Aren’t you just intrigued with idea of finding an amazing teacher hack? I am! But, if you’re like every teacher I know, you don’t have the time to read about time-saving strategies. I get it: both the reality and the irony.
I decided to research some specific teacher hacks, proven by the test of time. Some sites offer 25 or 37 or 350 (!) at a time, but I’m only including hacky strategies that will work every day. These are not merely entertaining Pinterest ideas. So enjoy this Spring Break gift—five proven and useful hacks to level up your classrooms!
- Kids Clean Up. I have a colleague who always has an immaculate classroom. I assumed she was a neat freak. So, she is a neat freak, but she doesn’t do any of the cleaning. Her fifth graders make cleaning up a part of their dismissal routine. What a novel idea!
- Steal. I learned early on that all teachers beg, borrow, and steal their lesson ideas, classroom décor, and teacher strategies. My colleagues assuredly have incredible ideas that work for me all the time. I’ve planned entire weeks using another teacher’s field-tested lesson. I’m tweaking a 41-lesson Learnzillion novel study for my first few weeks after spring break, already complete with slides, higher-order thinking questions, and all accompanying materials. While I still take the time to review and modify each lesson specifically for my students, most of the work is already done!
- Student-to-Student Feedback. This hack takes a little work on your end but the rewards are endless. Have your students practice and use accountable talk and give feedback to each other. They will not only grow their brains through the skill of analysis, but will save you time in the process. It’s often difficult, and at times impossible, to get to all of your students for every lesson. With practice, students make corrections and learn at the same time, by giving and receiving peer feedback.
- Rating Understanding. I gathered this approach from the book “Feedback: The Hinge that Joins Teaching and Learning.” Long story short, at the beginning of every lesson, students rate their own understanding. You know exactly where they are at the start. And afterward, you know where you need to go. No grading, no muss, no fuss.
- Immediate Feedback (with stickers). One of the lessons I learned in my years as an instructional coach was that immediate feedback is more impactful on student learning than written feedback. This was especially true during the years when I taught a struggling math class, where I was able to scaffold those strugglers using immediate rewards for their efforts, often in the form of stickers. Stickers always work.
In addition, students need to know if their approach is correct—right when they are trying. Written feedback delivered a week or a day later isn’t nearly as effective. Plus, feedback with stickers or smiley faces on their work saves you plenty of grading. For example, I give my students feedback in their writing and reading journals. When it’s time to collect journals for a final grade, my comments—already delivered and marked with the stickers—determine their grade.
Each of these time-tested teacher hacks saves you time and eliminates stress. And many of them also grow your kids, so why not steal them? Then, pay them forward to your colleagues. Because as teachers, the best hack of all is using our big, sharing hearts.