Please note: Amazon affiliate links are included in this post for your convenience!
I don’t know about you, but I am always looking for ways to make my life easier! I have been teaching for 12 years now, and I feel like I am finally figuring out what works for me! But every year, I seem to come up with a new “idea” that I think is cute or that I think I will “love”! Haha! You know where this is going….! This year I came up with this super cute birthday list poster. I soon realized that this may have not been the best idea because every time I got a new student, I had to edit it and print out a new one (if I remembered)! But there are a few good ideas I have come up with that have made my year run much more smoothly. I have tried them year after year, and they work like a charm and save a lot of time and energy. As a teacher, we need all of the energy we can get!
I taught first grade for 8 years. If you know anything about kindergarten or first grade, you know that calendar time is a huge focus. Every month, I dreaded changing out the calendar pieces for the upcoming month…I know some of you feel my pain! They were super cute, but, you have to admit it, it is just something else that we have to add to our to do list! As a second grade teacher, I realized that I still needed a calendar, but I was over the whole monthly calendar thing. I had created these super cute month labels and had a brilliant idea one day. What if I had a calendar that I didn’t have to change out every month? I came across a monthly calendar (like this one on Amazon) and the idea came to life! All I do is write everyone’s birthday on the calendar at the beginning of the year. As new students come in, I can just add their birthday. The students see how to spell all the months of the year, and when we do our monthly timeline, I just pull the calendar off the wall for reference! And instead of changing out calendar pieces every month, all I do is flip the page! Woo-hoo!
Get my calendar months HERE for free!
Talking about things that are a pain, classroom helpers…I have a love/hate relationship with this! I know many of you do too! When I first started teaching, I wanted everyone to have a job. I didn’t want anyone left out. I wanted everyone to feel special and have a task for the week. So, I had as many jobs as I had kids. I had a door holder, some paper passers, a line leader, a caboose, a messenger, and so on and so forth! Little did I know that this would be one of my most dreaded weekly tasks! Every Friday when the kids left school, I would need to move the class jobs. And for goodness sake, I dare not drop a popsicle stick, because I would never know what job they actually were that week and where they were going to be the next week. I remember getting a migraine just trying to remember if I already moved that clip to the next job or not. EEEKK! I tried several different versions of this, and they were all a pain! Sometimes I would forget to move jobs and, oh goodness, I would hear about it on Monday morning. “I was the door holder last week, Mrs. Satterwhite!” AHHH! I had forgotten again! I just couldn’t take it any more! I grew to hate classroom helpers! I hated my system. I had to find something that worked for me and was easy to keep up with! I remember on the last day of school a couple of years ago, when I should have been rejoicing that summer had finally begun, I was researching new systems that I could implement in my classroom! I saw a post where someone only had 2 classroom helpers. What!? Genius! So, that is what I did. On the first day of school, I take a picture of every student. I print out their picture (with their name on there too) and laminate it. I then punch a whole in it and hang it on a ring with the others. I separate boys and girls. So, every week, all I have to do is flip 2 helps signs! I bought these very strong magnetic hooks, which I LOVE! These have been perfect for my helpers and are great to use around my classroom for other things too! To attach my “Classroom Helpers” and other signs around my room, I use these little magnetic squares. Click HERE to get these for free! They are MUCH easier than cutting a magnetic roll and have saved me a lot of time!
Speaking of useful, my next hack is useful in so many ways! I use these hook and loop velcro pieces in a lot of spots around my classroom. I originally got them for the “beginning of the line”. However, I quickly thought of some other useful spots too! One of the most helpful uses is for assigned spots at the carpet. I was tired of many students fighting at the carpet when they came to sit down. So, I assigned everyone a place! I only teach math/science/social studies, so I have a switch class. Both my partner and I have assigned numbers for the students, so I just wrote a number on the velcro and put the kids where I wanted. I can quickly switch students assigned spots if the need arises. I can also see this being helpful for assigned reading spots for around the room! Another thing I love about these is using them for the correct placement of the desks. My desks tend to get all katy-wompus by the end of the day. It is the responsibility of the students to straighten and arrange the desks and chairs at the end of the day. The velcro gives them a great guideline to go by and I don’t have to say a word! Some amazing things about these are:
- They don’t come up easily with everyday traffic walking on them! Mine have been there all year and I don’t have to replace them until the next year.
- They are very inexpensive. Mine cost $1.49 at Hobby Lobby and when I use my 40% off coupon, it’s even cheaper! They even go on sale for 50% off! sometimes!
- They don’t make a mess on your carpet! No tape or sticky residue to deal with!
- They are easy to move if needed.
- They come in a variety of pretty colors at Hobby Lobby!
- You can order a different brand on Amazon too in PURPLE, YELLOW, BLUE, PINK, WHITE, and even more colors from THIS SELLER from HK (if you don’t mind waiting)
Do you have those teachers on your team who love to get ahead? They love to deliver lesson plans and worksheets to you WAY to early! And your are like, “But I don’t even know what I am teaching today, much less next month!” Haha! Well, I finally figured out how to tame all of those papers that are coming in! I have labeled my cabinet with “Next Week” for papers that are in the plans for the following week. My team and I have made a commitment to label all worksheets with dates so that it helps others to stay organized! I have another area right next to that for “Stations”. I put all of my items that I will be using for math stations there. Then, I have an area for “Future Use”. This is great for all of the papers that are for future dates. These labels have helped keep me organized. I also organize my week with mesh baskets labeled with the day. Every Friday after I print out my lesson plans, I take the papers from the above mentioned stacks and file them into my daily slots. This also helps the other teachers on my team who my have to help a sub if I am ever out unexpectedly. HERE is the label maker I have. I LOVE it! I use it for all sorts of things at home and school!
I love my filing system! The best thing about it is that it does not take up too much space! In addition, I use it year after year and don’t have to write new names on the tabs! This has been a huge time saver for me. I have my kids check their “mail”, as I call it, everyday. There are days that I don’t have time to file papers, so I tell them that mail was not delivered today! I teach my students at the beginning of the year how to check their mailboxes. They learned very quickly! I also teach them to “Grab and Go!” Otherwise, they will stand there and look through all of their papers! This has been a great system for me and has worked very well! The file folder crate, similar to THESE CRATES, just sits on my back counter out of the way. HERE are some great hanging file folders that I just ordered to update my old ones! I love that they are so colorful! They also have matching FILE FOLDERS!
Next is my “name tag” hack. I was getting so sick and tired of taping desk name tags over and over. They looked crummy and were a pain! Now, I use these great sharpie oil based markers. They do not come off easily. Even with all of the traffic with the students and having their water bottle on top of their names and snack daily, they stay on pretty well. About twice a year I go over them and retrace their name to make it more bold! Then, when a student moves, I grab my “Goof Off” spray, let it sit for a bit, and then scrub it right off. Now, these are NOT the same as the water based markers. The water based markers wipe off easily, so purchase the oil based ones! HERE are the ones I have, and I LOVE the colors!
When I first started teaching, I bought some super cute restroom passes and soon came to realize that they were not very helpful! First, the students took it with them to the restroom. What was I thinking…gross! Then, many times, they would show back up in the classroom without it! I soon realized this was not going to work for me! So, I came up with a new plan. I can’t stand distractions while I am teaching! I mean, I really only direct teach about 1 hour (or less) per day anyways. I do tell my students that my mini-lesson time is not restroom time. I want them to learn all of the information that I need to teach them. But, you always have those that have an “emergency.” So, to minimize interruption during lessons and during other times of the day, I have the students place a dragon on their desk. That way, all you have to do is glance at their desk to see that they are in the restroom. No more waving the “R” sign in front of you or losing your restroom passes! You can choose any little Beanie Baby you want. Our mascot is a dragon, so that is why I chose that! I purchased the pink and green ones HERE on Amazon.
If you are like me, you get frustrated when you have told the students a million times not to interrupt you during small group but they still do! Who’s with me? Well, a few years ago when I was attending a training, I got some super helpful information that changed my life forever! LOL! On the first day of school, I give each student a neon index card (so it easily catches my eye). I have them put their printed label on it. (I used to have them write their name, but then realized they were not all legible!) They all put theirs in my little drawer. When I am working with a small group, the student goes to get his or her card and puts it on my table in the little jar right next to me, similar to the ones HERE. When I get a spare second, I call out that name and see what they need. Most of the time, they have already figured out their answer! If not, I quickly talk with that student while my small group is working or during a transition time. Then, the student goes to put his or her card back in the drawer! Now, you will have to train your students to not stand there and wait. Because we all know…they will! I tell them to “Drop and Go!” They can work on other problems or try to problem solve while they are waiting. I have also trained mine to “Ask Three Before Me.” Most students do a wonderful job with this. If they have already put their card in my jar and they find a solution to their question, they just come grab their name card and place it back in the drawer!
Another thing that has saved me is my unfinished work folders. Since I have a switch class, sometimes it is difficult to keep up with who has turned in what, who has make-up work, and who I need to retest! My students do have Work in Progress folders, but I like to have their papers right in front of me. I am so visual! So, every day, I open the folder so I know who I need to meet with that day. Also, when I have a student that is absent and a grade is taken that day, I put their name on the sheet and slip it into this folder. I have a folder for my homeroom and my switch classes homeroom. I believe I purchased the ones pictured at Walmart and a teacher supply store, I think! But I have also purchased THESE on Amazon and loved them too!
And finally, my last helpful tip that has been an amazing help are my absent folders. When a student is absent, I just write his or her name on the folder in dry erase marker and stick their ungraded make up work in there. I just stick them in my burlap hanging file folder holder for easy access. Then, if a parent calls or emails about make up work, I can just send the folder down to the front office or home with a sibling. Once they are done with the work, they bring it all back in the folder. I got the print out HERE and I believe I purchased my folders at a nearby teacher supply store. But I have also purchased THESE on Amazon and loved them too! They are so cute! And, believe it or not, I have never had a student not bring back a folder! HERE is a hanging file folder holder similar to mine. These are so great and come in so handy!
I hope you found these tips to be helpful! If you have some tips that have been helpful to you, please leave a comment below to share!