OneNote templates – technological teaching timesaver tools

templatesOver the last few weeks I have had numerous conversations with teachers wanting to save time and it is one of my beliefs that technology should assist with this time saving. At the same time as I have been having these conversations, I’ve also been teaching my classes. Last week I was teaching (or revising?) with my year 9’s on good graphing technique, starting with a hand drawn graph in OneNote. I found myself using the inbuilt grid line background in OneNote, counting the individual squares to make my scale – and without my glasses on this turned out to be very painful in front of the class. I don’t think the students really noticed, but afterwards I reflected that there had to be a better way, that saved me that time. And stress.

It prompted me to have another look at the templates in OneNote and not finding the one I wanted (traditional graph paper with every fifth line a slightly thicker), I set about making my own. I realised, that with templates, here was a perfect example of a technological tool that is a teaching timesaver. Having templates, organisers and backgrounds available at a stylus click means we can use the tools straight away – and reduce the cognitive load of both teachers and students.  You can read more about my thoughts on images and reducing cognitive load in this article.

I make most of my template images in a graphics package outside of OneNote (Microsoft PowerPoint and Adobe Fireworks are favourites of mine), then save the image as a PNG file. Sometimes I also make the graphics within OneNote, then screen capture the OneNote page using the clipping tool, and then save the clipping as a PNG (just right click on the image, and “Save as”). The final way to get the template graphics is to find and download them on the web – using royalty free images are the best bet.

Once you have the graphic, making the page that will become the template is super simple.


  1. I make my templates in a templates section – it just means they are easy to find and share
  2. Make a new page in the section
  3. Give it a title that makes sense (again, it means they are easy to find and share)
  4. Insert the graphic for the template
    Hint: You also may need to reposition the graphic – I like to line up the right edge with the title
    Hint: You may need to resize it by dragging the corner
  5. Right click on the image, then choose the option “Set Picture as Background” – this stops you accidently selecting the image when annotating or typing over it
    Hint: If the “Set Picture as Background” is not available, it means that the image is in a OneNote table cell. To fix this, select the image (not the cell) and cut it (CTRL & X). Now select the OneNote cell and DELETE it. Finally, paste the image (CTRL & V) and now when you right click, the option to “Set Picture as Background” should be available. If it is not, you probably cut the picture and the cell. Try again!

The final step is to turn the page into a template page. Again this is really simple.


  1. Select the page that you want to be a template
  2. From the INSERT menu, choose “Page Templates”. A new menu opens to the right.
  3. At the bottom right of the new menu, there is an option to “Save current page as a template”. Select this, give your template a name (I usually use the same name I gave the page) and save.

Now whenever you want your template it is available in three clicks.

  1. Click Insert
  2. Click Page Templates
  3. Click your template at the right.

Your own technological teaching timesaver tool.

To get you started, here are some I have made – I have just exported my OneNote Templates section. In this file you’ll find a periodic table, graph paper, a Cartesian plane, a world map and some note taking templates. Feel free to use and share as you like.  Here is the file to download:  OneNoteTemplates


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