Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Time savers for the busy teacher!

Let's face it- there simply is not enough time in the day of a typical teacher.  Inspired by Sarah's post at Math = Love,  I decided to write my own tips for saving time.  Most of these tips save time for me and for my students. 

My biggest time-saver is my materials tubs.  They're large shower caddies from Walmart that I loaded up with everything my kids ever need to use.  Each group of 4 has a tub that is stored on a shelf in my classroom.  I don't have 28 children traipsing across the room to get scissors or colored pencils or dry erase markers every time we use them nor do I have to pass them out and collect them myself.  Just 7 kids need to move to get a tub with everything their group could need.  I have almost no problem at all with things being left out on desks between classes, though sometimes materials get misplaced in the wrong tub and have to be redistributed.  (This happens when an eager child replaces his group's tub before his group mate has put away her scissors.  When she goes to return them, she places hers in the wrong tub).  You can see my post here where I describe them in depth.

Another favorite time saver is like Sarah's first tip.  I bought some plastic drawers like these:  In one, I keep three kinds of frequently-used graph paper.  In the other, I keep notebook paper and copy paper.  I don't have to remember where I filed my graph paper or copy it each time I'm going to use it.  I simply copy several hundred sheets at a time and reload the drawers when they get low.  My students know where the papers are stored and can help themselves.  This is especially nice when a student decides he wants graph paper and I'm helping another student clear across the classroom- there's no need for interruption.  I have another bank of these drawers in which I store my colored copy paper.  That helps me see which colors I can choose from and which I might need to restock.

I just graded several Interactive Notebooks last night and I was reminded how easy it was to do so thanks to the rubrics I have glued into the notebook.   Having them glued in means I don't have to copy more papers, write students' names on the rubrics, or separately pass them back to students and have the students store them.  I just open the notebook, circle the points earned, record the score, and close the notebook.  How simple!  The best part is that the rubrics are there all year so the students can look back and see how they've been doing throughout the year.  I can also follow up to see that improvements were made following the most recent notebook check without digging through records. 

Missing work can be another huge time-suck. Don't forget the dreaded student question, "I was absent yesterday.  Did I miss anything?"  These organizers have made my life so much easier than before!  You could use any kind of organizer to accomplish this; I've seen file folders and letter trays also be used effectively.  I've combined this set of organizers with a "While You Were Out" slip that can quickly communicate to a student what was missed.  I haven't gotten students to fill them out as I originally planned; I find I can usually fill these out in a minute or less while students are working on something independently.  I keep a basket of them along with a box of paper clips just next to the hanging organizers.

Warm-up folders (I'll get to talk more about this at TMC2014!!!) are a small time saver, but an important one.  In my school, we give individual grades on warm-ups every day.  To quickly pass out and collect warm-ups, each student is assigned to one of about 5 file folders for that class period.  The warm up papers are stored there so the child can pick up his paper from the folder at the beginning of the class and return it there when it is complete.  This is much faster than each child shuffling through a stack of 28 papers or having someone pass them out at the start of class.  I go through each folder and grade the papers every afternoon.

Gosh, there are probably more great time savers I could share but I'm off to be productive around the house on this snow day.

How do you save time in your classroom?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

P.S.- If you haven't gone to read Sarah's post at Math = Love yet, please do since she inspired this post! 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

January Recap

It's hard to believe that we're already nearly at the end of January.  This has been a short teaching month.  We returned from Christmas break on the 6th.  By the middle of the month, we were dealing with delays due to ice or fog.  The first term ended on the 17th and we were out of school all of last week due to the MLK holiday, teacher inservice (from which we were excused to leave early) and three snow days.  Yesterday, we had a delay because the roads were still a mess and it looks like we might have another bit of snow tonight that threatens to interrupt tomorrow.  All of these interruptions have been a bit of a nuisance.  I want to get back into routine and it's just not happening! 

Good news: I'm definitely going to Twitter Math Camp 2014.  Now, I just have to get my travel plans in order.  I'm so excited to meet face-to-face with virtual friends! 

Other good news: A student who has been giving me trouble lately with behavior and work ethic voluntarily came for extra help today and we had a good discussion.  I'm curious to see if things change for the better in the coming days. 

Good news part three: I'm making good progress on my NBCT portfolio.