Going Digital: The Easy Way to Create Digital Lesson Plans

For years and years, I used the typical spiral-bound teacher plan books. You know, the kind the district gives you at the beginning of each school year with pages and pages of square boxes to fill in. I kept them too, year after year, squirreled away just in case I needed to refer to them while I was planning my current year’s curriculum.  Finally, one day, while cleaning out my desk and staring at a stack of planners from years gone by, a thought occurred to me. What am I doing? What a waste of time, effort, and paper! There has to be a better way!

I realized that these planners didn’t even fit my schedule. I was always trying to cram an extra square into the grid or squeeze in a class here or there.  Also, with a subject like art, I ended up writing the same lesson over and over again, because you rarely teach something just once. Now, lets talk about what I had actually recorded. You would have to be a cryptic sleuth to be able to decipher what I had scrawled in each box. Could this possibly be best practice? No way!

I decided, then and there, that I needed to go digital! I designed a simple template to use each week, with my schedule and my needs in mind. (Feel free to download a copy of my template below.) I color-coded each grade level, kept one box for lesson planning, and used the bottom box for integrating the “I CAN” target statements that my district required.

Every Friday I would re-visit my weekly schedule and add changes or notes for each lesson while it was fresh in my mind. I would also create a new set of plans for the following week. I labeled and saved each week in folders. I broke my folders down into quarters because that worked with my grading objectives, but you could do it many different ways.

If you would like to download my template (in a Word Doc) to modify yourself to use for digital lesson planning, you can do so by clicking the image below. Prefer a PDF version? Download a blank PDF by clicking right here. I hope you find it useful.


I found there are several major perks to digital planning.

1. Sub plans are pretty much ready to go!

I don’t know about you, but I spend a TON of time writing sub plans. So much time that I rarely request a sub, just because it is easier not to. I could NEVER have handed a sub my spiral-bound planner and expected him or her to understand anything, but with this method, the nuts and bolts of the lesson are already recorded and easy to read.

2. I actually referred to this document the following year.

I had a place to start. I could tweak the plans as I went, but I had a framework already developed. The first year does take the most time, but after that, it is just a matter of adding notes and making changes.

3. I was accountable for what was taught and what was learned.

I had a record of what lessons worked and could remove lessons that needed to go with a tap on the delete key.

4. I was prepared for anyone to walk through the door.

Principal? Department head? Interested parent? Check, check check. With digital plans, I had an easily-accessible document that supported what I was doing in the classroom.

What are other ways you are using technology to manage lesson planning?

Share your method with us today in the comments!

Heather Crockett

Heather is AOE’s Project Manager and an expert in differentiation, curriculum development, and assessment. She is a veteran teacher in the art room and at the graduate level.


  • Jfrisco

    Love it!  I think I will borrow your color coding idea.  I have portfolios for each student, grades 1-5.  I will color code their labels on the portfolios with coordinating colors.  I will also color code my grade level supply area as well.  

    •  I color code everything.  It is such a time saver!  I like the idea of a grade level supply area.  I will have to try that myself :)

      • This also ties to yesterday’s post. You could color code your seating charts and lesson plans with the same color for each grade level or course (HS). Yellow can always be 1st grade, for example, (even for artwork storage, incentive charts, or art supply shelves). Fun!

      • Jackie

        One thing I started doing last year is printing out my “goals” for each lesson and posting for the kids (and administration) to see. Plus since they are saved, I have them to print out again and again (or save in my filing cabinet). 

        It was easier than writing on my white board (which I don’t have enough room for all grades to fit). I made a dedicated space on the front of my cabinets where they were posted for all to see :) 

        • Marni Oberpriller

          I like the notion of printing out the goals/objectives. Re-usable and I could fit/post all the information!
          I have IN and OUT doors to my room. I laminated sentence strips; and I use white board marker to change the information and post on the IN door. So the post is seen by anyone walking into the room.

  • Spbivona

    No more paper plan books, no more plan book files – everything is ONLINE! All my plans are now done on a website called OnCourse, plans are posted on a regular schedule and all administrators in the district have access to them. In addition each teacher has a website hosted by OnCourse as well. I can get to my plan from anywhere, anytime and plans are archived each year – all this coming to a school near you, soon!

    • Sounds like you have a very technology driven district!  I am interested in learning more about this program.  Is is something your district purchased?

      • Spbivona

        Yes, I am certain the $$$ was spent, and a package was purchased! They were at ISTE Convention in Philly lat year!

  • wonderbrooks.wordpress.com

    This is very similar to how I get digitally organized by quarter, except I have always used excel. That way, each quarter I can copy and paste my template onto a new worksheet/page, but the entire year is saved in one file. I don’t have to sort through multiple files in a folder this way.
    I still havent been able to let go of the paper plan for the weekly plan though- I think there is something enjoyable about writing that out by hand. Maybe this year!

    •  Excel is a great idea!  Thanks for sharing.

    • Marni Oberpriller

      Can you please share your quarterly planning excel format with us here?

  • My favorite part about this is the section at the bottom that is separated for your “I can” statements. It can be so easy to forget to add this in to every lesson, but by putting a reminder directly in your lesson plans, it will surely help.  The fact that all you have to do is tweak for the following year is appealing, too. 

    Did you print them out each week, or leave them on your computer to glance at?

    •  My principal required plans to be on the teacher’s desk, so I printed them out.  That also gave me a place to add notes, in case things didn’t go exactly as planned.  I don’t think you would have to print them out though.  Once you take the time to type out specific plans and “I can” statements, they tend to stick with you.

      • I agree, or you could keep them open on the desktop of your computer and glance at them each morning. 

  • Laura

    Thanks so much for sharing!  I am about to start my first year teaching elementary art, and wasn’t sure if I should do digital or paper planning.  After reading the articles from today and yesterday, I’m going to go with digital for sure. 

    This whole series of articles this week has been super helpful for me as I get organized for my first year.  I’ve made my seating chart template, now I can make my lesson planning template :) .

    •  Good luck with your first year in elementary art!  You are going to love it :)

  • The Wendy Lady

    I like using Google Docs for all my school planning. It makes it really easy to collaborate with another person because you can type on the same document at the same time. I organize my lesson plans by Units. I also keep all the supplementary material for each unit in the folders.  

    •  It also takes away the possibility of losing all your hard work because it is saved to the web instead of one computer.  I think you will enjoy Thursday’s blog post!  :)

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  • Jantopcat

    I use a similar plan to you for my Foundation to Five classes.  I make the first column as the term overview of activities listed for teachers, visitors coming for staff PD’s, student sport and excursion activities, staff meeting topics and Action Plan Research topics and times. It helps to keep track of the things happening that some students are involved in so you  know who is going to be missing that day. I have each class every fortnight for a double period of 80 or 90 minutes. Thanks for the ideas.  I really loved the idea of organising folders for each lesson into a filing cabinet as I often put them somewhere and forget where when they are needed!

  • Leslie Mori

    My whole school district is going digital.  As you can imagine, some are excited and pleased, others, not so much! I am loving it.  Our lesson plans are also going to be available online for students and parents to view for homework and other information.  This will make for an interesting year! 

  • Kimerlen Spake Moore

    do you have a post or link to your i can statements? i’ve been using planbook.com, i like it because it has a drop down menue of art standareds and c.core standards for cross curriculum lessons.

  • Kristin Janisch

    I just started using planbook.com to not only keep track of all my lesson plans, but also to show which standards I am teaching (administration request for accreditation purposes). I can skip a lesson to the next day if we have an assembly, add more days to a lesson, etc. One month free trial but then it costs $12 @year. So far, I like it.

  • Vonnie

    I do all my lessons on Word and save them. This has essentially ‘saved’ my life. I also put them on Dropbox so I can get them from school if an emergency situation pops up.

    I also put my A/B schedule on Word and xerox copies – it’s just easier to hand write my lesson topics on it because of all the crazy things that happen during the week (fire drill, field day cancelled due to rain, unscheduled assembly, oh, 10 kids pulled out due to Honor Society photos, etc.)

    I’ve even gone so far as to set up a yearly plan just to get a ‘feel’ of what I can/can’t get to during that time. Some students miss so many classes (Fridays!) compared to my kids on Tuesday, for example.

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  • laddoo

    lick my bum

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  • Cryztal

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