Monday, February 4, 2013

Top Ten Teacher Time-Savers

Imagine leaving school while it is still light can happen.  Since I had children of my own, I had to figure out some ways to organize my classroom so I am no longer spending hours upon hours after school preparing lesson plans, making copies, grading, and even cleaning up.  This post is my favorite ten tips to keeping a classroom organized so teachers can actually spend some time during the school week outside of their classroom :)

1. Create your own lesson plan template.  I know this seems like a minor change, but it saves probably 15 minutes a week which adds up to 450 minutes for each school year!  This way you don't waste time writing in your daily routine and times etc.  It's also a huge life saver if you have emergency sub plans because the times are always ready to go.  Here's an image of my lesson plans:

2. Plan for units at a time instead of lessons.  I try to plan for one unit each week (for example maybe reading the first week of the month, writing the second week, science the third, etc) This way I can get all copies ready to go.  When all copies are ready to go, I file them into the subject drawers so all I have to do is pull the materials I need.  Easy-peasy :)

3. Make planning for the week easy.  Just pull from the subject drawers into the daily drawers on Fridays.  This way, when it's time to plan for the next day most of the materials are ready to go.

4. Simplify the day-to-day planning with routines. I use the workshop model so the structure of each lesson is pretty much the same.  Whether it's reading workshop, writing workshopmath workshop,  or word work time I just need to plan for the quick lessons and rotate the groups.  To make it even easier, I use post-it notes instead of vis-a-vis for quick directions for the students.  It takes almost no time at all!

5. Get help!  There are so many things that others can do.  It's hard for the perfectionist in me, but sometimes we have to let go of the small stuff (ex. hanging bulletin boards that are perfect) in order to make room for the big stuff (more time with my family). I have a volunteer bucket in my room and determined weekly volunteers to help .  I keep this bucket filled with copies to make, things to hang up or take down, lists of materials to collect, lists of books to check out, etc.
6. Make collecting papers easy!  My students sit in teams of four and each student has a team number.  When it's time to collect papers, I will say something like "Student number 4, please collect papers for your team."  These students know to turn in all papers so that they are all facing the same way, they only collect papers with student names at the top, and any students who are not they immediately report it so I can make a note on the Oops Board.  Students are on the Oops Board until their work is turned into the Oops Box.  They might need time during study hall/ Friday fun to finish.  Here is an image of my Oops Board:

7. Put the kids to work!  This is their classroom too and it takes a whole group to make a classroom work effectively.  My students each have a classroom job to do everyday.  They love it because they get paid (and can spend their money at our quarterly shops for an economics simulation).  While every job is important, there are some I depend on more so those jobs are on the right side of this chart so it's easy to know who is responsible for those jobs.  On Friday afternoons, I rotate the jobs so kids start fresh. Download this FREE chart here!

8. Determine one day a week to either stay late or arrive early.  Commit to it.

9. Make time for student reflection on their work.  I believe that the person noticing the mistakes (doing the grading) is the person fixing the mistakes.  I work with students during mini lessons, focus groups, and whole group lessons to grade their own practice papers.  This is a great time to collect formative data too.  I always cringe when I see teachers bring huge piles of papers home to grade because I know students won't even look at their mistakes and teachers spent their entire night doing work that students should be doing for themselves.  I still take tests home to grade so I can collect data on student achievement, but practice work never comes home with me. NEVER.

10. Last, use technology wisely.  I love technology and use it daily.  There are so many tools out there-- too many.  It's important to know what tools exist so I have several websites that I use to stay current, but I don't teach (or even learn) all of them.  When I think a student could benefit from a specific tool, I let the student explore the tool and become the classroom expert.  This directory has a list of our classroom experts on everything from scanning, to uploading documents, to working on Web 2.0 tools.  I don't need to spend time after school scanning in documents for my students for their digital portfolios because my classroom expert can teach any student (and many times other teachers) how to use a tool. 

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What is your favorite time saving tip?

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  1. These are wonderful ideas! I have one of those storage drawer units in my house and it's empty! Now I will put it to good use in my classroom!
    Thank you!

  2. Great ideas. I also learned this year to go ahead an make my copies for the week. It cut back on so much time. Now, you have motivated me to do this weeks at a time!

  3. I love this post-such useful ideas! I really do need to make some sort of basket of work for volunteers to do even though sometimes it is hard to let go of certain things! I also LOVE the Oops board. Such a quick and easy way to see who still has to turn in what and a great individual reminder to the student as well!

  4. I teach French & Spanish. Because. I have 4 levels of French, and 1 of Spanish, I have to prepare many lessons like an elementary school teacher. I recommend using binders. I have made a binder for each unit, with all the materials, hand outs, web sites noted, quizzes I have prepared, etc. the first year is a bear, but after that, you reuse or tweak lessons which are already made.

  5. I love this blogpost. The first time-saver is something i've been doing the last 3 years. But i've made a book of it, so i can plan onther activities or tests as soon as i know the date, might be a good idea, no? Lots of hugs from Belgium! Evy

  6. For those who want to embrace technology, Windows Office program of OneNote is a binder with unlimited number of sections, with unlimited number of pages of unlimited length. I use it for lesson planning, so all the links and sources are hyperlinked right there, ready for me to copy into the day's agenda on PowerPoint. Since I'm a language teacher, it also helps me keep track of cool images and videos that I run across, by putting them right into OneNote at the right unit.

  7. Hi! I really enjoyed your post. I especially love the idea of student reflection of their work. This is my first year teaching, and I am teaching 3rd grade, and I hate to grade everything, and then send home because I know wit doesn't get looked at. So, how do you go about having the students review their work? I know you mentioned a few different things, but would you mind elaborating? Do you put these assignments in the garbed after they have reflected? Thank you!