Adventures in Lesson Planning in Accordion Books

There are many benefits to lesson planning digitally:

  • you can copy and paste with a few keystrokes
  • it's easy to e-mail lesson plans to your principal
  • it gives you an excuse to be on your laptop "working"

Unfortunately, digital lesson-planning became very unsatisfying for me.  And after my successful shift to a paper planner, I decided to throw digital caution to the wind and lesson plan on paper.

One of the workshops I took at the Arts and Passion-Driven Learning Institute was called “Unfolding Practice.” The workshop taught us how to use accordion books for planning and reflection. We created an accordion book to collect our notes and thoughts from the institute.


(Note to readers: I had every intention of doodling in the rest of the letters in "ARTS," but I became so engrossed in the actual content of the institute that I stopped doodling.  Please consider not judging me.  Thank you.)

The presenters praised the process of sketching/diagraming/outlining your thinking and reviewing and responding to it.


I loved taking notes and writing in my accordion book! I added stickers, washi tape, and sticky notes. It was very similar to art journaling (which I also love).


At the end of the institute, I had a useful collection of notes and reflections, and I went through and marked action items with yellow stickers.

I enjoyed the process enough to designate accordion books as my Official Digital Lesson Planning Replacement.


I started by putting the Alaska Standards for Literacy in Social Studies in the front for easy reference. Then I made a spread for each content standard and added a learning scale.

The non-linear possibilities of an accordion book make it well-suited to how I lesson plan. I rarely start at the beginning of a unit or semester and work my way through it in an organized manner. Instead, I collect ideas, activities, simulations, etc. from a multitude of sources and patch them together in a way that supports my learning scales.


The above picture shows my initial planning for the Development of the Nation-State in Europe standard (you'll notice an absence of sparkly tape and stickers.  I just couldn't justify requisitioning supplies to make my lesson plans pretty).  I added extra panels of paper as I found additional resources and ideas. I marked the panels with an orange marker to indicate the order (you can kind of see the “1” next to the big blue sticky note on the kraft paper panel).

The panels fold up into the book.  As I come across ideas that relate to any standard, I can add panels to the standard's spread.

As I teach each standard, I will use a different color pen to add notes and reflections.

Stay tuned for updates on the functionality of accordion books as lesson planning devices!

One comment

  1. Sarah Alston says:

    This is so unusual…I’ve never seen lesson plans done this way. How common is it for teachers to forgo the use of computers and digital resources in favor of pen and paper or your accordion method? While it definitely seems more fun, it seems so much more time consuming. Am I missing something?

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