If you’re looking to regain some of your essential time, this is a post for you! Many of the daily systems teachers have setup for themselves and students can quickly turn into time-sucks. Now, I’m not talking about the ever-important relationship building part of teaching, but the nitty-gritty paper passing out, finding absent work, and making seating charts side of things. I’ve found a few ways to streamline my routines and classroom practices so that I can stop wasting my own time by being inefficient. Here’s my tips for you:
1. Post your “Office Hours” for the Week
I have posted “office hours” each week right next to my desk. This makes it really easy for students to plan ahead and know when they are going to be able to get help or make up a missing assessment. It cuts down on any, “well, I stopped by but you weren’t here” conversations, and, despite telling them EVERY DAY when I’m available for help (insert eye-roll), I was always asked, “are you free after school for _______?” about 50 million times a day. Since I started using this poster, those conversations have gone down to almost zero! I’ve gotten really positive feedback for my students who work and do sports because it makes their planning for the week that much easier. Download the poster here!
2. Streamline the Seating Chart Process
Over the summer I got the idea to put numbers on my desks. I didn’t really know what I was going to do with it at first, but it has become one of my best ways for saving time making seating charts!
I have a template of my desk arrangement saved on my computer and I hand-numbered it the way the desks are numbered in my classroom and have a pile of photocopies ready to go whenever I want to mix up the desk assignments.
To make things quick and easy (and obviously fair), I’ve come up with a popsicle stick system. The desks up front are reserved for students with poor vision and IEPs/504s. The rest of the desks are for anyone else.
On a new seating chart day I’ll stand outside my classroom door and catch students as they walk into class. They’ll draw a stick out of the appropriate container, and I can write down their names on the seating chart. For my biggest classes (~35-37), this is completely done within 1 minute of the bell ringing.
On the majority of days that I’m not making a new seating chart, I just stack them and keep it in a cabinet.
3. Don’t Waste Class Time Passing out Papers
Have a dedicated paper pick-up area in your room–preferably, near the door. My students are trained to pick up whatever is on the counter on their way in. I leave papers for the day and any supplies they might need (scissors, glue sticks, highlighters) here.
4. Let Class Start Itself
As students walk in, they are trained to pick up whatever is on the cabinet by the door and then read the instructions that are projected on the SmartBoard. I have a PowerPoint file on my computer that I never close and have a color-coded slide for each period (Algebra 1 is green, Statistics is yellow, and Algebra 2 is purple). This frees me up to do whatever I need to be doing as class is starting. It also gives us a few more precious minutes each period. Here’s a few of our most recent slides (there’s a large date gap because of snow days).
5. Let Students Take Care of Their Absent/Missing Work
At the end of each class, I put any extra papers in the corresponding class-bin. Each bin has tabs labeled 1-31, for each day of the month. If an Algebra 2 student was gone on the 23rd of the month, when they get back they know to look in tab 23 of the Algebra 2 box to find any papers they need to make up. Students are trained to ask a classmate for a picture of the notes they missed, and if they need extra help getting caught up they can stop by during my office hours for the week. This system practically runs itself.
6. Immediately File Missing Assessments
This has been a HUGE game-changer that I’ve added this year. In the past I have just piled up extra assessment papers and I was often left scrambling to sort through my disorganized pile of tests and quizzes to find an assessment a student wanted to make up from when they were absent two months ago. Most of the time I was able to find the assessment, but sometimes that led to the pile of tests and quizzes falling all over the floor. Sometimes I’d have to print a new one. It wasn’t efficient and I didn’t feel good about that system (it could be embarrassing at times when a student was waiting and I was empty-handed).
I also have a standing policy that any student can drop by during any period of the day to make up missing assessments. I have many seniors that that have early release and are only at school for 4 or 5 periods of the day. Instead of coming before or after school, it works best for them to just stay an extra period and take their quiz/test in the back of my class or in the ELA (my school is made up of pods of 4 classes and there’s a common area in between them called the Extended Learning Area. All of the walls that back up to the ELA are made of floor-ceiling glass, so I often let students take assessments out there, so long as I have their phone and backpack behind my desk). When students pop by to make up an assessment during another class, I needed a way to be able to find their test/quiz ASAP, and my old system was failing horribly in that regard.
This is the ELA. There’s 2 more classrooms to the right of this photo. My classroom is the one with the door open.
My solution? I found this paper organizer in the staff room of my building being given away for free (seriously, staff rooms have the BEST stuff!) and have a folder for each class that I teach, as well as for no-names. When I’m giving a test or quiz and the students are quietly working, I will write the names of any absent students on a quiz and put it in the proper class period folder.
For my statistics classes which are college credit, I have to be very strict with the makeup policy (students are required to make up their assessment within one day of their return, or it’s a permanent zero in the grade book) and remembering the dates for 2 classes of students was too much to keep track of. Now, I just write the date that the assessment must be made up right on the paper when I’m filing one away for an absent student. When they show up to makeup their assessment, it allows me to remember if they can or can’t at that point.
These systems and practices take very little time of your own to set up, but yield great time-savings throughout the year. I hope this gives you a few ideas to use in your own classroom!
If you would like to get my office hours poster, you can find it here.