Over the years I have tried many different solutions to streamline my planning and had varying degrees of success. I fell out with paper planners early in my career. I once spent hours diligently writing out set lists in my new mark book and filling in page after page of class names on lesson slots only to have a last minute timetable change and have to rewrite everything for the whole year! I have also tried various digital solutions, including OneNote which I know others love, but never really found one that worked well for me. The problem with the majority of digital solutions I have found is that they require too much investment of my time learning them to be an efficient solution.
I need something quick to set up, that can be edited even more quickly and that gives me access to all my working files instantly. So this year I have been using Google Calendar and it has transformed the way I interact with planning both before, during and after my lessons.
Behind the Scenes
I started with some behind the scenes work to help organise things. I created a folder for each group that I teach which contains all of the resources, feedback and tracking tools for that group.
Creating the Timetable Blocks
Next I created a recurring event for each lesson on my timetable. Since Period 1 always occupies the same block of time every week this works really well. Set it up once and reuse every week from then on by adding lesson plans to the events as the weeks progress. I colour coded the lesson event to match the files in Drive that house the working documents.
For each lesson, I added links to the relevant working files folder in Drive, making sure I checked the box for this to save for all subsequent events. Once the lesson is set up, I effectively have a planning space for that lesson every week for the rest of the year without having to constantly create new spaces or events.
To add specific planning for a lesson, I simply edit the entry and use voice typing to add notes to the “Add Description” box at the bottom. I can attach individual documents at this point too so they are easily accessible during the lesson. Since I already added the folder that contains all my central planning documents to the recurring event, the need to attach documents is minimal unless there is something I need from a different location or something I know I will need instant access to and don’t want to go into Drive for it.
Make sure you only save the edit for that one entry otherwise you will have those same lesson notes entered for that lesson slot every week for the rest of the year.
If I need to set cover work or share a lesson plan with someone in my team there is no problem. I just add them as a guest to the event and they can see what I see.
The Bottom Line
It really is as simple as that. At any point during the lesson I can access my planning documents directly from within this one central access hub. I can directly access any of the feedback I have given students at any point during the year with just a few clicks from this point and back it up by switching to our tracking tools within seconds. A few clicks more and I am adding a note to the next lesson’s plan to remind me to follow up with the student about missing homework whilst sharing the homework tasks with them right there and then. There is something satisfyingly elegant about having the Calendar on my interactive whiteboard and being launching the documents I need from right there in the lesson plan but it is when things deviate from the plan that it really shines. I can get to my documents quickly and smoothly without breaking the flow of the lesson from right there in the plan.
EdTech is at its absolute best when it blends into the background and solves a problem so seamlessly that you hardly notice it is there but can’t imagine life without it. Google Calendar does everything I need it to do in an uncluttered and easy to use way. It has transformed my lesson planning and delivery this year.