Watch me explain these tips in my YouTube video or read about them below!
1. Create a Beginning of the Year Checklist - List everything you need to do before the
school year begins. Be as specific as possible (i.e. Make student mail folders using 10"x13" manila clasp envelops). Save the file titled with the current year and do a "save as" each year with the new dates. This way you can just make a few edits to your list and won't have to remember all the details from the prior year. It is also great for spreading the work out over the summer where you can easily see what's on the list and chip away at it little by little instead of getting bogged down with to-dos come August! Click on the image for a free editable
beginning of the year checklist.
2. Keep a "How To" folder on your computer - It was always so frustrating to me when I would go to do something and couldn't remember how I had done it before so I'd have to relearn it! Well I finally got smart and made myself (or found on-line) mini-tutorials whenever I did something that I knew I might need to do again but it would be a while. For example, I created mini-tutorials on how to create a poster in Power Point or how to remove the white background from an image, or how to renew my teaching certificate. So the next time I would need to do something and thought, "How did I do that again?" I could just go to my "How To" folder and save myself a TON of time!
3. Create Jing video tutorials for yourself and/or your co-workers - Jing is a free program you can download that allows you to record your voice along with your computer screen (called screencasts). Since I am a visual learner I would often create a short video tutorial on how to do something like create a filter in gmail. When our school switched over to using Gmail, I put together several short video tutorials for the teachers (how to create a custom signature, creating filters, labels, group emails, changing your password, etc.) and posted them on our school's website.
4. Create a shared Google calendar for your computer lab schedule - Maybe you already have a way for teachers to sign up for times to use the computer lab but at our school the sign up sheet was on the door! This worked fine if you did your planning at school but I always liked to do mine at home. A shared Google calendar became a great solution as we could now access it from home to sign up for times. It also works great because you can use it during the day if students get their other work done early. With a quick check to see if the computer lab is available, you can head right down and not waste any valuable time!
5. Keep a lost and found basket in your classroom - My last year teaching I had all boys. That's right I had a class of ALL boys, there were NO girls :( And these boys were like brothers since they had been together since kindergarten. I don't want to stereotype here but these busy boys seemed to have a hard time keeping track of things. This (picture below) actually happened one day! "Mrs. S., I can't find my pipe cleaner!" Of course my first thought was, "Oh, well have you checked the light switch?" Haha! No, it wasn't until we lined up for music class that I spotted the missing pipe cleaner. Why wouldn't he have placed it on the light switch while sharpening his pencil?!!! The lost and found basket became a very helpful tool! Click here for a free lost and found label.
6. Use a color-coding system for important papers - This one is more of a help for
students and parents. I used a color-coding system for my students papers. For example, review sheets for tests were always printed on yellow paper to symbolize, "Warning, test is coming soon!" I had a one page, "Here's what you missed while you were absent/sick" sheet printed on green paper (Can you guess why I chose green paper for this one? :) Orange was used for my weekly newsletter, purple for projects and tan for school events and field trips. I pretty much used white for everything else as I didn't want to use up too much of the colored paper but you could continue this theme and do one color of paper for homework or pick different colors for different subject areas or whatever else you come up with. Make sure you explain your color-coding system to parents at your back-to-school night (I made a simple color-coding key for them to take home). I really like color-coding because students can quickly find important papers instead of wading
through a pile of white papers to find what they need.
7. Keep an extra set of text books at home – Duh! This one is a no brainer so hopefully you already do this! When I first started teaching I would haul the books I thought I might need for planning the next day’s lesson back and forth from school to home. What a pain! I ended up buying one of those bags on wheels to haul everything. I taught at a small school that didn’t have the budget to purchase an extra set of books for me to keep at home. I did however have a few text books at home which proved to be very helpful! If you don’t have an extra set of books to keep at home you may want to ask your administration to provide some for you.
8. Take time to write lesson reflections at the end of each day – This one may take you a
little extra time each day but it will save you SO much time in the long run!!! Remember sticky notes are your friends! Take 5-10 minutes at the end of each day to reflect on what went well, what you would change if you were to do it over, how your students responded, etc. Slap that little sticky note on your lesson plan (or write directly on it) and next year when you go to teach that lesson you will be so happy you did! I can’t tell you how many times I would teach the same lesson from year to year and each year I would think, “How did I do that again?” Or half way through the lesson you remember that it worked better using a different kind of paper or whatever. Trust me, it’s worth the 5 extra minutes each day! If you want to have neat looking sticky notes, here is a free template you can use to print on them.
9. Keep a bin of “extras” – If you are like me you run off a few extra copies of papers just in case a student misplaces one. I kept a bin of “extras” on my back table so that if a student lost their homework assignment they (or I) could search through the bin to find a replacement instead of having to walk down the hall to the teacher’s lounge to make a new copy every time! Another idea I saw once in a high school resource room was to have a wall with pockets for each subject area that contained assignments. Students could easily find what they needed and grab an extra copy. Click here for a free extras label.
10. Run off ALL copies needed for the week on the Friday prior - Use bins labeled with each day of the week to store your copies. And don't forget to make a few extra copies for your "extras" bin.
11. Use sticky flags to indicate “Last Copy – Don’t Use” – I had a create of file folders filled with logic puzzles for students to work on in their free time. A great time saver is to attach a sticky flag to the last copy. If a student grabs the last one and see the flag they bring it to their teacher to run off more copies. This way you know when more copies need to be made and you don’t have to go back to the book, find the page you need and make your copy. *Update: A few people left comments and said they use a yellow highlighter to write "Last Copy" on the page as it won't show up when
you copy it in black and white!
12. Make samples of projects BEFORE you have students do them - Your projects will run so much smoother if you have a sample for students to reference as they work. If you absolutely don’t have time to make a sample before doing the project with students, then make sure you keep a student's sample to use for the following year.
13. Keep a pad of paper and a pen next to your bed – Have you ever come up with a great idea while you were in bed trying to sleep and then can’t remember it in the morning? Ever have difficulty sleeping because you can’t stop thinking about all the things you need to get done? Well, I've found that if you keep a pad of paper and pen next to your bed you can write down that great idea or make a to-do list. Now instead of losing sleep trying to remember everything that needs to be done, you will sleep like a baby with no worries of forgetting something important. At least this works for me! I came up with half of these tips this way (and am copying them from my note as I type).
14. Use Pre-Assessments – Have you ever attended a conference in anticipation of learning something new on the topic but instead found that you already knew everything the speaker spoke about? Did you leave feeling frustrated that you just wasted a few hours of your time? If the speaker had simply taken five minutes to survey the participants to assess their prior knowledge he/she may have avoided being redundant and you may have actually gotten something out of his/her speech! The same is true for our students. They will get bored listening to something they already know. Now there are some cases where repetition is important (like in memorizing) but if students are not being challenged in other areas they will tend to get bored just as you or I would in the above mentioned conference. Solution? Give your students the 5 hardest problems first. If they are able to answer them correctly (and explain themselves) you can provide them with an alternative (more challenging) assignment. If the entire class knows all the answers then you may just want to skip that lesson and move on to the next! I would do this with math problems and spelling word lists. Some weeks I had students who would do a completely different list of spelling words and others who would have a few extra challenge words on their lists.
15. Don’t re-invent the wheel – And finally my last tip is don't re-invent the wheel! In my first year teaching I did not have the curriculum I needed and so I would spend hours searching the internet for ideas and resources to piece together activities for my students. Well you no longer have to do that because of TpT and Pinterest! If you are a teacher and not using BOTH of these sites yet, you need to start RIGHT NOW!!! I can't tell you how many hours these two website would have saved me when I was teaching! To have other teachers create awesome resources for your students to use (TpT) and to have a place to gather fun teaching ideas or organizational tips (Pinterest) is priceless!
I hope you have enjoyed reading my 15 time-saving tips for teachers and that they will truly help you save time!