Teaching with OneNote – a quick-start way to set up your class notebook

teaching with OneNote

Having done distance learning for approximately a year, I like teaching with OneNote. With many districts going back to school online, teachers are thinking about how they want to share materials, assignments, and lessons with their students. There are many options out there – but how do you know which one is the right one for you?

The first consideration is what platform your district uses and which options you have available? If your district uses a learning management system – Schoology, Canvas, Blackboard – then that is obviously what you want to use. If your district uses Google classroom or Microsoft 365, those are what you would choose. My district is a Microsoft district, and we are expected to use Teams for our learning, in conjunction with the class notebooks. So for me, teaching with OneNote makes the most sense.

A class notebook can be a boring place to keep word documents and PowerPoints – but it can also be so much more. You can set up your notebook to have video, audio, stickers and more. You can draw right on the pages and leave audio comments for student feedback. But most importantly, you can keep everything in one place to make it easy for your students to work their way through your lessons – whether synchronous or asynchronous.

Setting up your class notebooks for teaching with OneNote

I have set up my notebooks so that one of the sections is called “daily lessons.” Within that section is a page for each day. That page includes the day’s objectives, standards, instruction, and any other information that would be useful. This daily lesson page goes along with a page under another tab – the “homework” tab. Each day has a page devoted to all assignments for that day.

Students can start at the top and work to the bottom – or go in any order they like. They can write directly on the page with the draw tool, or use the type tool. I’ve arranged my daily lessons into sections – grammar, vocabulary, culture, and a section for each of the skills – writing, reading, listening and speaking. We won’t have an assignment for each section each day, but most days we will. Here are some images from my plans: The lesson page:

Teaching with OneNote - a quick-start way to set up your class notebook

The homework page:

Teaching with OneNote - a quick-start way to set up your class notebook

As you can see, teaching with OneNote can make your life easier and more organized – and you can use it with in-person learning OR distance learning. If you’re stuck on how to set up your pages to have nice templates, check out my post on setting up lesson plan templates in OneNote.

Update: downsides of teaching with OneNote

I’m now back to “normal” school and no students are online. I used OneNote for two full years plus the beginning of this year. While it was nice to have things organized, my hope of simply re-using the notebooks each year ended up being a little more difficult than anticipated. This was not a weakness of OneNote, but due to my district changing schedules each year.

The first year of online learning, we had students for one semester, three blocks per semester. So I saw my students every day for 90 minutes over 18 weeks. The second year, We had all 6 classes, but one regular and two block days with each class each week over 36 weeks. This meant that I couldn’t just reuse the notebook, but had to copy/paste things into new pages to fit the new time available. This year, we are doing 6 classes for 36 weeks, with 3 regular days and one block day per class. So again I have to redo things.

I got tired of moving things around. I also don’t like that changes made to a page or an assignment can’t be updated in the students’ copy of the page. My district is also using Canvas, so I thought I’d give that a shot. It turns out that using Canvas is easier than teaching with OneNote because I can easily drag and drop pages and assignments to different modules. If the week goes slower than anticipated, I can drag things to a different week. If my district chooses to change the schedule next year – again – I can easily change things. Grading is also much easier in Canvas.

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