Allen F. Morgenstern first said “work smarter, not harder” in the 1930s, but it is a phrase that resonates with teachers across the nation still today. With all the work that teachers have to do, they are often looking for ways to save time in the classroom. Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to organize your time and help streamline your workload, no matter at what level you teach.
One of the best ways to utilize your time effectively in the primary grades is to check work as students progress through their problems. Because primary assignments are typically simplistic, it is easy to walk around and grade activities as students work. This also provides an excellent time for teachers to provide immediate feedback, so that students can correct their mistakes.
Upper Elementary Grades
Students in grades three through five often enjoy helping out in the classroom and are often responsible enough for more complex chores. Small jobs can also help teach life skills and build confidence in students as they complete tasks. A classroom job or chore chart can be used to track weekly chores for students. These tasks may range from picking up papers off of the floor, passing out papers, putting books away onto the bookshelf, and taking papers to the office.
It is important to note that students should not be asked to use cleaners that could harm them or participate in tasks that are not age appropriate. It is also a good idea prior to initiating a chore chart to send home a note explaining how chores are used in the classroom and what chores students will be asked to perform so that parents can grant permission for their child to participate in the classroom jobs.
Middle School Grades
Since middle school class sizes are often larger than elementary classes, a quick way to organize student work and check for missing assignments is to assign students numbers. The teacher can then quickly put all the papers collected in numerical order which will allow the teacher to see who has not turned in the assignment and this also makes recording the grades quicker as grades will go in the grade book in order.
As students begin to write more and complete lengthier tasks, grading can become very time-consuming. Teachers who use rubrics rather than grading every single entity of an assignment can lessen their time grading while still paying attention to important details. For instance, in a writing an assignment, a teacher may decide to focus on topic sentences and key details. This can be explained in a rubric while minor grammatical errors might be overlooked on this assignment. Grammar might then become the topic of a section of the next rubric if the teacher notices a trend in student work.
Students in high school can easily utilize an online platform such as Canvas, Google Classroom, or any other virtual classroom software to work through assignments and complete tasks which can be graded online. While this does not take the place of live instruction and teacher feedback, it is a time saving technique that can be used during part of the class time.
Multiple Grade Levels
No matter what grade students are in, there are some tricks of the trade that assist in saving time for teachers. For instance, class routines are highly effective in saving time for all teachers. If work is on the desk and students know the routine of entering the class, putting their personal items away, and getting started on their desk work, time is not wasted. In addition, once students are settled and working, the teacher can then take roll without having to first quieten the class and then waste time calling students’ names.
If taking roll and getting a lunch count is part of your start-of-class routine, save time by having a chart where students move their name to their lunch choice item. This chart could be on a wall, magnetic board, or interactive board. The teacher can then quickly look to see who is absent and how many students brought their lunch or selected each lunch choice without having to call roll and wait for student responses.
Another time saving technique for any classroom is organization. When a teacher wastes time looking for a stack of papers, a lesson plan, or even a computer file, it can be very frustrating. Taking the time at the start of the year to set up a classroom that is user-friendly can help the teacher save time throughout the school year. Hanging files can sort papers for each class period, the use of tabs and folders on the computer and even filing emails for quick retrieval are all ways systematize your documents.
Work and assessments can be easily graded when online platforms such as Google Forms, Socrative, Kahoot, and other formative assessment software are utilized. Not only do these aid the teacher by grading assignments as they are completed, students will be more engaged and enjoy the game-based response systems. In addition, some of these platforms will track and compare student answers for data analysis. Teachers can quickly see what skill was missed by many and needs to be retaught and can find trends in answers as well.
Finally, a key component in saving valuable time for teachers is collaboration. Collaborate with others on lesson planning, creating assessments, and even on techniques they use to save time in their own classroom. There is great power in working cooperatively with peers.