Wednesday, August 16, 2023

7 Tips to Save Teachers Time in the Classroom

Aloha, my teacher bestie! 🍎

Let's dive right into the topic of something we all wish we had more of : TIME! If only we could trade every minute lost to classroom chaos, the relentless stream of announcements, surprise assemblies, phone calls galore, mandatory faculty meetings, and the ever-mounting admin tasks for a beachside retreat with a fancy coffee (or perhaps a tropical cocktail, depending on your mood).

I totally get it – time is like a magician's disappearing act for teachers. Your to-do list? It’s a never-ending saga that rivals even the longest-running soap opera. But guess what? I'm here to champion the cause of drawing those oh-so-vital boundaries, reclaiming your hours, and letting you head home at a decent time. You deserve those cozy evenings and quality family moments.

Now, hold onto your educator hats because I've got 7 swift and splendid tricks up my sleeve to rescue your time and make your classroom life a whole lot smoother. Ready? Let’s dive in!

1. Focus the First 2 Weeks of School on Classroom Expectations

Explicitly teaching your students exactly what every single procedure should look and sound like in your classroom will make a huge impact on the rest of your school year. Yes- this can be a daunting task that'll take lots of practicing, stopping, and debriefing but trust me, it'll be worth it!

Spending time in the beginning of the year will save you time throughout the year. You will teach and model your students to do thing so that your classroom will run smoothly and efficiently on a daily basis. There will be less chaos, less time needed for transitions and reminders and the teaching will be able to happen since students will know what you expect of them.

Not sure where to begin? Here's a list of ALL the things I made prcoedures for in my own classroom. You can grab the Google Doc here. I'd type it out and use it as a check sheet for teaching students, marking if they've got it down and then also placed a copy in my Substitute Binder.

2. Eliminate or Simplify Homework

Really think through and prioritize what is important when assigning homework. Are students completing the assignments on their own or are parents guiding them through? Are you truly getting a "snapshot" of if the student got it during your lesson? What about the students who don't complete their homework?

What I found over the years were this. The students who needed the most practice were the ones not completing their homework. They were the ones that didn't have the support at home. Plus- when I was assigning homework - it made so much more work for me. I had to sort, grade, file and/or return the papers. Let's not even talk about keeping up with which students were missing what assignment. It just became too much.

Once I simplified what I did for homework - my life was so much easier. You can read more about my weekly homework routine here. I could go on and on about homework but truly, kids work hard all day during school. I think it's important to allow them to go home to be a kid and spend time with family.

3. Use Student Groupings to Simplify Your Life

Divide your students up into 5 different groups. This needs to be posted and known to students which group they are in. You can use these groups for book shopping, 1-1 assessments, grading journals or papers, writing report card comments, etc.

I used these groups to allow students to book shop, that way you only have a few students shopping in your Class Library each day. They'll hold on to those books until the following week.

Reading and writing in student journals can be a time consuming task if you do this daily - especially if you have a large class! Only doing this for 4-6 students a day doesn't take too much time and it'll help you to stay on top of things!

I also use this system for report card comments! It has helped me to always get my comments done early and quickly. I just do a few each day and I'm done in a week's time. Since it's not as daunting - I'm able to stay focused on the task easily knowing I'll be done soon.

4. Use Self Grading Assignments/Assessments

With many publishing companies - they now have online assessments that students can take for their weekly reading and/or math test. By doing this- it'll help to save YOU time on grading. You could also use digital task cards and/or Goole Form quick checks as exit passes for students to complete for you to check for understanding.

Creating your assessments and assignments will take time on the front end, but if you're lucky enough to stay in the same grade, it can save you time year after year. I have a bunch of Math Quick Checks available for 3rd grade that you can find here.

In my class - I did a lot of work in class on white boards and I'd monitor how students solved and ask questions along the way. Then - I'd use some type of exit pass so I could quickly check for understanding. Read more about that here.

5. Make use of Parent Helpers!

Parents are always willing and wanting to help their child's teacher out. There are so many tasks that parents can do to help you get ahead with your to do list. Some of those tasks are:

  • cutting paper towels
  • making xerox copies
  • laminating and cutting (or just laminating if you're OCD about cutting) lol
  • prepping centers
  • labeling class library books
  • reading with kids
  • helping with holiday activities
  • picking up supplies and food for class parties!

6. Empower Your Students with Class Jobs

Not only can class jobs empower students to take initiative and have responsibilities but it can also really help to cut down small tasks for you. Here are some class jobs that can save you time from "busy work"

  • Mail Delivery - this student will be the one to return student work. I had mail boxes so students simply needed to file papers back into each mail box. I had a bin where I'd place papers to be returned. At any time throughout the day when the Mail Deliverer had extra time (sometimes they'd even come in a few minutes early in the morning) they'd pass papers out. If they didn't finish - they'd place it back into the bin.
  • Pencil Sharpener - I've done community pencils AND individual pencils and this job worked for both. Students were never allowed to sharpen pencils during the day (because we all know they'd constantly be needing to sharpen if that was allowed). Instead - I had a pencil sharpener that would sharpen all the pencils.
  • Librarian - I had a simple system where each book was labeled so students knew exactly which bin books would need to be returned to. At the end of the day, the librarian would just do a quick scan of the library to make sure all books were placed back neatly into bins and if any books were NOT in their bin, they'd return it to the correct place. 
  • Teacher's Assistant - I utilized turn in bins called the "Assignment Drop Box". Students placed their work into their folder and would move their clip to the right to signal they've turn in the assignment. My teacher's assistant would go and collect each assignment (check that it's actually there) and move the clip back to starting point. They would then paper clip the assignments (along with the check sheet). The assistant would make a checkmark next to every child that turned in the assignment and would highlight the name of the ones that had missing assignments. This way I could easily follow up. 

7. Find a Grading System that Works for You

First and foremost - keep up with your grading. The longer you let it go - the harder it will be to catch up. I used to like grading multi-page assessments page by page. I felt it went quicker. I'd grade the whole class page 1 and make a note at the bottom corner how many were correct out of the total number of points for that page. I'd continue this way through all the pages.

Teacher bestie, you're not just a timekeeper; you're a time liberator! It's so important to make every moment in your classroom count so that you can spend more time taking care of yourself and your loved ones at home. Let’s embark on a journey to save time, embrace balance, and rock your teacher-life like the superstar you are. 🌟📘

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With Aloha,