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How To: Lesson Planning With Evernote For The First Time

Organize your lessons using Evernote and increase your productivity while lowering your stress.

Ideas for lessons can come anytime. It is best to keep everything organized in one place you can trust. Lesson planning with Evernote solves that problem.

When I first started teaching, I lesson planned with binders and formally written lesson plans. My college classes taught me to fill out formal lesson plans for every lesson. These included the objectives, goals, and standards of the lessons. The idea of it sounds good. But in practice it was horrible. It was unnatural to the way that most teachers come up with their lesson plans.

Lesson Plan With Evernote

For me, I wrote formal lesson plans for only about 2 weeks before just collecting stuff in binders. Looking back, formal lesson plans were terribly inefficient. It took a ton of time and energy to write out formal lesson plans to print them out. I’m now in my eighth year of teaching and I don’t think I’ve filled out a formal lesson plan since my first days.

After moving on from writing full-page formal lesson plans, I started collecting materials in binders using plastic sheet covers. I saw a teacher colleague do this once and I thought it was a good idea. The problem? I never had the time to organize all of the material into the plastic sheets or I would forget and all of my lesson plans would end up in a giant “sorting pile”. It was never sorted. Plans were lost and time was wasted.

Folders Of Plans

After binders came paper folders organized by daily lesson. I would toss everything from a lesson into a paper folder and then organized them into file cabinets by class. World History was in the bottom 3 drawers, US History into another 3 drawers. Law class and Sociology split a drawer. I would print out resources I found online and toss them into respective folders. I added my worksheets that I made in Microsoft word.

Sometimes my lesson plan organization would be written on nothing more a 3 x 5 index cards or maybe it was a Post-it note. Either way, a lot of my lesson plans happened organically. I collected stuff along the way and designed my lessons with whatever resources worked best.

Many of you probably still organize your lesson plans using one of these methods. And there’s nothing wrong with it.

There is maybe a new challenge. A lot more resources are available online. It is now more efficient and less stressful to organize materials electronically than organizing printed copies. Of course, the more material you have, the more challenging it can be to find things quickly. Also, what happens when a resource can be sorted into two different lessons?

A couple years ago, I taught World History and a Global Issues class at the same time. So I had a unit on modern terrorism in both file drawers. I would forget which folders I put in which drawer. Once again, plans were misplaced and time was wasted.

Transition To Evernote

In 2010, I first tried out Evernote and I didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t get it. A bunch of notes and notebooks? I asked myself what do I use this for? I had my paper folders, I had my pads of paper. I had my worksheets made in Microsoft Word all organized in folders on my computer. I surely didn’t need another tool, right?

It was in 2013 when I was assigned yet another class. Another new prep. That was at that moment I transitioned to using Evernote. I was annoyed at having to go into all the places to find resources I could use to teach the class. Little by little and folder by folder all of my material collected all over the years was being digitized and made searchable using Evernote.

Lesson planning with Evernote has made my teaching life so much easier. Not just a little. If I started all over again with only 1 tool. It would be Evernote.

There were some things I wish I did earlier on to help prepare me for this process. But if you’re interested in getting started, Evernote can make your life easier by help you be more organized and more efficient.

Lesson Planning With Evernote

1. Using Notes

The first step in using Evernote for lesson planning is simply creating an account and downloading the program. It is free. From there, Evernote will run you though its tutorial of the program. When you are ready, click on on “New Note in Notebook XYZ”. It works the same as if you create a new file in any program. Except with Evernote you’re given a blank slate and you can type anything you want.

Now, I’ll just add a title of the note. This is usually the day’s lesson. Example might be “French Revolution Day 1: Introduction”. Any plans for the lesson I type out right in the note. Every time I change the lesson, I simply add a new year and the new lesson plan. This give me a nice record of what I’ve done the past so I’m not making the same mistakes again.

Lesson Planning Note Example
An example from one of my lessons on the Irish Potato Famine

2. Collecting Material

You you may want to add things to your lesson plans in Evernote besides written plans. Evernote also allows you to collect things from the internet. You can add anything from word documents, to PDFs, to downloaded images, images taken from mobile devices, audio clips, and scanning material with their mobile app. You can even send things to Evernote using email. Everything I need is in one place.

With all that is expected of us, teachers need less stress, not more.

Evernote makes my lesson planning stress-free.

With all that is expected of us, teachers need less stress, not more. Click to Tweet

I often add additional links and documents to my lesson plans. Anything I would need for my lesson plan. Sometimes I add things I find just in case I might use them in the future. I’ll also add things like Google Docs or Google Slide links that I use in the lesson. All of my resources in one place.

An example of a note with resources added in. Notice the horrible handwriting? I am in part digitizing to avoid student complaints of legibility.
An example of a note with resources added in. Notice the horrible handwriting? I am in part digitizing to avoid student complaints of legibility.

3. Basics of Organization With Evernote Notebooks

Evernote notes are organized into notebooks. Getting organized is really easy. You make a notebook for each class you teach. Then a notebook for each larger unit. Individual notes make up your day lesson plans and those go in your class notebook. The last step would be to drag and drop all of the unit notebooks so they fall under the right class notebook.

Ultimately, the order would look like Class Notebook>Unit Notebook>Lesson Plan Note.

That way everything you have is organized under one class. Your entire year in one place. Now every time you created new note you can just simply put it into one of your topic notebooks.

Evernote Notebooks

I hope this helps you get kickstarted with lesson planning in Evernote. It is one of the best tools I have ever used to organize my life. Give it is a shot and let me know how it goes!

Question: Using a new tool can be tough. What other questions you do you have about getting started with Evernote?

2 responses on "How To: Lesson Planning With Evernote For The First Time"

  1. MJ, great post. I always try to keep everything organized by my units in one app. However, I find that one app serves one purpose while another does something else better. Evernote seems to be able to do it all. Recently, I’ve been testing out OneNote and am quite impressed with its capabilities. In fact, I might go as far as to say it is better, for me, than Evernote. Primarily for its organization. Have you tried OneNote? If so, what are your thoughts?

    • Hey Rob! I am glad you like the post. Us teachers need these types of systems to keep the train moving in the right direction. I haven’t tried OneNote yet! What do you like about it?

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