Lesson Plan Revamp

I’m revamping the way I do my weekly lesson plans.  In an effort to lessen the amount of time it takes me to lesson plan, I’m utilizing something that I already create for my students to create my new lesson plan format.


Previously I had rather fancy-schmancy plans.  For years I’d been creating visual plans  using Microsoft Word, tables, visuals, and a variety of fonts.  The system worked well for me, but it was time consuming.  I even created copy and paste lesson files in order to help to cut down the time it took to lesson plan.  This did work, but I found that editing the plans to reflect what REALLY happened during the week, was a painful process.

copy paste

Copy and Paste Lessons

Last May it dawned on me that I could still have the visual element and also use the copy and paste lesson documents that I had created while cutting out A LOT of time.

You see, in addition to creating the WORD lesson plans for myself, I was also creating a visual schedule for SMARTboard display for my students (and me).  Last May I started tinkering with the new method of lesson planning.  Instead of using the WORD document, I started using Google Docs.  After creating the weekly schedule on the SMARTboard, I took a screen shot of it and inserted it into the Google Doc.


SMARTboard Schedule

In my new lesson plans that you see below, the top part of the page is the SMARTboard schedule and the bottom part of the page are my lesson plans.  They’re simple where they can be and more detailed where I need them to be.

Meacham SMARTboard

New Lesson Plan Format

Shortly after discovering this new lesson planning format, I had another revelation!  If I could use the Smartboard schedule for my lesson plans, I could also use them for my Guest Teacher Plans!  Below you can see what my Guest Teacher plans used to look like and how they transformed.  So far the Guest Teachers have been OK with the change.  They LOVED my previous format, but if I can save time planning for Guest Teachers and they make it through the day, then all’s well in my book!


New Guest Teacher Plans

Another reason for the permanent changes is that I’m on a new journey toward reclaiming time for other parts of my life.  I’ve joined a new teacher club called 40 Hour Teacher Work Week.  I’ll be updating you about my journey as I move from a 65 hour work week to a more desirable work week of 50-55 hours.  I’m just beginning, and the changes in lesson plan format and guest teacher plan format are a small way for me to make small gains toward accomplishing my goal.

View PDF samples of the old and new lesson plans and guest teacher plans: download-icon



You can access my (new) weekly plans via my Google Drive:  download-icon


Google Drive Lesson Plans Folder

Teach in a Rural Area?

You might be interested in the Rural Education National Forum that will take place October 26 and 27, 2015.  It’s a forum hosted by Battelle for Kids and it’s in Columbus, OH.  Why attend?  Rural education advocacy is on the rise and “The Rural Education National Forum was created to bring rural education leaders together to help reshape the rural economy, enrich the quality of life, own the future of learning, and prepare communities to be successful in a highly competitive, complex, and ever-changing world.”


I’m excited about having two opportunities to speak as a keynote speaker and breakout session presenter.  I’m also excited to hear the line up of speakers — and especially hear author Jeannatte Walls, author of The Glass Castle!! If you teach in a rural area, please spread the word!

I {heart} Google Calendar

8 Reasons Why I Love Google Calendar

I was reluctant to get on the GOOGLE Bandwagon.  It was mostly Google Drive’s fault. I just couldn’t dream of giving up Word, PowerPoint, and Excel.  For two years I missed out on the wonderful opportunities that Google Apps provide not only to users on an individual level, but also the powerful opportunities they provide for collaborative groups (teachers, administration, staff)!  I still use my Microsoft Office Suite programs.  But I also use Google Apps.  A LOT!

Today’s post is all about Google Calendar.  Prior, I used Outlook Calendar.  You see, I do not own a paper calendar.  No desk calendar.  No wall calendar.  No pocket calendar.  I’ve never had a paper calendar.  I have always only used a digital calendar. I transitioned from using Outlook to using Google Calendar roughly four years ago and haven’t regretted the decision at all!

There are some pretty amazing things you can do with a Google Calendar.

1) Multiple Calendars:  I have eight Google Calendars. 2015-07-28_1812 Yep.  EIGHT.  Having eight separate calendars makes it easier to edit them, as well as focus on just the calendars that are pertinent at the time.  When I’m working with one of my calendars (like meal planning) I deselect all calendars except “meal planning” and make the edits needed.  This is particularly helpful if you have a lot of calendar events scheduled.  When I’m finished editing a calendar, I then select all calendars again so that they show in my calendar feed.  You can see in the picture to the right that I currently have six calendars displayed.  Snippets of six of my calendars can be seen below.

8 Reasons Why I Love Google Calendar

Here’s what my “personal” calendar looks like (with all other calendars deselected).


As you can see, the calendars you create can have colors assigned to them for easier identification.  Events can be added with times attached, or as “whole day” events. Moving events around from day to day (or from calendar to calendar) is easy .  It’s also easy to copy events from one day or calendar to another, as well as creating a repeating event.

2) Display Mode Options:  In the calendar image below, you can see my calendar in full view.  I have it displayed as a week; however, you can also change the view to day, 4-day, or month.


2015-07-31_18593)  Task Checklists (To-Do Lists):  I recently discovered this feature and can’t believe that I’d been missing out on it. For some time I had been thinking, “there’s gotta be a way to have a checklist and a calendar at the same time.”  Despite my love for digital calendars, I still like making lists and crossing them off.  To move my list making to digital-land, I played around with the Windows Post It Notes desktop app, but wasn’t completely satisfied.  I then discovered Evernote (which I completely LOVE — it deserves a post all on its own in the future).  Evernote lists and notes does work for me, but I really wanted a list maker that integrated with calendar.  So I “Googled It.”  And, lo and behold I discovered an entirely new part of Google Calendar that I had no idea existed — TASKS!

Creating tasks is relatively easy.  If you assign a date to the task, it will show up on your calendar.  You can check them off when completed.  If you don’t complete a task, you can easily move it to a new day.

I can’t tell you how happy the TASKS feature of Google Calendar has made me.  If you want to know more, check out this YouTube video that explains it in more detail.  You can also check out this help page!

4) Several Sharing Options: Under the sharing 2015-07-31_1930settings, you can share your Google Calendar with anyone.  Just add their email address.  Because our school is a Google Apps for Education (GAFE) school, we can easily “look up” and see another staff member’s calendar.  One word of caution though, as a user you should indicate that others only see your scheduled events as “busy” rather than what they actually are (for privacy reasons).

Once you share a calendar with someone else, it shows up under their “other calendars” calendar section.  You can see mine in the picture to the right.  I typically deselect these calendars so that they don’t appear in in my full display calendar.  To hide these calendars, activate the calendar (select it) and then select “hide calendar”  from the drop down arrow that appears to the right of the calendar’s name.

5)  Sync-ability:  If you have an iOS device, or an Android device, you can sync your Google Calendar with your device’s native calendar app.  I did this for a couple of years, but recently found other calendar apps that seem to work better.  For my Android phone, I use the SolCalendar app.  For my iPad, I use the CalenMob app.  Both apps offer two-way syncing, which is important for me.

unnamed (1)  unnamed

6) Gmail Integration:  One day I discovered that I could add dates from emails to my calendar.  When clicked, dates in Gmail emails allow me to add the event to one of my calendars.  2015-08-11_1854

7) Notifications:  Alerts help keep me on my toes!  From meetings to events and activities, the ability to set notifications has been immeasurably beneficial to me!  As you2015-08-11_1905 can see, several notifications can be set up so that you can be notified via email and by pop-up message within minutes and days of the calendar event.

2015-08-11_19078) Guest Invites:  Have an event that applies to several people?  It’s easy to invite them to participate by adding them as an event guest.  Simply enter their email address and click “send” (at this point you can also write a message, before the message is sent).  If they have a Google Calendar, the event is added to their calendar as well.  It’s a neat feature that is used a lot in my school district.

I’d love to hear how you keep yourself organized!

Comment below!  =)

Parent Communication App Review

My goal for next year is to increase and strengthen parent communication.

7 Apps to Increase Parent, Teacher, and Student Communication

I wanted to find an app that would meet the following goals:

  1. Allow me to share photos, links, and messages.
  2. Allow parents to respond to messages.
  3. Allow me to message/share with a few select or all parents.
  4. Allow me to schedule events and notify parents of the events.
  5. Sync scheduled events to my Google Class Calendar.
  6. Allow me to schedule Parent/Teacher conferences.
  7. Share volunteer and wish list opportunities.
  8. Work on a variety of platforms (web-based, smartphone-based).
  9. Cost nothing for Ps and Ts.
  10. Have a variety of comprehensive supports for Ts.

I recently stumbled across two possible solutions: Bloomz & Classroom Messenger. My initial thoughts were that they were very similar, but I wasn’t sure, so I asked my FB, Twitter, and blog-follower #teacherfriends for feedback.  My plea for help resulted in MORE app suggestions and a LOT of questions!

More confused than ever, I sought out to research each app and create a spreadsheet that detailed each app’s features.  I signed up for accounts, started playing with each app’s interface, devoured the support/help resources I found on their websites, and contacted the app developers.  Here’s the current app review document!


download-icon Download/View the Google Spreadsheet

download-icon Download a Printable Version PDF of Spreadsheet

It’s a simple spreadsheet, and that was my aim.  If you’re using the spreadsheet to help you decide which app or apps would work best for your situation, keep in mind that it might help you to dig a little deeper and play around with the app first before implementing it into your daily routine.  For example, when the chart shares that two apps have P/T Conference scheduling capabilities, what that looks like and feels like exactly might be very different than what you’re hoping the app will accomplish.  You may find that one app meets your needs, while the other one doesn’t.

So, without further delay, the apps!



Seesaw is an app that allows students to add artifacts to their private, secure online journal.  Using iPad technology, students scan their personalized QR code and add to their journal.   While you can share student journals within your classroom environment, what makes this app so special is that parents can subscribe to their child’s journal and receive notifications when artifacts are added.  This YouTube video sums up the app’s abilities nicely.



The Bloomz app is a private, secure “social network app for today’s busy classrooms.”  It has a Facebook-like feel to it.  Messages, photos, files are created and shared out.  Parents can comment, like, and re-share.  Teachers can post messages to one parent, a select few, or the entire group of parents.  Bloomz offers parent to parent messaging.  Check out this YouTube video for a quick, comprehensive overview of the app’s capabilities.

Update 8-15-15: Bloomz recently was awarded the People’s Choice Stevie Award!

Class Messenger


Created by the folks at Scholastic, Class Messenger is a “private two-way messaging service.”  Teachers can share out messages, photos, and files.  Teachers have the option to have them delivered to one parent, a select few, or all parents.  Parents can message other parents.  View the Class Messenger Prezi to learn more.

Living Tree

living tree logo

The LivingTree app also has a Facebook-like feel to it.  Messages, photos, and documents can be shared out to one parent, a select few, or all.  Parents can comment, like, and re-share posts.  Get a better idea of what LearningTree can offer your classroom by watching this YouTube video.



Remind gives teachers a way to instantly text one-way messages to parents’ cell phones. Newer features include voice messaging and 2-way chatting between teachers and parents.  Visit their “Learn More” page for an overview of other capabilities.

Simply Circle


Using the SimplyCircle app, teachers can share pictures, messages, and documents with parents.  Messages can be sent to all or select parents.  Parents may also message other parents within the group.  This YouTube video highlights the features of SimplyCircle.

Class Dojo


The focal point for Class Dojo is classroom management and behavior tracking/reporting.  Teachers provide students with instant feedback regarding the behavioral choices they are making by awarding (and/or subtracting) points.  Parents are encouraged to be engaged through messages, photos, and voice notes from the teacher.  Class Dojo’s YouTube video will give you a good idea of what it has to offer your classroom.

I’d love to hear which app or apps you plan to use or are already using!

Message me or comment below!

PS:  I was not compensated in any way, shape, or form for my blog post/review.  Nor was I asked to review any app featured in this post!