I purchased my first Erin Condren Teacher Lesson Planner in October of 2013. I had stopped using a paper grade book for a few years as it became tedious to write down grades by hand and then input them into our electronic grading system (Power School). However, after researching Standards-Based Grading and attempting to track student progress in a different way, I decided to use both paper and electronic grading systems. The paper grade book allows me to organize student progress and proficiency whereas the electronic grades allow me to report basic grades as required by our school district.
In the past I have used a lesson planning book and separate calendar books to keep track of appointments, meetings, bills, etc. The idea of carrying around three separate books was definitely not appealing.
I researched teacher lesson planners online and randomly came across several reviews for “Erin Condren Teacher Planners.” Up to that point, I had never heard of Erin Condren nor did I realize that these cool and customizable planners existed. These are the premium-deluxe planners for the Type-A and/or ADD-type teachers, mothers, parents, business owners, etc. who need to keep everything organized in one place. Oh, and I really can’t remember things when I type them into my iPhone (I have learned that it is actually necessary for me to physically write down my appointments, lesson plans, etc. in order to really remember these things later- typing just doesn’t always cut it for me). Based on the video reviews I watched and others that I read, these planners sounded perfect for my needs.
I went to the Erin Condren site and browsed the different Teacher Planner options, looked carefully at all of the features of these planners first before making a decision.
Ultimately, I ordered the Viva España- Granada Groove Lesson Planner and customized it with my own cover information. I also added extra Student Checklist pages, a penholder, and a set of the markers.
Here is a detailed description of the lesson planner, as it appears when it first arrives: heavy-duty spiral bound, 2 plastic covers with beautiful artwork and my personalization (all correctly spelled, etc.), an information page, classroom events/ volunteers page, substitute teacher page, birthdays, absent student log pages, graph pages (I used these for notes for various projects I worked on over the school year- like planning our class trip to Spain), year plan, monthly calendars with two extra notes pages for each month (I love these calendar pages because I keep track of meetings, appointments, bills, vacations, etc. all in ONE spot), lesson plan pages, student checklist pages (I added extra ones to mine when I purchased as I taught 5 courses/ three trimesters= 15 different “classes”), notes pages (I used these to keep track of conference notes, parent contacts, etc.), a 2-pocket folder (which didn’t hold up extremely well as I had it packed and used it a lot), a plastic sleeve for important documents, and a little plastic zip pocket which I used for business cards, the cute stickers that were sent with the planner, extra blank thank you cards, etc. The inside page of the back plastic cover has a two year calendar (mine was for 2013-2014).
Here are the pros for my planner in list form:
1) Everything I need is literally in one place and I no longer have to keep three separate planners/ calendars.
2) I don’t lose any of my important information as the year goes on- especially hard copies of conference information, meeting notes, etc.
3) As a high school teacher, there was more than enough room for me to plan detailed lessons for three or more “preps” over the course of three trimesters. Each day is a different color as opposed to each subject/ course being a different color.
4) I used the checklist pages as a grade book. This allowed me to group assessments by standards as opposed to by date and assignment. It was very easy to show the students where they struggled and lacked in proficiency in order to focus their efforts for retesting/ revisions.
5) Stickers!! I love the little stickers that you can use with the monthly calendars for meetings, appointments, conferences, library time, reminders, and extra blank ones too!
Here are the “cons” for this planner in list form:
1) Although the cover is heavy duty plastic, it did bubble up in a few spots rather quickly after using the planner. This did affect the usability but rather the esthetic quality of the planner (just slightly).
2) The tabbed dividers are great but I needed to add my own “extras” like “lesson plans” and “grade book” so I could quickly tab to these frequently-used sections.
3) My biggest complaint is that the student checklist pages are not made of a heavier duty paper. I used these pages a lot and one of them is almost completely ripped out from turning the page back and forth so many times!
4) The removable ruler/ page marker does not fit in the spiral rings very well and it is a real pain to turn the pages when it is attached! I actually took it out several times because I got sick of fighting with it.
5) I would definitely reinforce the outer edge of the folder with some decorative duct tape if you plan to use it often. Mine is torn about halfway down the edge from use.
6) Do not waste your money on the markers. I was sucked in by the cute design thinking they would be really nice quality markers for the price. They dried out rather quickly and were not that special in reality. I think you could spend your money on nice scrap booking markers with fine tips and they would last much longer than these ones. I did purchase the penholder, which held up pretty well but is not an absolute necessity.
7) I contemplated the idea of adding on the matching notepads; but in all honesty I don’t see how they would have possibly fit in this planner. It is already packed full and there isn’t a whole lot of room for any further bulky extras.
8) This planner gets very HEAVY as the year goes on so be sure to remove pages you no longer need or clean out papers that you don’t need to keep with you at all times.
9) I added a really cool Post-It brand plastic pocket with Velcro closures to the inside of the front cover to hold very important documents that I didn’t want to lose (thus the Velcro closures). It was pretty cheap and it has sticky pads to attach it to the cover.
I recently placed an order for my second Erin Condren Teacher Planner this month for next year. I decided to go with the Viva España- Watercolor design this time. I haven’t received it yet (ordered on May 23rd and supposed to be delivered on June 6th– which is another con in my opinion considering that almost everything is shipped super fast these days)! When I do get it, I plan to take some pictures and update this post to compare the new design to my 2013-2014 planner. I really loved the Granada Groove design so I am hoping that the Watercolor design is just as lovely. I traveled to Spain in April of 2014 and the Watercolor cover reminds me of the beautiful Arabic tiles (azulejos) in the Alhambra that we visited in Granada. I couldn’t resist when I saw it this time!