Which Teacher Planner Is Going to Work Best for You and Your Planning Style?

Last Updated on July 18, 2022 by Stephanie

If I’m going to be honest with you, this is not a review of planners per se. So, if you came here for another one of those posts, this isn’t it. I’m going to tell you my story in hopes that it will help you go through what I went through a little bit more quickly. Everyone has their own unique planning style. If you are a brand new teacher, yay! If you are a seasoned veteran, yay! This post is for both. 

I’m going to cover my own personal planning story, things that don’t work or aren’t worth it, my personal favorite tools, and a few notes about productivity in teacher land. So, let’s get to it!

Which Teacher Planner Works for You and Your Style?

A Little Background First

My first year of teaching was the 2006-2007 school year, so I’ve been around for a while. As of this writing, I’m getting ready to start my 17th year of teaching. I’m also an elementary music teacher.

I give that background because that helps you understand what I’ve got to plan. I teach K-5, so that is six grade levels. The kids see me twice a week and I have had anywhere between 22 and 27 classes of children at one time in my school. It’s lots of planning and lots of kids. You know that specials are like a revolving door because one class is lined up when the other class is getting ready to leave if you’re in elementary land. It’s a whirlwind every week.

My Personal Teacher Planner Evolution

The First Few Years

In my first year of teaching, I had one of those old-school blue teacher planners given to me along with a read spiral grade book. I loved that big blue book! So many of my own teachers growing up had that so it made me feel like I was finally a real teacher.

I tried to find a picture of one of these online and couldn’t, so… yup, I’m old.

I had to physically write out everything for every lesson. When things didn’t get done or there was an assembly or something, I had to erase everything I wrote to move it around. There really wasn’t anything better, so I stuck with this. I didn’t have a planning style and I probably didn’t really know what I was doing at this point, haha.

Finding My Planning Style and Making My Own

I am a very tech-oriented person, so I decided to make my own after a few years. I was in a unique position. My planning style did not fit a regular classroom teacher because I only saw the kids twice a week and saw the entire school. Something had to be a bit different from the traditional planner.

Since I saw the kids twice a week, I would make two-column pages that I would hand write plans on. The bottom of the page had each class on it, so I could mark off if that class had done the lesson or not. I printed off a million sheets that looked like the image below and then I put them in a binder. One year I got even fancier and had it coil bound at Office Max… so fancy.

Teacher Planner page from my old book with two columns and the classes along the bottom.
Example of my old teacher planner page… oh boy was that fun!

This was awesome for a while. I had figured out my planning style, but then I noticed that it got harder to flip back and forth and remember what I was doing. Sometimes the classes would get super off because of days off. I would have one class that was 3 or 4 lessons ahead of the others. Trying to remember that just got hard and annoying!

I LOVE Technology – Teacher Planners Online

Then, when I was pursuing my second master’s degree in Educational Technology, I helped my school get some teacher iPads, and another colleague and I did professional development for our staff. One of the things I discovered was a really cool App called iDoceo. When I used it, everything was in one spot. Now there are a lot of awesome features, but they are in several different apps. Back in the day, it only worked on an iPad. Today, it works on all Apple devices, but that’s it. No Chromebook or PC support. That takes out most people using school devices, so that’s a no for me. If you have all Apple devices… it is awesome.

Then I found my happy place… planbook.com. My husband, who at the time was teaching 4th grade, introduced me to planbook. It is my favorite teacher planner to date!  It is super cheap to pay for the year (as of this posting it is $15 for a year) and has a lot of great features. You should seriously check it out! I will be doing a more thorough review of it in the very near future because I think it works for all levels and situations quite well. The best part is that it is web-based, so you can access it ANYWHERE! There are also apps available for this as well, but it all links up and is amazing! It was something that I could totally adapt to fit my planning style, so I was all for it!

My Current System and Personal Favorite Tools

Currently, I house all my lesson plans in two places. While that might not work for some, my planning style really needed a bigger outline before having smaller day-to-day plans. I have a Google Sheet that has a yearly outline where I jot down very brief topics, when projects need to get started, when final things need to be done for the trimester, etc. It’s set up by grade levels and looks like this:

Image of spreadsheet with lesson plans.

Planbook.com is then my lesson planner for the day-to-day. I print out all my lessons at the start of the week and go off of those for the day. There are a million ways you can print off your lesson plans too, which I LOVE! Perfect for those of you that need something physical to write on or mark up. Check out this awesomeness:

Screen shot of planbook.com, online teacher planner fits every planning style

Everything else in my teacher life lives in a digital notebook. Grades, checklists, class lists, seating charts… all in a digital notebook. I’m currently working on my new teacher’s notebooks because I am a big believer in using them for everything I need. If you want to just try out a digital notebook, check out this freebie one below by clicking on the image.

Digital Note book; 12 hyperlinked tabs; 13 templates; picture of ipad with sectioned notebook; creating tie for life

Truth Talk About What Not to Do – Especially To My New Teachers

I’ve been around. I’ve mentored other teachers. I’m as honest as they get because I really think we need way more of that in education. Teaching is hard. We have very little time during the day to get things done, so we NEED to find systems that work. Here are some bullet point things that I want you to avoid… they are time wasters that are not worth it!

  • Do not spend time decorating your lesson plans. PLEASE DON’T DO IT! Unless you are color-coding something for a purpose (Since I teach multiple grade levels, I often highlight or color-code things based on the grade level color), it is a waste of time.
  • If you are doing anything that requires you to write the same thing in two places… just STOP.
  • Don’t fly by the seat of your pants or plan the morning of. Seriously. This will stress you out like you’ve never been stressed before.
  • Teaching is give and take. Do not be a taker only. Even if you are new, you have something to reciprocate with. If you don’t, figure out something you can contribute. Teams often plan together and share together. Make sure you are contributing to this!
  • Don’t plan or do what everyone else is doing because they are doing it that way. Their way and my way are ONE WAY, and it might not work for you. Experiment and figure out what works best for you.
  • Do not believe everything you see on the internet. Well… except for me 😉

Please take all the above to heart. I absolutely fear for this generation of new teachers because of Pinterest and social media. Talk about encouraging burnout! The above advice has come from many stressful years of teaching. It has taken me the last 16 years to come to some of these conclusions. My hope is to help you realize your potential and help you plan your days and your future!

Being Productive in Teacher Land

Teaching is so distracting. No, seriously. There are always so many people coming in and out of my room during the day. I’m talking about during your plan time or before and after school. It is hard to get things done. Check out my post about 5 Big Distractions and How to Beat Them. Set those boundaries early and make sure you are not the reason for your own stress.

In an upcoming post, I’m going to talk about how planning a week ahead has changed my teacher life for the better. I absolutely encourage planning ahead. The days and months that I was not “planned out” were always more stressful. You can’t get anything else done because your plan time is sucked up by getting everything ready for the lesson you just made up on the fly during the last break.

Plan for the unexpected. Put systems in place that can run themselves on autopilot because you will always have things pop up that you were not planning on. Random parent emails, meetings with your team, unexpected talks with kiddos, etc. They WILL happen, so get things ready in advance so you don’t fall behind.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve stuck with me this long, you are awesome! The conclusion is this. The best teacher planner and planning style is the one that works for you and your classroom. There are a million different opinions out there, but until you try to use it in the day-to-day, you won’t know what works.

My advice is to start basic-ish. Look around and see what looks good and try it. Here’s the big one though: unless it is drastically wrong and not working at all for you, keep that planner and system until there is a natural break (trimester, semester, winter break, etc.) Do NOT try to change the system you are using mid-week because all that is going to do is take up your time and take that precious time away from the planning you’re trying to do. Reflect on what you like and what you don’t like and then make your changes. I am big on all of the reflecting! If you’ve read my post about checking your systems or which planner layout works for you (more about personal planners), you know that I’m all about changing your systems and making them work for you.

So go get your plan on and have an awesome school year!

Which Teacher Planner Will Work Best for You and Your Planning Style

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