New Semester, New Plan

4 years into my teaching career, I’m still struggling to find the best way to lay out my lesson plans that allows me to easily make sure I’m covering what I need to cover, have all my materials together, and don’t forget day to day what I need to do.

Since August alone I’ve tried using Bear to hold all lesson plans, a digital bullet journal in GoodNotes, and a physical bullet journal in my Studio Neat Panobook.

I know part of the issue is my desire to always try new things which can prevent giving systems a chance to actually work. However, I also think part of the reason I can’t stay consistent is nothing strikes the right balance of enough detail that it’s useful without being too fiddly and time consuming.

In the last few weeks of last semester, I started using a few tools that I really like. Now over winter break, I have refined my system that I’ll be using as I head into the next semester this week.

The first app I’m using is Bear. I’ve written about using Bear for lesson planning before, but instead of laying out days and weeks worth of lessons as I was this time last year, I’m using Bear as a wiki of sorts for every state standard I have to teach and how they will be assessed. I use Bear’s tagging system (which is much handier with the recent updates in version 1.4) to group standards by subject, quarter, and unit. I also use note links to link related standards.

 My (Incomplete) Standards Wiki in Bear

With Bear’s excellent URL scheme, I can link to specific standards from other parts of my planning workflow if needed.

Bear is great for big picture planning, but for day to day lessons, I’ve decided to just use my calendar. Fantastical (iPhone, iPad) is my main calendar app, and it works great for what I need. I created a separate Lesson Plan calendar in my iCloud account, and add plans to it. As a self contained 2nd grade teacher, I teach multiple subjects a day. I lay out every subject, every day of school with a short description of the lesson in the title. I then have several ways which I will cover later to see my plans for each day.

Rather than go through the tedium of entering each day’s lessons myself, I have a Workflow which does this for me. I have a repeating task in Things 3 (iPhone, iPad) that reminds me every Thursday to run this workflow for the next week. I could just use repeating tasks, but the amount of time it takes to delete these on days where there is no school or a special event adds up to way more than it takes to run this workflow every week.


Once I add lessons to my calendar, I view them a few different ways. The first is with the Siri Face on my Apple Watch. Many days I wear this while at school so I can always see what I’m teaching next, as well as have quick access to my Things today view via the complication and any timers I run during the day automatically show up.


Speaking of Things, one of the major reasons I started using it as my task manager instead of Todoist last month was its fantastic calendar integration. Every morning I look at the Today view which shows me tasks already set for that day. I can then look at what I’m teaching in the calendar section as well to see if there is anything I need to do to prepare the lesson such as print or gather materials. If I do, I add that to my task list to make sure it’s ready for the lesson.

We’ll see how this works for me in the first few weeks of the semester, but I feel like it will be a good balance of organized without hours of work.

The Class Nerd @theclassnerd