Every veteran teacher has tips that save time in the classroom. Over the years, I have worked with new teachers and observed many lessons in the classroom. Here are some of the tips that these teachers have used to become more productive.
Minimize Classroom Disruptions
Use a seating chart. Seating charts are shown to reduce classroom management problems by 30%. I change the seating chart each 4-6 weeks so students have the opportunity to work with different students.
At the beginning of the year, using a seating chart also helps me learn names quicker. I print the seating chart with their picture so I can match name/face. The seating chart also becomes helpful when doing quick assignment completion and participation.
Tip1: Use a seating chart on a clipboard that can be carried around to take attendance. This makes taking attendance in less than a minute.
If you have students who seem to have conflict or are too talkative, then make a note. When you change the seating chart, make sure these students are in different groups.
This is the area where many teachers spend their time. My philosophy is classwork is graded on a complete/non completed assignment. It is not graded on accuracy. When students are learning they make mistakes and should not be penalized.
Tip 2: Scan not dwell. I scan for completion, and look at progress in learning toward our goals.
Tip 3: Use lots of formative assessment in the classroom. I check the warm up every day to see the misconceptions, then review before the lesson begins.
I do multiple examples and guided practice, checking as students work to determine if we can move on or need more examples. The exit ticket reviews what we learned. I am never surprised by the quiz and test scores.
Tip 4: Not everything needs a grade. It is not necessary to grade every single assignment. Use representative assignments that show student progress towards goals.
This is the one area where teachers usually have a firm stance one way or another. You have to do what makes you comfortable, however it is not feasible or even necessary to grade line item on every single paper and still remain sane.
I try not to collect paper. One way to avoid paper is to use the seating chart to check off work as it is completed. No need to touch it, just check it and check off.
Tip 5: If your grading program has a student roster, you can use this as a check off list for the week. Just put it on your clipboard and use it to record completed work.
If you have something that requires saving, get some hanging folders, place in a bin with a lid and store under a desk. If you have papers that need to be kept private, they need to go in a file cabinet or in a drawer.
Students will be absent and you need to decide what system you will use. If you are using an online system such as Google Classroom to post lessons, links and agendas, then make sure these assignments remain open for absent students.
Tip 6: Each day, use the seating chart to note which students are absent and place the daily work in a folder for them.
Tip 7: If the work is digital, print a copy of the daily agenda and place in the folder for the student.
Tip 8: If students miss a quiz or test, I print a copy of the assessment, write the student name and place in a separate folder and store in a teacher desk drawer. This maintains the integrity of the assessment but is organized for student make ups.
If you are using a blend, then as you take attendance, put the absent students’ name on any papers and place in a class folder. You can keep these folders in a hanging system on the wall, in a bin, in a tub or in a desktop file where students can access them when they return. It is easier than having to stop and pass out missing work.
You may not agree, but many teachers (nearly every one I have ever known) are hoarders. I think it is because if we get rid of something we do not need this year, next year we may need it and have to purchase it again.
Tip 9 : Pare your supplies to reasonable levels and if you have more than this, share with a colleague or pack it up and take it home.
Tip 10: Make an inventory at year end of what supplies you have and what you may need for the next year.
If you make an inventory and note what you have actually used during the year, it will be easy to see what you need to replenish without over buying.
Tip 11: Have a table at the entrance to the room for students to pick up supplies as they enter.
Use baskets to store like supplies. In my classroom I have a basket of colored pencils, markers, protractors, scissors, etc. When you need the supplies, pull the basket out and place on a table where students can access. At the end of the day, put them away.
Note: If you pack it up and take it home and do not open the box, then review the contents and donate.
Emergency evacuation plans, supplies and extra copies of seating charts should be kept in a binder on the teacher desk clearly labeled. In case of a real emergency, having all the information available will be a blessing.
Tip 11: Print student rosters by class period with student ID and home phone number. This will make any paperwork easier if you have this information.
Tip 12: With my emergency supplies that I take when we evacuate I always have a supply of jolly ranchers or suckers and some type of sponge activity in case we are outside for an extended time.
Emergency Lesson Plans
We are all going to miss a day of class. Sometimes it happens quickly and we need a plan. Create a system where you have some type of lesson plan that can be used easily without a lot of preparation or supervision. Make plans for 3-5 days and have the copies ready with any materials.
Tip13: worksheets in foundational skills can be used for several units because students always need more practice.
For example if you are teaching Algebra, have some activity that reviews solving equations. Students always need practice with this. You can vary the type of activities: have a coloring sheet, riddle sheet, maze, partner activity, etc.
Tip 14: As copies are used, replenish your supply with different lessons.
You can either have a separate sub binder or combine with your emergency binder. The sub binder should have everything a substitute would need to be successful for the day: Seating charts, Classroom rules, Bell Schedules, Phone listings, School Map, etc.
Tip 15: Ask a sub what they would need to be successful to have a great day.
I wrote a blog about having a sub binder here with more detail. Check it out for more information: https://bluemountainmath.com/preparing-students-for-a-sub/
Next Day Preparation
Before you leave at the end of the day (and especially at the end of the week), pull out the lesson and materials for the next school day. Even if you are a morning person, we sometimes cannot control traffic, morning interruptions or last minute changes. Having everything prepared will relieve stress and save your sanity.
Tip 16: When you prepare lesson materials, place in a hanging folder labeled with the days of the week. Store in a bin or file cabinet.
I’d love to hear about your tips for future updates to this post. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop a comment below.