Wednesday, July 25, 2018

14 Teacher Hacks (+ Other Helpful Ideas)

As I took time after my first two years teaching to figure out some health issues, I decided to substitute teach. I actually enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would (most days). I was still able to work with my passion of teaching, while taking the time off that I needed for doctors appointments, neurologist appointments, and other sick days. One thing I loved about subbing, was that I got to be in many different classrooms and see the various ways teachers ran their space.  I took pictures of some awesome ideas that I would have loved when I taught full time, because I wanted to share them with my teacher friends. This post is for you, my fellow teachers!

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1. Straw dispenser as a pencil dispenser

I've always used shared pencil bins (sharp and to-be-sharpened) because there is nothing worse than a child sharpening a pencil in the middle of the lesson. That being said, it seemed like kids were spend forever at the pencil pail picking out the perfect pencil, the sharpest one with the biggest eraser. Using a straw dispenser for pencils eliminates all of that! You get whichever pencil comes out so there is no reason to play around with the pencils in the back of the room. You can find one here!

2. Tupperware containers for crayons

Every teacher knows that crayon boxes barely last the first month of school without falling apart and keeping crayons in a pencil box just opens kids up to a full box of tools to play with when they're supposed to be pulling out a green crayon. I've seen some teachers use soap boxes to store crayons, but I love how easily these little Tupperware containers stacked together.

3. Re-purposed Coffee Can or Paint Can

This is probably the most genius idea I've seen so far. One problem I always had was desks shifting everywhere! It seemed like I would straighten the desks when my kids were at specials (because I'm super anal like that) and they would be spread about the room not 10 minutes after they returned.  Putting the feet of neighboring desks in a shared coffee can keeps them from moving away from their spot. If you don't have spares, you can order them here!

4. Coin Incentive

This was from a first grade classroom, but it could be modified to use in any elementary classroom. The students earned coins for different things (1 penny for getting 100% on an AR quiz, 3 pennies for clipping to the top of the chart, etc.). Amounts and coins could easily be adjusted depending on grade level.  They then get to buy things from a treasure box.  This is a great incentive and also helps children learn their coin values and practice adding coins.  Plus, it gives them the real world experience of buying things with money and saving to buy something you want.


5. Teacher Bathroom

Okay, so this isn't exactly a teacher hack, but it's a genius idea.  This school had shelves with a basket for each teacher than they could store tampons, deodorant and other toiletries. I can't count how many times I went to the bathroom and forgot to bring something with when I needed it. Since teachers are lucky to have time to use the restroom once in a day, it's nice they can store anything they need right there.

6. Door stops

All of the classroom in the district I subbed in had these and I think it's genius.  Some of them go into the wall and others go into the floor, but they're effective either way. The purpose of these door stop things is to push them into the wall/floor during an emergency situation such as a lockdown.  Again, not really a teacher hack, but something I felt I should share.  On the topic of lockdowns, the schools also require two different people to announce over the intercom that the lockdown is over before it actually is. This I assume is to keep everyone safe in the event that the original announcer is forced to give an all clear.

7. Emergency Red/Green card with class list

I've seen a lot of school use a card or something similar that has a green and a red side during emergencies (fire, evacuation, etc). If you haven't seen this, the card is used to easily show if a teacher has her whole class accounted for (green) or if she is missing a student (red). The thing I loved about this teacher's is that she put a tiny class list on her card. I always kept a class list on my clipboard that I grabbed when we left the room for a fire drill, but this would eliminate the need to remember to grab that too.


8. Calendar Time

The following two strategies were used in an inclusion kindergarten class that I spent a lot of time with.  During their morning calendar time, they counted how many girls were absent and how many boys were absent, then added them together.  It gives them daily practice with adding numbers in a real world scenario daily, even if the numbers are usually low.  They also checked the weather everyday and used a stamp to record it on a sticky note which they placed on a graph.  This also was a great way to incorporate real world skills  into daily practice.  At the end of the month they would analyze the graph and compare the varied weather.

9. Win a trip to Chuck E Cheese!

This school had entry tickets in each classroom that were put into a raffle at the end of each quarter to win a trip to Chuck E Cheese! In order to earn a ticket, the students had to make a 100 on their AR quiz.  At the end of the quarter, one student was chosen from each class/grade (not sure which) and was taken to Chuck E Cheese by the principal (I think). Great, fun way to motivate kids to work on comprehension!

10. School-Wide Behavior Plan

I really liked how one of the schools I subbed at had a school-wide plan set up for children who had troubles with their behavior.  It made it really easy as a sub to know how to discipline, and it helps all teachers when everyone is on the same page.  I also really liked how they had a section for positive comments in each class period.  It can become so difficult to see the good things a child is doing when you feel like you're always having to deal with their negative behavior.  I think this helps teachers to see the good in their most tiresome kids, and also shows the students that the teachers are there to support them and that they see the good things too.

11. Graphing Question of the Day

You could have this posted every morning; when students come in they could answer the question with their sticky note during their morning work time. Then, you can review the graph with students during calendar time. This is a great way to incorporate the graphing skill into daily practice and takes very minimal time.

12. When I Grow Up...

I loved these "career kids" that were painted all along the hallway in this school! Using the mirrors in the face to reflect each kid- such a fun idea!

13. Morning Work Tubs

When I taught second grade, I found that my students fine motor skills were terrible.  Since they were rarely allowed to cut or color during class time, they were really missing out on key fine motor skills.  This Kindergarten room and tubs filled with various things- mainly math manipulatives. Students followed a chart to see which tub they would get each morning.  This could easily be adjusted for any grade level and could incorporate independent center-type activities that correlated with the standards being worked on.

14. Substitute Contact Sheet

As a substitute, I HATED when teachers left minimal plans. I think it is so important to leave as much information as possible to insure the class will run smoothly for your sub (but more on that in another post). This teacher added a substitute contact sheet at the end of her sub binder for substitutes to leave their contact information.  This would be great to have when you know a sub did a good job with your class (or not good!) so you know who to call again (or not call) and who to recommend to your co-workers.

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