The ABC of ELT

How I Organise My Lesson Plans and Resources

I’ve tried a few different things over time for organizing my lesson notes and materials. Pieces of paper, Word Documents, Google Docs, Apple notes, Evernote, physical files with different handouts, A work Dropbox account which we could all access, and more. Most of these were electronic systems but I also made good use of a physical paper system. There were a few consistent issues that plagued me during this time that you’re probably familiar with.

  • Finding the right lesson plan or resource
  • updating material over time
  • Access no matter where I was regardless of the system they used.

The first issue being the primary one for me. Paper got lost, and computer documents could be put in the wrong place, impossible to search for OR take a long time to click through all the nested folders to get to the right resource….only to find out that it was actually in a different folder as you originally created it for a different group.

Why bother keeping old lesson plans and resources

You might wonder why I even bother to keep my old resources or lesson plans. There are two main reasons I have for this.

  1. Don’t repeat yourself (a principle from coding)
  2. Reflecting on changes

This might not be an issue for you, but one of the principles I’ve tried to apply in my teaching is “Don’t reinvent the wheel”. I don’t want to spend half an hour working out really good level appropriate discussion questions on a certain topic only to discover that someone’s website has almost identical questions (with a couple of extra good ones) on their site. Or to spend hours making a handout from scratch that is almost identical to one that I made for another class.

As such, being able to find resources, lesson plans and templates I’ve created in the past I useful for me.

An exception with lesson plans

Now, there are limits to these ideas with lesson plans. I have tried using old lesson plans from the past but there are a couple of issues.

  • classes can be very different (ages, lesson length, classroom facilities, strengths and weaknesses)
  • My approach to lessons change overtime
  • I learn about new ideas and resources which I then may want to incorporate
  • with a new topic or idea I often need to reread everything again and work out what my notes refer to and mean again.

Basically, the lessons I wanted to teach change, and I need to refamiliarise myself with my lesson plans. So Instead I tend to follow a different approach. I usually plan a lesson again from scratch, and then refer back to my notes and see If I have some good ideas OR I read through my notes and adapt them as I go. The second option is very good with “versioning” of notes whereby you can see how those notes have changed over time.

My solution, Evernote and Google Drive

Evernote and I have had a love/hate relationship recently. It was so great at the start and then it started to get bloated and really push to have a premium account. This really made me want to switch to a different system but my desire to be able to use it anywhere (on my computer, tablet or the work computer) really restricted my options. I considered Google drive for everything, but Google Drive isn’t the easiest to search (no tags) and having word documents open seems wrong to me. So instead, I create my resource in Google Doc files (that way I can access them anywhere and print them off quickly) BUT I link to them in Evernote notes which have the lesson plan. This linking feature is a new feature from Evernote which can now tie in with Google Docs, allowing you to quickly open files in your notes.

My Google docs are filed within nested folders based on the school and course as well as some template files in a general folder)

The lesson plans are tagged with the level, the group title, the unit, the topic, and the skill or system being focused on. If it uses a coursebook then I’ll reference the title of the course book and the pages so that I can search for that too. This helps to search for the files much faster than other options which rely on folders.

Keeping the resources and lesson plans separate also helps me quickly search for resources as well as there is less likely to be a conflict in title.

Not perfect

So basically, this is almost the exact same system I was using at the first school I taught at where we had all our common resources in Google Drive including spreadsheets for records of work and I used my laptop to log in and access them. Later I discovered Evernote and started using it to save my reflections and lesson notes. Now after using a variety of systems I’m back and while I’m paying for an Evernote subscription, the great search and tagging features (plus the OCR scanning of documents) make it just about worth it for me.

Are you using a different system (or do you not look at your old resources)?

About Chris Wilson

I'm an English Language teacher based in Krakow, Poland. I enjoy writing, using technology and playing the Ukulele.

One Reply

  1. Hi Chris,

    I’m a Google Drive and paper man myself. All course plans and notes are kept together by course. My materials go in Google Drive, usually as native documents. When I’m happy with them I share them. Drive will search text in any files, by the way. You could tag in headers or footers.



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