My new plan book

So as a specials “teacher” I’ve had trouble over the past few years finding a plan book that works well for me.  I’ve used a different format each year.  I’ve searched every plan book that I could find online, I searched through TPT til I couldn’t take it anymore.  I just never found anything that is designed for specials teachers who see up to 10 classes a day.  In my building we have  12 specials periods each day.  There’s just no way to make it work well on 8 x 10 paper.  I tried instead of seeing the whole week at once to make it so I could see just one day at a time but that made it hard to track if I had to make changes and was way more paper than I wanted to use so I went searching online again.  Third year in a row.

I came across this post online DIY Post-It Note Plan Book and just loved the idea. I’m not into typing my plans bc if changes need to be made I had to white out and write over or type and reprint.  If I use pencil, which I usually do, I have to erase and rewrite, sometimes several days worth of plans.  Yeah I know I could try not to plan so far ahead but I like to do that I feel better knowing where I’m going.  The solution Post-Its, reading this blog post I wondered how I had never thought of it before.  I can just move post-its if I need to rearrange lessons bc of an unexpected snow day or a fire drill or who knows what.  I can take the post-its next year and use them again just transfer them to a new planner.  I knew this was the perfect plan for me. 🙂

So the search began for a notebook that would work for me, no standard sized notebook for a specials teacher, just not big enough.  I found one or two oversized spirals I thought might work and then had a spark, sketchbooks come on large sizes.  I found an 11 x 14 sketchbook at Walmart and Joann’s.  I had a 50% off coupon for Joann’s so off I went.  Then post-its and tabs in bulk when I made my next trip to Sam’s Club.  Gathered all of my supplies and got started.


  • 11 x 14 sketchbook
  • scrapbook paper in multiple colors for cover
  • glue stick (I used two actually one regular old glue stick, and one that was meant for crafts)
  • post-its
  • post-it tabs
  • pen
  • pencil
  • ruler (again I used two, my regular ruler and my sewing/quilting ruler that is 18 inches long)
  • letters for the cover

Before starting I sat down with the binder I used last year to organize all of my plans, rosters, etc to list the sections I’d need.  Next I counted out the pages for each section and placed a large tab to mark that section.  Then I started measuring out the spaces in my plan section.  I was worried about the time it would take to get that section done, and while it was a bit time-consuming it went faster than I thought when I realized I could trace each new page from the page before rather than remeasure each page.  Same thing my roster section.


Measuring out the rows

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Completed pages, man that’s a lot of sections 😉


First week, you can see at the top I have a to do list, may as well use the extra space 🙂


a complete week, each grade level has a color, purple is my lunch period in case I need to make copies or something then, dark blue are my plan times, the larger orange post-its are to-be-filled, I will either be on recess/lunch duty or working with TEAM time group in which case I’ll need to post-its there to plan


Roster page, I think completing 25 of these took longer than the 40 weeks of plan.  I have a space for student name, username, and password thought that would be good as I am the technology teacher LOL, the other side of the notebook is a blank page I can use for seating charts

Since I used a binder last year I had some sections that were fine hole punched and wasn’t sure the best way to put them in this book at first.  I could use one page for each page in the packets or I could make a folder out of two sketchbook pages.  I went with the folder idea.

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Finally it was time to work on the cover. I wanted it to go with my classroom theme of superheroes so I but a “superman” shape.  I glued a section of posterboard to the cover then added the decor and letters.  I used my school colors.


it’s shiny bc I covered it with contact paper to keep it nice all year 🙂

You can see lots of tabs there on the right side those mark each section

  • general information
    • building map
    • school wide expectations
    • district calendar
    • evacuation routes
  • Rosters – one for each class
  • plans – with a tab to move each week to the “current week”
  • standards
  • think sheets
  • behavior sheets and office referrals

So this does leave me with section of blank pages at the back which will be great for meeting notes

I’m excited to use this new plan book this year.  I’ve already started writing in plans for the first week or two, as a matter of fact I should go get to work on those again. 🙂


TLAP: prepping to actually Teach Like a Pirate

So I feel re-energized after reading TLAP or at least I did until I sat down and started looking into planning lessons using the hooks and then I began to feel overwhelmed.  There can be so much to do to prepare a lesson that will be exciting and engaging and that kids will remember.  It’s not that it’s not worth it, because it really is.  For me it’s that my brain just won’t shut off with ideas LOL.  I’m laying in bed at night literally thinking “ok brain turn off now, we can work on this in the morning”  I have purchased the bands and thread to do the binary bracelets so that’s ready to go.  My next step is to work on the internet safety scavenger hunt and make it a bit more fun make the activities that go with each site more than just answering questions, then to work on Keyboarding lessons that are more engaging.  My to do list is growing and growing but I’m enjoying the challenge, I just have to keep reminding myself I don’t have to change everything at once.  Pick one or two lessons to work on at a time and space those out with the lessons I already do that are more engaging more TLAP, then I can use my plan times to work on adding more hooks to the lessons to come.

TLAP the Missing Letters

So in case you haven’t figured out the letters of PIRATE in Teach Like a Pirate each stand for something.  In my book study the I and R were kind of skipped over so I thought I’d address them on my own using the post-its from those sections.


I is for Immersion, the idea of this section is to be there, be fully a part of the class.  Dave gives the example of his son learning more from swim lessons when the lifeguard was in the pool showing him what to do rather than when it was a lifeguard that stood on the side of the pool telling him what to do.  This immediately had me remembering the Be There tenant of the FISH Philosophy.  In some cases I do well with immersion, I like to do the lessons I ask my students to do, the independent work that is. While I was teaching middle school com arts I would often complete the grammar worksheets myself and use those to grade only checking the teacher’s guide when I was stuck.  Now I try to stay a few steps ahead of my students in their code program, not so easy when the awesome has four levels and I have kids on all of them.  I’ve had kids surpass me and get stuck, I’ll sit with them at the computer or go to my own and pull up that level and work through.  I think it benefits the kids to see me do what I ask them to do, especially when I struggle.  When I can tell them I had trouble with a certain level too, or “hey you did better with that one than I did” it’s a great confidence builder.


R is for rapport, in the past I felt I did a great job of developing rapport with my students.  It’s been more of a challenge in my current position where I only see the kids twice a week for 30 minutes each time.  However I do my best to get to know my kids.  It helps now that I’m moving into my third year in the same building.  I know the large majority of 1st and 2nd grade kiddos, as well as my 4th and 5th graders.  I only need to get to know the kindy kids and any other new students we have.  It has helped me memorize names much more quickly and I think using a student’s name or nickname goes a long way to helping build rapport.  For me rapport is also getting to know what the kiddos do outside of school and attending those events when possible.  Making sure I acknowledge them when I see them in public, as soon as they get past that “wait you’re not at school” stare, lol.  It’s developing a classroom community that students’ know they are safe in.  I had a teacher in high school I will never forget had a No Hunting sign hanging in the front of the room because his room was a safe zone.  I shared more of my writing during those classes than I ever had before and actually more than I think I did in any class after because of the community he developed, hence why he is one of my teaching role models.

TLAP #8: Hooks

“Much of your success as an educator had to do with your attitude towards teaching and towards kids. The rest of your success is based on your willingness to relentlessly search for what engages students in the classroom and then having the guts to do it.” (Burgess p.84)

“…don’t take it too seriously. Be willing to have fun with the process.”(Burgess p.85)

The hooks that Burgess shares are really brain teasers for teachers when they are creating lessons. It goes back to the Ask & Analyze section of the book. If you don’t ask the questions, you’ll never come up with the answers.

DISCUSSION QUESTION – Choose ONE (or more, if you like)  of the HOOKS from above. (this was in my online study but I didn’t add all of the hooks here, if you’re curious about them I’d suggest checking out the book)  How have used this HOOK or how do you plan to use a HOOK in the future to engage your students?

I use the Kinesthetic/People prop hooks every year when I first introduce code.  I use students as the one to be programmed, the obstacles, and the programmers.  Kids get excited and the awesome thing I see is by demonstrating this way throughout the year as kids get stuck on a program they stand up and move themselves the way they want to move the character being programmed.  They use the squares of the carpet as the squares of the program.  Right now I’m working on a craft shop hook.  Binary can be a tough concept for kids to understand, I found a cute idea on Pinterest to have kids create a beaded binary name bracelet.  I’m trying to do the same thing with embroidery thread in a friendship bracelet and with rubber bands in band bracelets.  I think this will be fun for the kids, they can make bracelets, necklaces, keychains, etc,  They’ll be creative and learn more about the binary system at the same time.  I’m excited to try this one with the kiddos.  Editing to add bc I’m excited and wanted to share here are three binary bracelets I made as examples for the kids. The first two say davis in binary, the one farthest to the rights is KM IT (my school initials and class).

binary bracelets

TLAP #7: Educational BBQ


“A good teacher, like a good entertainer, first must hold his audience’s attention. Then he can teach his lesson.” – Hendrik John Clarke


Burgess makes this analogy in the book- it’s like riding a bike with flat tires. You can keep pedaling and be going the right direction, but with flat tires you won’t be going anywhere fast, and it’s going to take you a lot more effort to get there.

The tires on your bike represent your teaching content and your technique and method.  Those are very important things! You can’t teach without them, cause there would be nothing to teach without them!

“If you don’t have the content element of your lesson in place, you are either just entertaining or babysitting.” (Burgess p.76)

The hooks that Burgess goes on to describe in this section of the book can’t be used unless you know your content. But just having the tires on your bike doesn’t mean you’re going anywhere. You need air in those tires! The air for the tires is called Presentation. That’s the third circle.

“Your key content- the most important information you are trying to teach- should be delivered at the moment of peak engagement.” (Burgess p.81)

“To keep your students from mentally checking out, try to get all administrative activities out of the way before beginning your presentation. If students will need materials, have them get them out before you start.”(Burgess p.81

Discussion Question #1 – Imagine yourself going to the Educational BBQ and you’ve been asked to bring something to the table. Which item would you be able to bring with no problem? The meat, seasonings, the grill, or a side dish?

I’ve worked really hard over the past three years as a TCA to be able to bring “the meat” to the Educational BBQ.  As many of you are aware there are really no district assigned standards for me to meet in my classes.   I’ve done research and each year edit the standards I’ve found from the ISTE and CSTA to create standards that fit what I see that the children need and what the teachers have told me the kids need.  It is important to me that my class be more than “babysitting with computers” as I’ve heard from many has happened in elementary IT classes around the district through the years since its inception.  I want students to actually learn something they can use in the classroom, at home, in life.  They need to see a reason for doing what I ask them to do and standards help me to explain to them the reasons.

TLAP #6: Enthusiasm

If you’re not enthusiastic about your lesson, how can you expect your students to be?

“If you apply nothing else from this book, but you consistently ramp up your enthusiasm level in the classroom, you will be far ahead of the game and a dramatically better teacher.” (Burgess p.65)

Burgess goes on to say that he would rather hire an enthusiastic teacher than a brilliant but teaching who is just ‘punching the clock’.

“An enthusiastic teacher can learn technique, method, and strategy, but it is almost impossible to light a fire inside the charred heart of a burned-out teacher.” (Burgess p.66)

  • What do you do to keep your enthusiasm alive each day?

Enthusiasm for me comes back to a book study I did years ago the FISH Philosohpy; particularly the first key idea: Choose Your Attitude.  There are days that for whatever reason I just don’t feel “it” and I have to stop and remind myself to choose to be excited, enthusiastic, fun, happy.  The kids excitement is also a big boost to my enthusiasm on days I’m feeling down or blah, their smiles, their hugs that helps me find my enthusiasm again.  Trying to plan lessons that I would enjoy is also a way I try to keep my enthusiasm alive.



TLAP #5: Transformation

This chapter focused on making a change in your classroom set up and in your lessons. Burgess starts out stating that you don’t want your lessons to be ordinary. You want your lessons to be remarkable.

“Remarkable means that you are so exceptional and different that people talk about you- in a good way.” (Burgess p.56)

Burgess asks us these 2 questions:

  1. If your students didn’t have to be there, would you be teaching in an empty room?  
  2. Do you have any lessons you could sell tickets for?  

Respond to the above.

3.  Do you currently use positioning and reframing in your classroom?  If so, how?  If not, how can you change what you are doing to include these ideas/strategies?

1) I don’t think I’d be teaching in an empty room now, there were times when I taught middle school com arts that that might have happened especially when we were doing grammar units and I struggled to make them interesting, but the reactions of the kiddos now tell me that they’d still be there.

2) Lessons I could sell tickets for: I think maybe I could do that for the beginning of Code, other than that most of my ticket worthy lessons are from my MSCA days – The Outsiders debates, The Giver fish bowl, and Comic Strip grammar.

3) I try to always link what we’re doing to real life examples, ways that what we’re learning will be used in students’ everyday lives as they grow up.  We discuss the number and variety of jobs that require typing skills, we talk about how coding is really problem solving and those are steps we can use when faced with any problem, one of the biggest for me is teaching the fourth and fifth graders how to use the internet to research effectively and how to locate reliable resources, this can be tied to looking for jobs, homes or almost anything else you purchase to find the best products and the best prices.