Regardless of the personal teaching style and philosophy of each teacher, most cre- ate some sort of plans to reach both long- and short-term objectives. Plans that are sketched out on paper may grow messy and unreadable through subsequent modi- fications. Productivity software can aid in planning activities by saving teachers’ time and making high-quality, functional, final products.
When a newly certified teacher heads to the teaching supply store, the first item placed in the shopping cart is usually a Teacher’s Plan Book. These books contain blank weekly calendars, with the days identified down the left side of the page and half-hour increments clearly marked across the top. As schedules of special activi- ties and class times are mapped out, changed, finalized throughout the weeks before the start of the school year, and sometimes well into the first days of school, the neat order of most plan books begins to suffer. Handwritten schedules get crossed out, erased, and modified. Even when weekly plans do settle down into routine sched- ules, daily activities must still be handwritten into the book. Regularly scheduled activities must be repeatedly entered week after week. Many times activities take longer than the time planned and must be carried over into other time slots. All in all, handwritten plan books are messy, redundant, and generally not an effective uti- lization of a teacher’s time.
Word processing or spreadsheet software can make some of this hassle more man- ageable. Teachers can easily map out a generic weekly or daily schedule. If activities change, they can simply be deleted or moved. Classes that occur predictably at the same time every day or week can easily be copied over to the next cells. Teachers who require more space to plan for lessons can format their planning pages to allow for large blocks of planning space. Tentative plans can be printed out on a daily, weekly, or longer basis, or plan templates, with recurring activities blocked in but learning time left blank, can be printed out to allow for handwritten adjustments (see Figure 16.1).
Planning for days when a substitute teacher will be in is also simplified. Typed plans supply the substitute teacher with accurate information on all necessary spe- cial student and schedule considerations and can be prepared ahead of time to lessen the busy work of preparing to be absent for a day. The planning options are as end- less as the variety of teaching styles and circumstances.
Longer-term planning can be accomplished using software tools as well. Monthly calendars can be created manually using a spreadsheet, with help from templates or wizards that come packaged with most word processing software or even by using software especially intended to create calendars. An entire school year can be mapped out ahead of time, making it possible to see how thematic units might interrelate or how required curriculum elements can be coordinated into the allotted school days. As plans change, calendars can be easily modified accordingly. Online tools allow teachers to post assignments to web-based calendars so students can view them from anywhere (e.g., “Assign-A-Day” at http//assignaday.4teachers.org).
Visually aided planning can also be facilitated with the use of technology. It is common for teachers to plan for various related curriculum areas at the same time, often with student input, using a web-type graphical representation so connections between topics or activities can easily be seen. Using a simple drawing program, teachers can map out thematic units or entire semester plans, making it possible with one glance to see how learning might be structured. Specific concept-mapping soft- ware (e.g., Inspiration at www.inspiration.com—see Chapter 2) can simplify the planning process with premade symbols and relational indicators.
New lesson plan software that is now available is designed to assist educators of all teaching levels in planning, editing, and organizing lessons for multiple classes (e.g., Lesson Manager Professional at www.isdsoftwaredesign.com/edu.htm). Such software provides word processing and database tools, standardized lesson for- mats, drag-and-drop capabilities among lessons and units, project time lines for a graphical overview of a lesson, and calendar and agenda tools (see Figure 16.2). Most websites offer free trial downloads, and versions now exist for hand-held computers.