Using OneNote as a Planner – A few years on…

Using OneNote as a Planner – A few years on…

I have been using OneNote as my planner since October 2015. This has made me more organised and has made it easier for me to plan lessons. In this post, I will give some examples of my planning process through using OneNote and walk you through the steps to follow so that you can get started using OneNote for your planning too.

1. Header

First of all, you need to set up a OneNote Notebook.

Log into Glow and go to OneDrive. Click “New” and select “OneNote Notebook”. Give it a sensible name such as “2018-19 Mr Allan Planner” or even just “2018-19 Mr Allan”. Eventually you will end up with several planner OneNotes over time.

2. On Glow

Once the Notebook is created you need to add some sections to the OneNote Notebook.

Your Notebook will load with one section called “New Section” and will be ready for you to get creative. Here are some of the Sections that my 2018-19 Planner OneNote contains, and some examples of how I use each one:

  • Planner (obviously) – more on this section later.
  • Starters – this section allows me to save my Powerpoints for starter questions for each class.
  • Homework – this section is used for saving homework tasks and a record of homework completion
  • Class Names – I have 6 Sections (one for each class) which contains information about the pupils in each class – ASN info, attainment info, Reports, Course plan to be followed for each class, seating plans, etc. You can probably think of lots of uses for these sections
  • CLPL + Stuff – this section contains my CPD record for the year, including links to blogs/articles/websites that I would like to get round to reading(!) and can also include reflections. I also save any resources or notes taken during CPD courses. This bank of information on my CPD for the year (and over years if I look back through my other planners) makes it very easy to complete my PRD and to complete my Learning Log. I also use this section to keep note of passwords (in a coded way, obviously) and usernames for all of the different online platforms that we need to use.
  • Equity In Numeracy – This section is used for saving my resources and evidence of progress in relation to my role as Principal Teacher Equity in Numeracy. It’s really helpful keeping everything in one place.
  • EMIF 2018 – This section contains all the resources for Enterprising Mathematics in Fife 2018.
  • Reading Group – I run a Professional Reading and Reflection Group in my school. This section allows me to keep track of the different chapters that I think should be included in future weeks, reflections on the reading and notes about our discussion. I also keep a note of the names of staff who reply to my monthly email saying they want to attend.

You might come up with other uses for OneNote – that’s what it’s all about.

Now that you have the sections you think you will need (and you can always add more as the year goes on) you need to build up the planner pages.

I copied an ordinary teacher’s planner to build the template of my planner pages. The basic page looks like this:

3. Basic Planner

The squares next to the period numbers are tick boxes. Once I have planned that lesson I click on the box and that means I don’t need to worry about that lesson until I come to teach it.

I have a different template for the other days of the week, and include the class names. I keep the heading as “Mon ” or “Tues ” etc. Then, once I have a whole week with the class names in the right places, I copy the template for the whole week (5 pages) and paste it below the templates.

4. Week

Then, I manually (it doesn’t take long!) type in the dates. So “Mon ” becomes “Mon 4th June” and so on. Spending a bit of time repeating these steps until the whole year has been built up doesn’t take too long. So far, I have not found a way to make this automatically happen. If anybody can, please share. Note that it is important to put the class names in first, before copying the pages (as this saves you having to type the class names in every day).

Having the whole year in the planner section at the beginning of the year means that if somebody suggests a meeting at the end of the day on the 29th of January, I can quickly check my planner and add it to the page. I guess I should be using the Outlook calendar better – something I will address in the future.

The Lesson Planned column is used for a quick description of the lesson. I have seen myself just type a few words (e.g. “Area of Triangle”) but have also used this cell to include examples of questions I want to ask, screenshots of resources I might use, web links to resources online, ideas for starter questions, reminders to follow up with pupils about behaviour or homework and so on. I also use this column to remind myself of the things I need to do during my non-contact periods, such as keeping myself organised for meetings or reminding myself that I really should make a start to my reports.

The Resource column is possibly the most useful one. OneNote is able to store any type of file in a drag and drop way. You can save a Powerpoint (or ANY file type) like this:

5. Powerpoint

Using OneNote on a PC, if I open the Powerpoint from OneNote and make some changes to the file, then click save, it automatically saves the new version to the OneNote. This means I can plan at home and switch on my PC at work and my lesson is waiting there for me. This works for any type of file – if you have it saved to OneNote and open it then edit it then click on save it will update automatically. And it will be available on all of your devices. Really clever. (Note that this automatic saving feature doesn’t work in OneNote on a Mac. My way around this is to have a folder on my Desktop called “Move to OneNote” where I save the Powerpoint from OneNote, edit it, save it back to the Desktop then copy it back to OneNote. I really should use my Microsoft Surface more!

If you go to you will find, among other things, a template for a week that can easily be edited.

Happy to try to answer questions, or to support people getting started using OneNote. Feel free to get in touch, or to share how you are using OneNote to help you keep yourself organised. Get in touch on Twitter or in the comments.


6 thoughts on “Using OneNote as a Planner – A few years on…

  1. Thanks for sharing this. Saw it on Ben Hode’s twitter feed. Two quick recommendations:

    As you explain, create your five days of planner pages, complete with classes for each day. Then, rather than blowing out a full year, save each day as a template. On Friday (or whatever day works best for you), use the five templates to create next week’s plan.

    Biggest Advantage: As you fine tune your process going forward, you don’t have to update the remainder of the year. Instead, just tweak the template and continue plowing forward.

    As far as making a note at some future date, yes, I would recommend using Outlook Calendar for that. As part of your Friday ritual, review your Outlook Calendar to note any exceptions to your week that should be captured in the OneNote planner.

    Even though OneNote can do it, I would recommend against storing files as attachments. For one thing, the size of your notebooks starts getting huge quickly. Secondly, each attachment is different. If you want to do the same thing next year, you are making a different copy of that file when you duplicate the notebook. Instead, put the file on OneDrive and then insert a link in your OneNote. You still get the convenience of working at home and finding your changes ready for you the next day at the office.

    I hope you find the feedback helpful!

  2. Thanks for the comments. Great to get some feedback.

    I don’t know if I’m going to find it easy moving towards using the Outlook Calendar, since I am now soooo used to this. Perhaps Teams might be a good middle ground. I didn’t know about the Cmd+D shortcut (why not?!) so might give that a go. Although I do want the dates in in advance, and that shortcut doesn’t really help with that.

    I hadn’t considered the size of my OneNote Notebook. I bet it is HUUUUUGE with all of my resources. I think when I set up after the holidays I will try to use OneDrive more, given your recommendation. I do tend to keep my files small in size, by not including lots of graphics/pictures, but I bet it all adds up.

    Thanks again for the comments.

  3. Thank you for the great resource to share with those starting to dabble with OneNote. One recommendation I would make is that if you use OneNote for your class lessons is to create hyperlinks to those pages and put the hyperlink in your plan. You can create links to other OneNote notebooks. This makes it very easy to navigate from your planner to your class notebook.

    • Hi Will, thanks for your comment. I have done this in one of my course notebooks but have not linked it to my planner. This would certainly make it a lot more seamless to jump between notebooks. Perhaps when I finally get round to using Class Notebook properly this will be something I will build into my planner Notebook.

  4. Thank you for sharing this. I saw it on Twitter a while ago but have just been looking at it more closely today. I have been using Planbook to create lesson plans – and, inspired by you, I have created a new planner resource on OneNote. I like to have a week in view and use links to go to resources that I have saved in OneDrive/on the internet. One thing I am trying is to use a different Tag per class in the body of each lesson – just before the lesson title. That way I am hoping that at the end of the year I can search the Tags and get a summary, in order, of the lessons that I have taught – sorted by class. Here’s hoping!

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