create New Lesson” button. Give your lesson a title and select a template to use. I recommend you give it a descriptive title (eg. Introduction to Ecuador) rather than a number in sequence (eg. Lesson 1). I like to use the tags to stay organized, as all of your lessons will be stored in the same area and it will be hard for you to find specific lessons later on if they have similar names. You can add a descriptive tag, like the novel title (as seen below) or the grade level, or both. Then just type out your lesson plan. Some things you can include directly in your plan are: bulleted or numbered lists, links to websites, images, YouTube videos, files on your computer, files in your Google Drive account. As of right now, you can’t add standards in the Resources area, which is the only downfall. You will have to add the standards to individual lesson plans within the daily, weekly, or unit view.
When you have finished writing your lesson plan, you have several options. You can export it as a PDF, email it, share it with a colleague (although this requires a $60 per year Collaborate subscription), or import it to a class. To import your lesson, click the “Import” button and select the date you want the lesson to occur. Then select the class you want to import the lesson to. Unfortunately you can only choose one class at a time, but it still saves time over copying and pasting. If you simply copy and paste a lesson plan from one class to another, you will have to re-add the files to EVERY class and it won’t preserve the formatting. Plus this way you have the lessons for years to come, and you don’t have to look back at previous years’ lesson plans to find them. Another great feature is that after you teach a lesson, you can write a comment on it! This is only available in the Resources area.
Are you ready to make the leap into online lesson-planning? It’s easy to get started by visiting Planboard! Comment below if you have any questions or are thinking about signing up.