DIY customized lesson planner tutorial

Oh boy I am so so excited!  This is the post I’ve had rolling around in my head for several weeks, but I knew it was going to be long and I just haven’t had time to sit down and get to it.  I finally got it done and I can’t wait to share it with you!  Even though this will not be the last post in my classroom organization series, I consider this my piece de resistance…and so I can’t wait any longer!

DIY teacher plan book download

This is going to be long, but bear with me and I promise it’ll be worth the wait :)

Alright, let’s talk lesson plan books.  But I guess first we should establish the fact that I’m really really picky and particular.  I hope I’m not the only one, but I can just never find a lesson plan book or template that suits my needs.  And if I’m going to pay 30 bucks (have you seen how expensive teacher plan books can be?!?!) then I want it to actually work for me.  As a result, I usually end up just making my own template like the very simple one I used when I taught high school.

But now, now is a totally different story.  I’m an elementary librarian.  I have six classes on Mondays, nine on Tuesdays, one class plus four pre-school story times on Wednesdays, one class on Thursdays, and none on Fridays.  I challenge you to find a store-bought lesson plan book that meets those specifications.  Oh, and did I mention that some of those classes are 30 minutes, some are 45, and some are 15?  Yeah, so even finding a plan book that just had evenly spaced blocks of time wouldn’t work.

After a cursory look in the stores, with no luck I might add, I turned to the ever wonderful Pinterest.  I found several things that were possibilites, but hit pay dirt when I found Jenny’s lesson plan template at Luckeyfrog’s Lilypad.  I really liked the way she set her template up and so I downloaded it and started trying to configure it to meet my schedule. But that proved to be harder than I imagined (I told you I was picky).  I couldn’t get it *just right*.

So I did what I always do when I see something I like but can’t figure out how to do it…turn to my handy husband and ask him to recreate that particular something.  So I took the lesson plan template to Michael and asked him to help me make a similar one that would fit my schedule exactly.  Which he did, of course, because he can do anything.  My hero.

As we were working on it, I realized it wasn’t that difficult and could be easily adapted for anyone’s schedule.  And thus this tutorial was born.

So first, a glance at my plan book.

DIY customized teacher lesson plan bookThe outside – once I printed off the pages I took it to Staples to be bound.

Guess how much it cost…


Beat that $30 generic planners

monthly overviewFirst I have a monthly calendar that takes up two pages (I found that at Kindergarten Works if you want one for yourself)

page order of my plannerIn a similar manner as my Erin Condren planner, I have the monthly calendar followed by the weekly detailed schedule (i.e. the 30 day calendar for August, then 4 weeks of detailed schedule pages, then the monthly calendar for September, and so on)

lesson plan scheduleAnd here’s what each week’s lesson plan/detailed schedule looks like

Monday, Tuesday, and WednesdayOn the left hand page I have Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday

Thursday, Friday, and NotesAnd on the right hand side I have Thursday, Friday, and To-Do List

The things that stay the same each week (my scheduled classes, my morning and afternoon duties) are included on the printed schedule.  Then I have all the open spaces to schedule meetings and fill in other items as they come up.

my lesson plannerHere’s an example page – you can see where I’ve added in some meetings during school, meetings after school, notes to myself, and a to-do list.

I am in love.  This works amazingly well for me and keeps me so organized.  It wasn’t hard to make and it was super cheap ($2.68 to bind, plus paper and ink!).

So are you hooked?  Do you want one for yourself?  Well, you’re in luck.  I’m going to provide you with a tutorial on how to make one, and for those of you who don’t want to start from scratch, I have a template you can download and modify for your own needs (scroll down to the bottom of the post to download the pre-made template).  Yay!  All you need is a basic understanding of Excel.

(for this tutorial I am using the 2011 version of Excel for Mac, so things may look a little different than your version but the gist of it is the same)

Open up  your spreadsheet and start by putting your days (I did Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and To Do) across the top, then do 15-minute increments of time down the left hand column, starting with when your school starts and ending with when your school ends (my school starts at 8:15 and ends at 2:45, so I expanded that a bit and made mine from 8:00 to 3:00)

Obviously if you printed your spreadsheet right now, It the columns wouldn’t be wide enough and the calendar wouldn’t fit on two full pages (like I wanted it to), so we need to change some stuff.

You can leave your column width for column A (the one with the times in it) the default width (0.9″).  However, we want to stretch out the rest of the columns so there is more room to write.

Highlight all the rest of the columns besides the first one.  Right click and select “column width”.  This box should pop up, with the default width being 0.9″.

Change that to 2.0″ and hit “Ok” (You can monkey around with this if you want to, this is just what worked for us when we made my template)

Now our columns are nice and wide and will fit onto two sheets of paper.

Do the same with the row height – highlight the rows, right click, choose “row height”, and change the number from 0.21″ (that was the default on mine) to 0.28″.  Again, play around with this if you wish, that’s just what worked for me.

Next, highlight the your plan book area, go up to the top and select the button that changes your borders, and change the borders of the cells to “all borders”.

At this point, our template still isn’t going to quite fit right on our pages so we need to fix a few more things.

Go to file>page set up

Select “margins” and change the top and bottom margins to 0.5″.  This will give us a little more space at the top and bottom of the sheet.

We also want the time column to repeat on the second sheet as well as the first (at least, I did – you can see what I’m talking about in the pictures of my plan book above).  To do that, go to file>page set up again.

Click on the icon next to “columns to repeat at left”

The box should collapse to a long, skinny box, and you then need to click on the top of the first column (see the arrow in the picture above).

That should automatically put the $A:$A in the text box, then just expand the text box (click on the icon to the right)

and select “ok”.

Now the column with the times in it should show up on both pages.

Ok, whew, now we’re ready to start editing it to suit our particular schedule.  This is the fun part.  The biggest thing we need to learn here is how to merge cells.  Once you’ve got that, you’re good to go.

Let’s say you do bell work on Monday mornings from 8:15 to 8:30.  No problem, just type “bell work” in that cell (center it if you wish like I did)

But let’s say after that you do math from 8:30-9:00 and then reading from 9:00-9:45.

Highlight the cells you want to merge (in our case from 8:30-9:00)

click on the merge button

It changed that into one whole block of time.

You can do that again for your next block of time

Then label those blocks of time (I like to put my labels at the top so I can write under them).  You can continue doing that for each day’s particular schedule.

You can also merge the times so that they aren’t in 15 minute increments anymore.  I decided that I wanted mine to be in 30 minute increments, so this is what I did.

Highlight the times you want to merge and hit the “merge” button again.  This time, you should get the message you see above.  Hit ok, because it will change that to just say 8:30.

You can center it and move it around however you like

And continue merging your times into whatever increments you prefer.

Depending on your preferences and your schedule, you may want to insert some rows near the “Notes” and “After School” section so that #1 you have more space to write and #2 it fills the page up.  I made my Notes section 2 rows wide and my After School section about 5 rows wide.

The sky is the limit.  By doing your initial table in 15 minute increments, that allows you to block off time any way you need to, even if you day doesn’t fall into nice, neat 30 minute blocks.

Now feel free to change the fonts, shade in or highlight certain rows, whatever.  Just use it however you need to!

Here’s a close up screenshot of mine:

I knew that I was going to use that printable calendar from Kindergarten Works and I guess I just had the font from that calendar subconsciously in my mind when I chose the font for my schedule because after I made the schedule and printed it off, I noticed that it looked very similar to the font of the Kindergarten Works calendar.  I don’t know if we used the exact same font, but it certainly look similar (which makes my plan book look more cohesive and that makes me happy).  So if you want to use the same font as me (bear in mind that it is a little hard to read when used in such a small space), it’s called Wish I Were Taller and you can download it here.

Now, if you’ve stuck around this long, here’s your reward.  I have already created a lesson plan spreadsheet that has the times down the side, days across the top, is formatted to fit on two pages, and the time column is set to show up on both pages.  I’ve also merged the cells of the To-Do column, the Notes section, and the After School section.  And since I’m such a nice person (*wink*) I’m linking it here for you to download.  Which means that you don’t have to go through all those steps of starting it from scratch!  All you have to do is change the times (if your school doesn’t run from 8:15 to 2:45 like mine), merge the cells for each day to match your schedule, and then change the font and/or shading if you want.

You can easily print if off and punch holes in it and then just keep it in a 3-ring binder.  Or you can take it to Staples or some other supply store and get it spiral bound like I did.

All I ask if you use my template is that you give credit where credit is due (i.e. don’t claim this tutorial as your own).  Share this post with your friends, pin it on Pinterest, etc.  And definitely leave a comment if this is something that works for you (or if you have any questions)!

So here you go – click here to download your own customizable lesson plan

I hope you enjoy making your own lesson plan book or scheduler and that it makes your life as an educator just a little bit easier (I also hope this tutorial makes enough sense for you to be able to use it!).

Happy scheduling :)



  1. Thanks for the link back to my blog! Glad you found something that works so well for you :)

  2. Ooh! You know I love a fellow geek! It took me forever to find a lesson tracker book for Ali this year – I should totally make my own next year! Thanks for the idea!

    • I hope it works for you! I’d be interested to see how you use it. I had actually thought when I was making the tutorial that this might be something that could be used for homeschool families, but I wasn’t quite sure how since I don’t homeschool.

  3. I appreciate your attention to detail in this calendar. I also love Excel. We are BFFs. :) It’s interesting to see how different people’s schedules work.

    • I actually thought of you while I was writing this – I figured it would be right up your alley :). I think it’s neat to see all the different schedules, too. It’s amazing how the job/schedule/duties/etc. of librarians look very different from school to school.

  4. Wow! That is legit! I am going to refer back to this again and again! Thanks Caitlin!

  5. Jessica Dickerson says:

    This is truly a B-E-A-U-tiful thing! One question…what did you use to make your cover? I can’t wait to make this for next year!

    • Thank you! I jsut used a piece of pink cardstock. Then when I got it bound at Staples they put a clear plastic cover over the front and a black cover on the back.

    • Thank you! I just used a piece of pink cardstock. Then when I got it bound at Staples they put a clear plastic cover over the front and a black cover on the back.

  6. I absolutely have loved every idea and piece of advice you have put into this collection of posts on teaching! I will be a new teacher this year with Teach For America and am trying to learn everything I can since I don’t have an EDU degree. I appreciate your willingness to share your ideas! THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!!!

  7. Irene Zajac says:

    Thank you so much! I did something similar but never thought to take it to staples to bind it. Great idea.

  8. Thanks for taking the time to do this. I am going to show this to my husband. This is his first year teaching and as a special area teacher (one who is only there Tuesdays and Thursday to boot) finding a planner has been hard. He was going to create one, but trying to find ideas on how to was a bit difficult because of his odd schedule. This is a time saver and great idea.

  9. I love all of this, thank you!!! I’ve taught high school math for the past three years and am transitioning to 8th grade this year – I’m excited for a new challenge but I know I need to be WAY more organized than last year in order to keep up with the more rigorous structures in middle school. Thanks again!!

  10. Penelopixie says:

    Genius, sheer genius! Thank you so much!!!

  11. I love this! I’m hoping to create one for the rest of the year, I’ve been so unsatisfied with my huge binder! Just wondering, did you upload everything to or bring it there printed out to be bound?

  12. Jennifer says:

    Two questions, how many pages is your book and how much did it cost you to get bound at staples? Did you print it yourself and just have them bind it?

    • I really don’t remember how many pages – maybe around 100? It actually didn’t cost me anything because the Staples people messed it up a little bit so they didn’t charge me. However, I have gotten other things bound in the past and it has cost about $3-$4. Yes, I printed the pages and then took it there for them to bind.

  13. Thank you for this tutorial! I’ve always dabbled in Excel and do my own custom pages for all kinds of purposes (but mostly teaching related). The tweak with “repeat columns” was entirely new to me. Thanks!!

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