Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Teacher Tips and Hacks with The Guys of Primary [Part 3]

Can a teacher ever have enough tips, tricks, and hacks in his/her toolbelt?  I think NOT!  I'm always on the prowl for ideas to make my teaching life easier & the learning environment better for my kiddos.  

Hey y'all, it's Bryce from [The Teaching Texan], and this month The Guys of Primary are sharing some of our favorite tips and hacks for teaching.  Be sure to leave a comment with your favorite tip, trick, or hack!

1.  Set out materials ahead of time.

One thing that I've started doing this year is setting out materials ahead of time.  I used to keep all my supplies for a lesson in one spot and pass them out as we moved through the lesson.  Now, I use those little transition times during the day, when the kiddos are at specials, or working on independent work to set out everything for the next subject/lesson/activity.  This is what my room looks like before the kiddos get there in the morning.  Everything is set out for literacy centers to maximize instructional time.

Not only does having everything set up before hand maximize instructional time, but it also reduces behavior issues because we're able to move so quickly from a whole-group portion of a lesson to independent work/small groups.  Take those 2 minutes to set up beforehand and save yourself some gray hairs!

2.  Each day jot down a few notes about student achievement, behavior, observations, etc.

My best tip for making conferences, report cards, and just keeping up with kiddos' progress is to keep a binder with notes.  Each day I sit down and jot a couple notes from the down into my teacher binder.  Each kiddo has his/her own tab with a notes page for literacy, math, and social emotional.  I don't write a note for each kid each day, but try to have one note for each kid on one of these areas each week.  It is SUPER helpful in keeping track of observations over time and helps when writing comments for report cards or making calls home.  I also jot notes from conversations with parents.

3.  Create "Unfinished Work" folders for students to place work that is still in progress.

 We all have students who need that little extra time to finish up their work.  I never used to have a great system for dealing with unfinished work, then I was let in on a super-simple and effective solution by one of my team mates.  Use a simple 2 pocket folder with each student's name and a label for "Unfinished Work" to house work still in progress.  My kiddos know that if they don't finish something it goes in their "green folder" to work on later.  When kiddos finish one assignment they always check their "green folder" for unfinished work before moving on to an early finisher activity.

This is so nice for keeping students accountable for their own work.  It's also a great solution for differentiation.  I go through and place special activities for friends who need an extra challenge or some extra practice.

4.  Use a visual timer and incentive for packing up.

I don't think I can put into words how much I dislike "pack-up" time.  It always feels a little too chaotic for me and seems to take forever.  I now use a visual timer (on my iPad) when we pack up.  We started with a goal of 5 minutes for the whole class to have gotten their things from the hall, stopped by their cubbies for folders and take homes, and made it to our meeting area.  We've graduated to 4 minutes and the kiddos are doing great!  I think having the timer visible makes all the difference.  

I also include a little incentive for them.  Each time we meet our goal I add one letter to spell out "SURPRISE."  (We recently earned the "e"!)  When the whole word is complete we have a dance party, special activity, etc.  The kiddos are motivated, they learn to do things efficiently, and pack-up runs smoothly!

5.  Use your Scholastic points for student gifts.

I know a lot of teachers love to get their students a little gift during winter holiday time and end of school year.  I learned a long time ago not to spend my personal money on little trinkets, but rather get the students something meaningful that they could have as a keepsake.

I save my points from book orders through Scholastic during the year and use them to buy the kiddos books for gifts!  (I also use the points to stock my classroom library with age-appropriate books)  The kids love them, my wallet loves them, and it's meaningful!

I hope some of these tips will be helpful for you and make your days a bit smoother!  Be sure to check back next week for more teacher tips and hacks from The Guys of Primary!

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