Time is a four letter word for some teachers. It is the one thing we all wish we had more of. We need more time to get to the end of our to-do list – the daily tasks of planning, grading, and paperwork. But even more than that, we want time outside of school, with our family and friends, or just by ourselves and a good book (or Netflix!).
The clock does not have to be our worst enemy- use a few of these time saving ideas for teachers and you can get a lot of that time back, and use it however you want!
Be Aware of Time Stealers
I sit down at my desk to grade papers. But while I am there, my phone beeps – a notification! I check it, and sweep though a few social media posts while I am there.
Back to grading….but I get hungry, and wonder down the hall to get a snack. I am stopped by the TV in the living room, but just for…30 minutes.
I work better at school, I tell myself. But do I? The same social media distractions are there, on my phone or computer. And then there are my teacher friends who are a happy diversion.
These are all time stealers. You are ‘working’ but distractions can make a twenty-minute task take all afternoon.
The first step to taking back your time is to eliminate these distractions as much as possible. Be ruthless about it! Turn OFF your phone, shut down the computer, lock your door – whatever you have to do.
If you have forty five minute planning period, delicate that whole forty five minutes to one stack of grading, or lesson planning, or whatever you have on your to-do list.
By focusing on your work, it will get done so much faster! Then when your done, you can celebrate by taking a trip through Pinterest 🙂
Keep a List of To-Dos
Have you ever had that overwhelming feeling that you have so much to do, but you don’t even know where to start?
Yeah, me too. It does not feel good.
Make a to-do list. It does not have to be fancy, or in a special “to-do” notebook. Just a single piece of paper with a running list of things you have to do – everything from “Grade the Unit 2 Test” to “sharpen all the colored pencils”.
As soon as you think of something you need to do, put it on your list.
Part of that overwhelmed feeling comes from cognitive overload – our brains can not physically hold on to more than a handful of thoughts at a time. So when you think of something you have to, in the middle of doing something else, your brain has to drop something in order to focus on that new thought!
But with a list, you don’t have to change gears. Write it down, and go right back to the task at hand.
Now you know exactly what needs to be done during your focused, distraction free work time! The best part of having a list is crossing things out as you get them done!
Work in Batches
This one change was a HUGE time saver for me. Once you eliminate your distractions, including all of the nagging “I have to do this too” thoughts, you are ready to be as efficient as possible in working down that to-do list.
Working in batches means lumping like tasks together. For example, if your to-do list includes sharpening the colored pencils, grading Labs, and organizing the student work stations – batch the pencils and the work stations together because they are more alike than the Labs.
When grading a five-page Lab, instead of grading a whole lab (all five pages from start to finish), grade page one of the lab for every student.
Then grade page two of every lab. Then grade page three, etc.
Working this way will allow your brain to get into a groove. (It also helps you be more consistent when grading student work!)
Working on similar tasks which also helps to reduce cognitive overload! You feel less stressed, and you get more done, in less time!
Use Technology When Possible
Google Forms have saved me COUNTLESS hours of life. Absolutely everything multiple choice has become a Google Form in my room – Quizzes, Tests, and Bell Ringers (which are used as daily Check-Ins and for Differentiation!)
Related: Increase Learning and Save Time Grading – using assignments you already have!
Google Forms are famous for multiple choice, but open ended questions can be used (and easily graded!) on Google Forms too.
There are several time-saving advantages to using Google Forms when asking open ended questions.
First is the time saved trying to decipher student handwriting! How many minutes have you spent squinting at a student’s work, trying to figure out what they are saying!
Google Forms lets you batch grading like a boss! On the Response tab, click on “question” and you can a grade each question, one at a time, for every student!
The biggest time saver for grading opened ended questions on Google Forms is when it comes to giving feed back.
Do you ever feel like you correct every paper with the same sentence over and over?
“Jenny, remember – DNA is the code for how to make proteins!”
“Jake, remember – DNA is the code for how to make proteins!”
“Johnny, remember – DNA is the code for how to make proteins!”
With Google Forms, you don’t have to re-write the same feedback twenty-five times! Yes, you can add feedback to individual students for each question and you can copy and paste from one to another!
Other ways Google Forms can save you time –
Google Forms can be used for Progress Monitoring (good bye to that paperwork!).
You can set up Google Forms to collect digital work from your students. I used to have kids email links to their work (say on ThingLink or Sutori) but then I would spend time searching through all my emails for their work – save the time!
Delegate to Your Students
You don’t have to do everything!
Think through all of the things you do each day, or each week. What can you delegate to your students?
- erase the boards at the end of the day?
- switch out the task cards?
- plug in an organize the computer cart?
- sharpen all of those colored pencils and organize the work stations!
- cut out those twenty-five laminated apples?
Make a list of all the little tasks that you can pass along to your students and assign them on a rotating schedule.
Your students may not do the job exactly as you would, but it saved you that time. Plus, it helps your students learn responsibility, and gives them ownership in the classroom: a win-win!
Planning new activities can take a lot of time and mental energy. Consider buying that time back.
Teachers Pay Teachers is an amazing website where seasoned teachers post their battle tested activities, lesson plans, and labs for anyone to purchase – or download for free!
Think about it – you spend five hours of time (and stress!) crafting an activity for your students. Your students do the activity, and it works well – they enjoy it and learn from it.
But you know it can be better, so you spend another hour tweaking the activity for next year.
OR you can pop onto Teachers Pay Teachers, and in two seconds have a list of activities to choose from, made by expert teachers, who have already tried it out in the classroom and made all the adjustments over years of trial and error.
Take a look at all the possibilities, read the reviews, look at the previews, and pick your favorite. Download and done!
If you are looking for Science resources (Biology, Forensics, and AP Biology) check out my store – Science of Curiosity!
Most of the resources on Teachers Pay Teacher are very reasonably priced – just a few dollars.
I did not start using Teachers Pay Teachers until I thought about how much my time is worth. Spending five dollars the buy an activity that would take me five hours to make – my time is worth way more than one dollar an hour!
Be fierce about saving your time and using work time wisely! At the end of the day you will be able to go home and truly relax. It is possible!
Looking for ways to save time at home? Try some of these easy meals for busy teachers!