Lesson planning in the elementary library

library-lesson-planningPlanning?  Ick.  But it’s made better with one phrase: sticky notes.  These little gems in the school supply aisle are my #1 favorite item to use when teaching and planning in the library.

In writing my weekly lesson plans, I’ve come up with a sticky note-based plan book that I’ve used for the last decade and passed along to numerous librarian colleagues.  Sticky note plan books are quick, small, and respond well to last-minute planning changes.   Because it’s been so well-received, I thought others may like it, too.


This year’s notebook, ready for planning!

Supplies: paper, 1⅜ x 1⅞ sticky notes, computer with Office, printer

First, I chart out my school year in Excel.  With some creative margins, it’s possible to get all 40 weeks of library classes on to two pages.  This makes it easy to see the entire school year in one glance – helpful in planning an entire year.  Along with the exact dates of the year, I include any major school/library events that will keep me from teaching classes: book fair, mid-winter break, etc.

Here is the link to my curriculum_calendar so you can print/make it your own.  Margin settings at the end of the post!

When typing the exact dates of the year, the * is used to denote individual days off of school.  For example: Sep 1*-5 = one day off at the beginning of the week.  Nov 24-28** = two days off at the end of the week.  This prevents repeatedly referencing the master calendar when planning.


One of the two sheets from my 4th grade curriculum notebook. Let’s plan!

Print 6 sets of the pages (1 set for each grade level, K-5), and you’ve got the beginning of a plan book that will organize your entire year.

Next: page protectors.  Slide the charts into page protectors so that you can see each grade level in one fell swoop.  Organize those charts just right (front/back), and you’ll only need 7 protectors for your entire plan book, K-5.  🙂

A plan calendar  from a few years ago.  This is for one grade level!

A plan calendar from a few years ago. This is for one grade level!

I then lay everything out on my dining room table and start planning.  My district has award lessons, ebook lessons, Digital Citizenship lessons, science/SS tie-in lessons…and more.  Write a sticky note for each lesson you need to teach, then decide what week you’ll teach it.  Repeat, repeat, repeat!

AND!  My dear colleague typed out our (very abbreviated) district library lessons using a sticky note template.  Aligned just right and carefully printed onto the mini-sticky notes, these can be placed directly on the planning calendar.  What a time-saving, easy-planning WIN!  (And, if you’re curious about different lessons, let me know.  Our lessons aren’t public, but I’m happy to share.)


An organized planning session!

Now, the best part: when something causes your plans to change (field trips, assemblies, substitutes, etc), you don’t have to rewrite your whole lesson plan!  Just move the sticky notes around, and it’s done!


This year’s 4th grade curriculum after a morning of work. Note the sticky notes on top of the page protector!

This calendar isn’t perfect, but it saves me from rewriting lessons when I find out at the last minute about an assembly/field trip/etc.

Some hints:

I typically plan for the first 3 months ahead of time.  At Thanksgiving, I’ll plan for the next 3 months.  At mid-winter break, I’ll plan for another 6 weeks.  And at Spring Break, I’ll plan for the rest of the school year.  Breaking it up like this makes the task more doable.

Use bright colored paper for your calendar.  This way, it’s easy to find the plans in any notebook.  Also – change colors each year.  This is the year of ORANGE for me!

When you’ve successfully taught a lesson, put the sticky note ON the calendar, UNDERNEATH the page protector.

Got weeks where only 1 class in a grade level will come to library?  Have fun!  Do a special read-aloud, watch book trailers, give book talks, use technology in an extension activity, etc.

TO PRINT THE CALENDAR:  set top/bottom margins at .15, left/right margins at .5, header at .26, footer at .5, center on page horizontally/vertically.

2 thoughts on “Lesson planning in the elementary library

  1. Jennie Pu

    Hi Arika, your blog has a life saver for my first year as a school librarian. I think I’m going to attempt your lesson planning (using sticky notes). You mentioned in this post about sharing your lessons offline. Would love to take you up on your offer. -Jennie

    1. ajdickens Post author

      Hi Jennie, Thanks for visiting and the compliment. It is my pleasure to blog about what I love. The more I’ve taught, the more I realize that I don’t have many reproducible lessons (a la TeachersPayTeachers). Rather, the whiteboard is used weekly to guide and shape the lesson, with most written work being done on very basic paper/sticky notes. If there is anything specific that I can send or clarify, please comment and we can email offline. Happy new year! –arika


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