When I was teaching in a fourth-grade classroom, it seemed like there was always something to do and never enough time to do it. From the first ring of the bell, I felt like I was racing against the clock to accomplish all the tasks on my to-do list. I must have looked stressed out because a colleague noticed and warned me about teacher burnout. She suggested implementing a few classroom hacks that would help me save time—and my sanity. After looking online and talking with colleagues, I found three efficient and effective classroom hacks that save time and help me manage my classroom more effectively.
1. Assign Students Numbers
Assigning each student in your class a number is the easiest and most effective classroom hack that I've come across. These numbers can be used on your students' textbooks, worksheets, homework, cubbies, and tablets. You can also have students line up according to their number or count off when you need a head count on a field trip or at recess. If a student is missing a book, you can easily look at the number inside. Assigning numbers will even help avoid the missing name crisis on homework papers. Whether you're adding your students' numbers to their worksheets before you hand them out or asking students to include them on their own, jotting down numbers instead of full names takes a fraction of the time.
Further reading: The 3 Biggest Classroom Time Management Killers
2. Create a Weekly Plan
While you may have thought you were good at planning before, this classroom hack will help you prepare ahead for an entire week. When you plan a week out in advance, not only will it help you save time, it will also help you be prepared if you were to have an unexpected sick day. All you need is a plastic five-drawer tower and the lesson materials for each day of the following week. You can purchase an inexpensive storage tower at Target, Walmart, or Amazon, and label each drawer with a day of the week. Then place your lesson materials for each day of the week in the corresponding drawer. Gone are the days of you running around the classroom searching for materials. Everything you need will be right in the drawer for that specific day.
3. Implement a "Turn-In Tub"
Much like a homework basket, a turn-in tub is a tub (or basket) that has file folders and is used to store all students' work and notes. Each student receives a file folder with their classroom number (I told you the numbers would be used for everything). When it's time to hand in homework, permission slips, or parent notes, have each student grab their folder from the tub and place their papers in it. This classroom hack is a great way to have all your papers organized and in one place, and it helps eliminate any missing papers from students who forget to write their name or number because everything will be in their folder.
4. Utilize QR Codes
If you and your students love utilizing technology in the classroom, then try using Quick Response (QR) codes. You've probably seen them before. They're the black and white boxes that companies often use as marketing tools, and they're shortcuts to more information about the items to which they're attached. You just scan them with your smartphone or tablet, and they're easy to create and use in your classroom.
Display a QR code at open house for parents to easily pull up contact information, or place them next to student artwork for viewers to learn more about the piece. Support struggling readers by linking audio recordings of the text to a QR code. You can even use them for collaborative book reviews, where students record what they think of a book after they've read it and then create a QR code to share their review with the class. The best part is that you can create a QR code for any of these purposes using a free generator tool. It's that easy.
Further reading: Save Time by Using Technology in the Classroom
While you may never see the end of your to-do list, these time-saving classroom hacks can help you get close. They were a lifesaver for me, giving me more time to teach, rather than manage, students. What are your favorite classroom hacks?