Gamechangers that have helped me stay organized this year
By: Cindie Cortinas-Vogt
Like many of you out there in our awesome PE world, I am about 1 month into our new school year which includes learning the names of our new students, getting acclimated to our new schedules, and testing out all the new ideas we have learned from our peers through social media or conferences we’ve attended. This time of year can be both exciting and exhausting at the same time.
I have to believe I am not alone when talking about how challenging it can sometimes be to learn new activities, strategies, organizational tips, and behavior management suggestions yet fail to find time to implement them or remember where you put them so you can tweek them and make it work for you and your teaching environment.
One of the biggest struggles for me has always been figuring out how to stay and remain organized–especially when it comes to the new things I’ve learned and want to implement in my own program. You have to take the time to plan for them but first you have to organize all those new ideas so they’re easily accessible.
I’d like to share a few new tech things I’m trying out this year. I discovered Google Keep this past summer while attending and presenting at EPEW and I have to say it’s been a game changer for me in regards to organizing my thoughts, notes from meetings and new activities I’ve come across or learned. One of the things I have grown to love about any Google product is its ability to be stored on my drive and its multiple access regardless of which device Im using. I don’t always bring my laptop with me and don’t always want to BUT I always have my phone.
Google Keep is awesome for all those twitter posts you come across and think “I’m going to try that activity”. If you’re anything like me, I was always trying to remember a particular post that had a game or activity I really liked and wanted to use. I’d spend so much time trying to find it and often times without any luck so I would either reach out to a friend, post about it, or just give up. Now, with Google Keep, when I’m on Twitter and see something I really like, I will click on the up arrow under the tweet and click on share tweet via Google Keep. It’s a great way to organize all those great new ideas you stumble across. I also use it to take notes at my buildings’ meetings and conferences I attend. I especially like keeping the app on my phone to make it easier to take notes when I don’t want to lug my laptop around. It’s fairly simple to navigate and I like that I’m able to create “labels” which are basically my categories of notes that I color code. This allows me to quickly find what I’m looking for with ease. Categorizing then is just one step further in the organizational process.
Another “New” game changer for me this year has been the use of Planbook.com. I can’t tell you how many different lesson plan books I have tried whether it’s the traditional spiral pre made template that never seemed to have enough boxes for the number of classes an elementary PE teacher teaches within a day, to ones I have created myself in an Excel sheet to those I’ve tried from other teachers’ templates. You might ask what is different from all the rest? What sets this one apart from the others? To be honest, I’m not quite sure! I tried it, liked the ease of it, and it plain simply just works for me. What I can share with you are some of the features I enjoy.
- It is very user friendly. I had a very easy time navigating the site. Even someone without a lot of tech experience should be able to use it without feeling frustrated.
- I love the different options for class frequency. In P.E., specifically elementary, we are all different in the number of days we see our students. There is a spot when first entering in your classes where you not only click on the time you meet but day of week as well. And– I believe there is also an option for those who are on a rotating schedule (AB).
- I LOVE that planbook has already made available all the state, national, and common core standards for the respective content areas. Thats awesome in my opinion! I type in my lesson and then can click on standards and pull up both Illinois and Shape and plug into my lesson. When I’m working on cross-curricular lessons, I can also add in the classroom content standards. Speaking about entering in my lessons… another great feature is the ability to be able to copy and paste a lesson. Like many of you who also teach multiple sections of a grade or section, instead of typing it multiple times you can type it once and then copy and paste onto your other sections. It’s a beautiful thing, especially when talking about staying organized. This saves time which ultimately helps to keep me organized!
- When plugging in your lesson, there is a spot which allows you to add an attachment. You can either attach a file or one that is saved on your drive. If someone shares their games on social media via the drive I usually save it on mine as well. I love this feature because it gives me a visual with the game/activity. It also allows you to insert a link. I particularly like this as I often use videos and music from YouTube. This allows me easy access to what I’m looking for.
- There are color options! Call me crazy, but I love to color coordinate everything. Being able to assign a grade a color makes me happy! …it’s the little things.
Is Planbook perfect? No, of course not. There will always be flaws. I’m relatively new at it as in this year! Im sure I will come across some hiccups with it, but for now, I am really enjoying using this website. I use the free option and it provides me with everything I need. Its helping to keep me accountable and remember the lessons that I do each week. Im looking forward to being able to reflect on them and use them as a resource in the following years.
As with anything new—you have to be willing to invest some time into it. Every time I have presented on cross-curriculum I always mention it’s time consuming in the beginning. Heavy front loading but then you’re set for a very long time. The outcome usually makes all that work in the beginning worthwhile.
I have been teaching for 21 years now. Nothing I do today is the same as it was during Year 1. I believe this is a good thing—it shouldn’t be!. I’ve tried many different lessons and strategies and it is always evolving. If there is one message Id love for you all to get out of this is that no ONE thing will work for everyone. While I might find value in these sites or apps to help me stay organized you may not, And that is okay. As a teacher with a few years behind me, I have learned that what might work for someone might not necessarily be the best fit for me or the students I teach. That’s what is awesome about our profession, we have so many teachers willing to share what they do and … There isn’t one road to get to our destination but it sure is nice to have options!