Nerdy Teacher Talk: Lesson Plans, Google Docs, and the Common Core


Skip this post if you’re not a teacher. I know most of my readers are runners, but a few of you are teachers, so I wanted to share this idea. For non-teachers, this post is going to be VERY long and VERY boring. Heck, it might even be boring for teachers, but I had fun writing it.

One of the reasons the blog is called “Running on Fumes” is because I feel like I am, always, running on fumes. In order to balance family, working full time, running, and Facebook (haha), I need to be organized. I have “plans” for loads of things: meals (you’ve seen those), laundry, Evan’s homework time, letting out the dog, etc. Maybe “schedule” is a better word. For example, I check my e-mail, blogs, and/or Facebook in the morning while I eat breakfast. Until 6:55. At 6:55, I head to the bathroom to do my hair and make-up. If I’m not finished eating by that time (usually I am), then I take my cereal and coffee in there with me.

It should come as no surprise, then, that at work, I have plans, too. All teachers have lesson plans, of course, so that’s nothing remarkable. Lesson planning can be very time consuming, though. Back when I first started teaching eleven years ago, I learned that typing out lesson plans was the way to go. There are two main reasons I prefer typing them vs. using the typical lesson plan books: 1) I can type WAY faster than I can write, and 2) It’s much easier to make changes/move things around. By hand, you’d have to erase and re-write, but on the computer, I can just copy and paste. I’ve been typing lesson plans on a very simple spreadsheet since my first year of teaching. I use them right off the computer now, but I used to have a principal that wanted them on our desk at all times, so I’d print them off and put them in a three-ring binder.

Last year, I attended a training in which we learned to use Google docs. I certainly am not a pioneer here–Google docs have been around forever. Now, my lesson plans are on a Google spreadsheet. I can log into my school Google account from anywhere and work on my plans (or any other thing I’m working on). I LOVE it. I can also share documents with others, but I will get to that in another post. Today, I want to talk about my lesson plans.

Here is my blank “template” worksheet for my lesson plans. It already contains all of the formatting and formulas I need. There are a few things typed in already because I do the same thing most weeks on those days. Click the images to view them larger in another window.


To start a new week, I simply duplicate this “blank” worksheet and rename it as the date of the Monday of that week (or first school day). You can duplicate worksheets by clicking the little arrow next to the worksheet title. Once you create the copy, you click the same little arrow on your copied worksheet to rename it.


Then, I type in all my plans for the week. No school this week on Monday–woohoo!


This year, we are starting to use the Common Core. My district is just in the beginning stages and I am not expected to be labeling my plans with them yet. However, I know myself–if I don’t force myself to use the standards, I won’t learn them. They will just sit on my desk in the pile of “read in my free time” stuff. Except I really don’t have free time at work so that stuff rarely gets touched. If I want to learn something, I need to just dive in and do it. If I spend too much time jumping on the end of the diving board and thinking about diving, it just gets more and more intimidating. I need to dive in before I have time to think much about it. By the time I realize how overwhelming and scary it is, I will have already taken the plunge. So, I am going to start labeling my plans this year with the standards.

It didn’t take me long on Google to find an Excel version of the English-Language Arts (ELA) Common Core. I was able to import that into a Google spreadsheet and then slap it right onto my lesson plans worksheet. I duplicated it three times and now I have actually four worksheets at the bottom of my plans for the Common Core: one 7th grade, one 8th grade, one 6-10 (the grades above and below mine) and one K-12. This way, I can easily click back and forth to those without opening an additional document. I deleted the info I didn’t need on those worksheets–for example, on the 7th grade one, I deleted everything but 7th grade standards. It’s so much easier to have a page of just one grade level at a time when you’re trying to label lesson plans.

To the right of each lesson, there are three standards boxes. The reason there are three is because most lessons/activities incorporate more than one standard, and I did not want to put more than one standard in each cell. I’ll explain why in a bit. When I click on one of the little “standards” cells, there is a little arrow to the top right of it. By clicking on that, I can view a list of all of the standards for my subject area at that grade level. They aren’t all showing here–the list scrolls. I did this by right-clicking the cells and using “conditional formatting”. Then, I selected a drop-down list and for the range, I selected the standards on the appropriate grade-level worksheet that I mentioned in the previous paragraph.


Here are my final lesson plans with all of the standards filled in. Clearly, the cells themselves just show the numbers of the standards, but if you click on those cells, the full standard shows in the bar at the top of the screen. Here, it says: “Research to Build and Present Knowledge…”


I will admit, it did take me a few hours to set this all up and create my first set of plans. However, it is going to take less time every week from here on out. It will be as simple as making another duplicate of the “blank” worksheet for next week and typing in my plans for the week, just as I’ve been doing the last eleven years.

Here’s the cool part: at the end of the quarter (or more frequently), I’ll be able to create a new worksheet with a function that will allow me to tabulate how many times I’ve taught each standard. Then, I can look at what I still need to teach and what I’m overteaching. This is the reason I didn’t want more than one standard per cell–I wanted it to tabulate each standard separately. My nerdy teacher freak flag is flying high.

If you have done something cool with your lesson plans and/or the Common Core, I’d LOVE to hear about it! If you’d like more info on what I did here, I’d be happy to explain in more detail if you have questions.

Happy lesson planning!

Update: Due to the overwhelming interest in this spreadsheet, I have added it to Teachers Pay Teachers here for only $3. Trust me, I put waaaaay more than $3 of work into this thing. ELA CC Weekly Lesson Planning Template

41 thoughts on “Nerdy Teacher Talk: Lesson Plans, Google Docs, and the Common Core

  1. I can’t believe nobody else has commented on this……I am so impressed! If I was not retiring soon, I would be all over this…..may even still attempt just because it is so darn cool!

  2. Glad to be of help! :) Let me know if you are struggling with anything else non-subject specific and maybe I can help. After 11 years I’ve worked out a kink or two.

  3. I am working on a similar set up. To compensate for not being able to see the whole standard in my drop down, I added the Common Core app widget from Mastery Connect to my lesson plan page. I can pop it out and read the standards much more easily that way.

    I’m sure there must be a better way–that’s just my current workaround.

  4. Hi,
    Looking for a solution to our school collaborative planning, I stumble upon your post (we use google docs).
    This seems like a master piece you gave created! And it would be free for our school to use (collaboratively).

    Would it be possible for you to share it ? So I could take a look and see if that would fit us.

    Thanks!
    Sebastien (3rd and 4th grade teacher)

          • Got it (later today)!.
            Thanks so much!

            I tried to find the CCSS like you from an xls doc, but did not find one that was as neatly organized as yours. Do you have the math like that ?

            I am using your plan to make one for the week, for elementary.

            I also just stumble upon this site:
            http://www.commoncurriculum.com/
            which seems to fit perfectly into what you are doing!
            S.

          • Hi! I’m the founder of Common Curriculum, the site Sebastien mentioned. I taught in Baltimore City Schools for 4 years and I found myself making templates like yours (mine were never as good, though).

            I created Common Curriculum because even with the best templates, I couldn’t do things like:
            - write units and reorder them without changing the dates for ALL my lessons
            - share my units and lessons with colleagues so they could leave comments. (I never tried Google Docs, though — this would have helped.)
            - write a weekly plan and then see those lessons on the month calendar.
            - reorder lessons on the month calendar and then see those changes reflected in the week calendar.

            When we were building Common Curriculum, we did something else which saves a ton of time: We made it possible to publish parts of a lesson plan on a class website, so planning and parent/communication is one step, not two.

            It also has Common Core standards search (just like your templates). I’d love to hear what you think of it! I’d especially love to hear your ideas on how we could make it even better!

  5. I’d love a copy of your template! I’m new-ish to 7th grade teaching and need to get busy citing CCSS (and not AZs anymore this year.) Thanks! :)

  6. You have done so much work! It looks like it has paid off and provides many ways to easily link the Common Core State Standards.

    Would you mind sharing your work? I would greatly appreciate it.

  7. I am about to start my last semester of student teaching and this is EXACTLY what I was looking for! I would really appreciate a copy as well!

  8. As planning is starting for the new year we are all trying to get a grip on the “new” Common Core way of doing things. You are way ahead of the game. I would love to try your template if you would be willing to share! Thanks.

  9. I too am trying to create a google sheet format for this exact CC challenge. However, I am expanding it across k-5 as I teach all grade levels. I am going to create a template (hopefully) that will allow a drill down based on previous drop down list selections.

    Ex:
    Select: ELA
    Select: Grade 3
    Select: Strand
    Select: Cluster
    Select: Standard

    Can you send me the template that you are utilizing?

    • I’m not sure if you can do that or not. I only know how to do one drop-down at a time. There are, however, great tutorials online if you search for them. That’s how I found out how to do the drop-downs in the first place.

  10. Does the template have high school ELA common core standards? If so could I see the template or review it?

    Thanks! You are amazing! I wish I had the time to even figure out how to do this!

  11. I’s also be interested in the HS ELA template. This is amazing, btw. I WANT to be this well-prepared. Working to get there.

  12. I am trying to figure out how to help the teachers in my district be able to do this in as simple a way as possible and this is the only one I have found so far that might do it. Please share with me and if I am able to improve I will share back. Thank you for your work.

  13. I have been trying to wrap my head around doing my lesson plans on google docs. You have done an amazing job. I would appreciate it if you could share your template with me.

  14. Your work is awesome! Our K-8 district is going Google this upcoming school year. I would love a copy of your template too if you are willing to still share it. Please and thank you. Do you think the template would work for a multiple subject teacher as well?

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