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Time-Saving Tips for Teachers

Time-Saving Tips for TeachersTeachers work a lot. In fact, many teachers work well beyond their contracted hours grading papers, planning lessons, and overseeing extracurricular activities. Add in trying to spend time with a spouse or raise children and it becomes clear that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. For teachers, anything that can save a little time can be life-changing. If you find yourself giving up sleep or foregoing fun activities to get classroom work done, try some of the tips below to gain a little more margin in your life.

Embrace the 40 Hour Workweek

Many teachers have taken on Angela Watson’s 40 Hour Teacher Workweek which focuses on strategies to help keep school at school and allows teachers to spend more time with their families and friends. There’s always a waitlist to join the latest cohort, but you don’t have to officially join the movement to try it out. Look for Facebook groups and blogs from teachers who have taken on the challenge and start by implementing some of their strategies.

Develop Routines 

The more routines you have in place in your classroom and at home, the less time you have to spend planning. For example, maybe you always teacher grammar on Wednesdays or your students spend every Friday brushing up on their math facts. At home, you can plan to eat pizza every Friday or tacos every Tuesday and be sure to always have the ingredients on hand (or a delivery app on your phone) ready to go.

Stop Reinventing the Wheel

While it’s true that every group of students has different needs, that doesn’t mean that you need to write an entirely new curriculum every year. If you have lessons that have consistently worked well, keep using them rather than trying to come up with something fun and new. And remember that you don’t have to have an exciting, fun lesson every day. In fact, spacing out the exciting lessons and filling the time in between with practice opportunities and reinforcement can help improve student retention.

Additionally, don’t feel like you have to create everything yourself. Did you see the perfect rubric or slideshow presentation online? Use it. If you find the perfect resource on TeachersPayTeachers, buy it. You don’t have to feel bad because you didn’t create it yourself. Sites like HelpTeaching.com exist to help teachers save time by providing worksheets, video lessons, and other activities for their classrooms.

Get Digital Assistance

In today’s digital world there are tons of resources designed to save teachers time. You can keep up with an entire class of parents at once by using a service like Remind or quickly log behavior issues (positive and negative) with Class Dojo. There are also numerous Word, Excel, and Google templates designed to make record-keeping easier.

If you teach online for a service like VIPKid or have to keep detailed notes about your students and their performance, consider signing up for a service like Feedback Panda. Their templates make it easy to record student progress, write detailed course notes, and quickly review critical information about students.

Pay Attention to When and What You Grade

How many times have you brought a bag of papers home to grade only to take it back the next day with the papers ungraded? Even when teachers don’t look at the work they bring home, they spend a lot of time thinking about it. If you’re feeling stressed or have other things to get done, just leave the work at school. Then you don’t have to spend time worrying that you should be grading them because it’s not an option. Additionally, try to set due dates for larger assignments at times when you know you’ll be able to get the grading done and don’t be afraid to extend a due date if your week is filling up. Your students likely won’t complain about the extra time to get the work done.

Along with looking at when you grade, think about what you grade. Do you really need to grade every paper? If the students’ quality of work wasn’t up to par, consider chucking the assignment and trying again. If something was just for practice or participation, slap a check mark on it and hand it back, only adding comments if there are serious issues.  If you give a writing assignment, rather than marking every error, provide more general feedback at the end. You can also look for ways to give students feedback on their work in class rather than offering a formal grade or implement peer grading for assignments that carry a lower weight.

Learn to Say No

It’s definitely easier said than done, but knowing your limits and learning how to say no can help you free up time in your schedule. Does a parent want you to tutor a student after school? Maybe you can suggest some resources for the student to review at home instead. Does your principal need someone to chair another committee? Maybe you can suggest a colleague who’d be better suited for the job. Do your kids want you to cart them around to activity after activity? Maybe you can have them choose one activity every 6 weeks or ask their friends’ parents to help carpool so you don’t have to be responsible for drop off and pick up every time.

Take Care of Yourself 

Even though self-care takes time, taking time to take care of yourself can actually add more time to your schedule. When you are tired and stressed, you work at a slower pace and likely don’t think as clearly. Taking a few hours every week to focus on relaxing and recharging can make it easier to get everything on your list done without feeling overwhelmed.

Embrace Imperfection

The problem with Instagram and Pinterest is they can make teachers feel like they have to have the perfect classroom, the perfect lesson, the perfect… everything. At the end of the day, your students and loved ones don’t care if you had a Pinterest-worthy lesson or the most Instagrammable classroom decor. They just want someone who loves and cares about them. So if you don’t have a classroom full of color-coordinated flexible seating, your walls aren’t covered with your professionally designed anchor charts, and you don’t have a Cricut-made t-shirt for every occasion, it’s okay.* That’s probably not what your students will remember anyway.

*And if you can maintain that Pinterest-worthy classroom, have a Cricut-made t-shirt for every occasion, or create anchor charts that show amazing graphic design skill, there’s nothing wrong with that either as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of taking care of you.

10 Ways to Help Students Avoid Procrastination

10 Ways to Help Students Avoid Procrastination
It’s inevitable. You assign a paper or a project weeks in advance, remind students about it daily, and still they scramble to finish their work the night before the deadline (if they even finish on time). Unfortunately, procrastination also often leads to less than stellar work. Take these steps to help students to get assignments finished with plenty of time to spare.

Check In with Students

Perhaps the easiest way to fight procrastination is to require students to share their progress as they go. If you assign a project a month in advance, have students share their progress with you every Friday until the project is due. At the first check-in, students should be 25% finished with the project, the second check-in should show 50% completion, and so on. Require students who fail to show sufficient progress to stay after school for half an hour or e-mail their parents to remind them that students need to spend more time on the project.

Break Assignments into Parts

By breaking assignments into smaller parts with individual due dates, you held ensure students gradually complete an assignment rather than doing it all at once. For example, if you assign an essay, students may be required to show their outline one day, their introduction another day, and their first draft a third day. You can do the same with projects, reading response activities, and even review activities.

Teach Time Management Skills

One reason many students procrastinate is because they don’t have strong time management skills. Take some time at the beginning of the school year to teach students some basic time management skills. Some tips that may help students avoid procrastinating include:

  • Write all assignments in a planner
  • Create and follow a daily schedule
  • Make a list of priorities
  • Avoid time-suckers and other distractions
  • Carry assignments with you work on during spare time
  • Learn how to say no
  • Set aside time to work on school work every day

Remind Students about Upcoming Due Dates

Many students have a lot going on in their lives and many are easily distracted. If you tell them a project or paper is due more than a few days in advance, don’t be surprised if they forget about it as the due date approaches. Give students regular reminders about upcoming due dates. You may keep a note on the board and change the number of days each day (for example, 10 days until your essay is due), add reminders to the top of worksheets, or even send out regular e-mail reminders through your school’s server or text reminders using a free service such as Remind. You can also encourage students to set up their own reminders in their phones or through a program such as Remember the Milk.

Give Clear Guidelines

Sometimes students procrastinate because they aren’t sure what’s expected of them and, rather than ask for help, they put off the assignment and throw something together at the last minute. When you give the assignment, make sure students are clear about what the final product will look like. Include a checklist or rubric to guide them. You may also choose to show students a few examples of what a finished assignment will look like. After giving the assignment, let students know it’s okay to come to you if they have any questions or need help.

Make the Assignment Realistic

Even if students know what to do, they may simply not have time to do it. If you teach middle school or high school, chances are you’re not the only teacher with a big assignment due. Collaborate with other teachers to stagger when you give big assignments to students. If you know the social studies teacher just assigned a 10-page report on World War II, you might want to wait to have students write a lengthy book report. Aside from collaborating with other teachers, take a close look at your own assignment. You might be able to complete it in a week, but is it realistic to ask your students to do the same? Students shouldn’t have to spend more than 30 minutes to an hour on the assignment each night to get it finished in time.

Make the Assignment Interesting

You’re not going to interest all students all the time and sometimes you have to give assignments that aren’t a lot of fun, but whenever you can, look for ways to make assignments more interesting to students. Do students really have to write a book report or can they create a video book report instead? Instead of writing a long research paper, can students write a shorter paper and also create a visual display or presentation to accompany it? The more interesting the assignment is, the more likely students are to complete it early or on time.

Give Assignments that Matter

If students don’t think an assignment is important, they’re less likely to make it a priority. To help fight procrastination, don’t just give students an assignment for the sake of giving them an assignment. Instead, focus on assignments that are really designed to build and assess students’ skills. Also take time to explain the importance of the assignment to students. If they know why they have to do a project, they’re more likely to complete it on time.

Enforce the Deadline

Experts have mixed opinions on whether students should be penalized for turning in work late. If they show they have mastered a concept, what does it matter if they do it on your timeline? While you may not dock students’ grades for turning in assignments late, you can introduce other consequences, such as assigning a detention or taking away a reward for every day the student’s assignment is late. If students know you’re serious about the deadline, they’re more likely to work to meet it. If you’re always giving extensions and accepting excuses, they’re more likely to wait until the last minute and take advantage of your leniency.

When you set the deadline, also take into consideration when you plan to grade the work. If you want students to turn something in on Friday, but know you won’t start grading it until next Thursday, then why not make the deadline next Wednesday? When students turn something in and don’t get feedback in a reasonable time frame, they’re less likely to respect the next deadline.

Reward Students for their Work

In the real world, do adults always get a reward for doing the job they’re supposed to do? No. However, they will occasionally get a note from their boss saying, “Thanks for getting this to me” or “You did a great job on this.” In the same way, motivate students to get their work finished on time by offering them a reward. That reward may just be a bit of positive praise or it may be something more enticing, such as an extra bathroom pass or a piece of candy (we know it’s not healthy, but it’s a cheap way to motivate kids and teens).

For more ideas on how to help students learn to manage their time, develop study skills, and curb procrastination, check out our Study Skills and Strategies worksheets and 5 Ways to Improve Study Skills.

How do you help students avoid procrastination? Share your ideas in the comments.