Time-Saving Tips / Work Reduction Tips

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Peregrin5, Dec 31, 2016.

  1. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Dec 31, 2016

    As a response to the 40 Hour Workweek Club thread, I figured as a collective of pretty efficient teachers, we probably have a lot of time-saving tips already that someone could use without paying for and having to sit through that program. Let's share them in this thread.

    Here are mine and the somewhat obvious ones:
    - Don't grade everything.
    I grade one or two things a week. I collect all of their work, but I only pick one or two things to grade at random. If they did all of their other work, but didn't do that assignment, they still lose out on points.

    - Stamp things (or check them)
    Instead of entering things into the grade, I still need to give feedback for homework, so I just have kids pass up their assignments and stamp or check them for completion. You can do a system like 2 stamps is fully complete, 1 stamp is halfway done, and 0 stamps is not done at all. Or a similar check, check plus, check minus system. I use stamping for everything.

    - Grade Packets
    At the end of the week, I have had students count up their stamps (or the points their checks are worth) and staple all of their work together and write the total on the front. A quick flip through on some packets where their honesty is a little in doubt keeps them honest (if they lie, they get a zero). All I have to do is look at the front and plug in a number into a grade book. Easy. On the pages I haven't checked (because I can't check or stamp everything) I've sometimes had them self-assess and give themselves a check, check plus, or check minus based on how well they think they did. Homework in my classroom is only worth 15% of the grade, so if they fudge a little on their self-assessments, it isn't a big deal to me, but for the most part they are often completely honest and sometimes too harsh on themselves.

    - Peer-Grading
    I used to do 5 question weekly quizzes that I had students switch, and peer grade putting the number on the top, again, reducing my grading to just looking for a number and entering it.

    - Digital Quizzes
    My quizzes now are mostly digital and I use apps like Quizziz, which gives students immediate feedback, I can give them daily with ease, and they produce easy to read and enter reports that I just plug into the grades. The kids also love them. Especially my special needs students.

    - Go Home!
    Go home at contract time or a little after contract time. When I stayed way too late, I found that my productivity was so low anyway that I might as well be sitting at home and being unproductive in front of the TV and spending time with my BF anyway. It does wonders for your mental health too.

    - Other alternative grading methods
    For writing and projects, I used to grade using letter grades. I had a rubric in my head of what I was looking for and can easily tell whether a project was A, B, C, D, or F work, and just gave them a letter grade. You can also do this with a real 1-4 rubric and give the students the rubric ahead of time if you want to.

    - Steal things!
    Be a shameless thief. Steal all the curriculum you can get. Before you start to write your own materials, do a quick google search and more than likely, you'll be able to find something very close to what you're looking for that someone else has made. Even if you need to change it to suit your own needs, it's easier than creating things from scratch. Ask your colleagues for things they've already made.

    - Don't go to every meeting.
    I'm not a "good boy" anymore, like I was when I first started teaching. I totally skip out on meetings when I realize that it's likely that there will be no repercussions to it.

    - Prioritize
    Sometimes you have to prioritize entire courses that you teach. For instance, I teach 5 sections of one class and 1 section of the other. I've decided that the 1 section that I teach is really not a priority for me. I have to do a lot of curriculum building and planning for my 5-section class, so for my 1-section class, I literally just bought curriculum on TeachersPayTeachers* for the entire year, and am resolute in just following it. It really has reduced my stress knowing that entire section is completely planned for.

    *In my case I had to purchase curriculum, because at my school, the teaching for this course is so disjointed that no one has set curriculum that is easily shareable for them and everyone is doing something different anyway, so if you can get away with getting free curriculum from a colleague first, do that. It wasn't feasible in my case.

    There are a lot of other things that I do that help me save time, but I can't think of them right now or they're things that don't constitute good teaching (like skip collaborating and work alone when it's clear that PLC time is completely unproductive). I'll come back and share when I do remember them. I also still work more than 40 hours a week, but I'm doing way better than I was in my first year when I was probably doing 80 hours a week. This year is stressful for me because I'm in a new school teaching a new, as-of-yet completely unplanned curriculum, with a new grade level, so my work time has definitely shot up since last year, but last year, my work-life balance was amazing.


    In the meantime, please share your time-saving tips here .
     
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  3. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    I know many people think this is totally nuts, but a few years ago I switched to planning one day at a time rather than planning a full week at a time. In addition to being more effective because I can really plan based on what happens on that day, it saves me tons of time because I'm not constantly going back and re-working things when kids have more/less background knowledge than I expected, caught onto a concept quicker/slower than I expected, really responded or didn't respond to a certain activity, etc. I used to spend hours every Sunday planning and organizing materials for the week, and by Tuesday or Wednesday I'd be going back to doing work I thought I already had done because I needed to "tweak" things. Planning this way also means that unexpected events (safety drills, some assembly they didn't announce until the last minute, etc.) never mess up my plans- I simply save whatever I had planned for today to do tomorrow. I just make sure I'm fully planned/have materials ready for the next day before I leave school for the day, which I can usually do within contract time or close to contract time.
     
  4. otterpop

    otterpop Fanatic

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    A simple to do list helps me a lot, and is a strategy I should use more often. Sometimes I will have a big pile of papers to correct but will start organizing something instead. Having a list written out (not just in my head) helps be stay focused.
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2017
  5. Backroads

    Backroads Connoisseur

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    Giving preferential grading to things that take less time to grade.

    And simply planning to stick to roughly 40 hours with limited exceptions. I believe teaching stuff expands to fill the given space.
     
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  6. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    - Only 1 comment
    For those teachers who give comments on written work, limit your comment to only one comment per assignment, and make the comment more prominent than the grade. Not only does this limit your work, but research shows that as soon as kids see a grade they don't look at anything else on the page, so you're doing all that commenting work for nothing. If there is one comment, kids will read it, but usually if it is the first thing they see. You can even do comment codes, but I find those to be more work than it's worth (for both me and the kid, and the kid is less likely to look up what the code means)
     
  7. Backroads

    Backroads Connoisseur

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    Delegate cutesy crap or limit/eliminate it.
     
  8. mathmagic

    mathmagic Connoisseur

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    Delegating anything you're willing to release control of to your students in terms of jobs to help the classroom run well. (they'll take more ownership of their classroom, too)

    I used to swap out my morning message each afternoon, sharpen pencils, etc..., but I think I'd be willing to put those on the kids and have them take charge.

    For HW, having a key available for students to grade their own work, and then just talking as a class about common errors (less saving teacher time and more saving class time, especially if you're stuck with a tricky morning block like me with numerous students who arrive late due to music / patrol / etc...).
     
  9. Strick18

    Strick18 Rookie

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    I have it pretty easy. The district has everything done for me.
    The lesson plans are all made, I just recite them in class. I get packaged homework packets that I give out at the end of the week. Then on Monday when the students are quietly reading or on recess I have my teacher aide grade them.
    I don't have to waste time picking out books because the reading specialist looks over everything and determines what levels my students are on.
    The students have an elective class each day, so during the 40 minutes I have my teacher aide check any quizzes or tests they had on that day.
    I don't need to waste time looking for educational movies or clips on you-tube. I just paste the link I get from my school and show it to the students.
     
  10. MetalTeacher

    MetalTeacher Rookie

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    I don't think I'd like that. It sounds convenient, but also very stifling.
     
  11. mathmagic

    mathmagic Connoisseur

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    Regardless of if this is true or not, how does this connect to the thread?
     
  12. Strick18

    Strick18 Rookie

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    This thread is about work reduction. With everything that the district implemented, this saves me a lot of time.
     
  13. Strick18

    Strick18 Rookie

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    I don't find it stifling. I find it very easy to get used to and not to mention the fact that it saves a lot of time. It also helps me deal with parents. When I worked in a different district, parents would come and tell me that I am not teaching their children the correct material and that is why they are doing poorly.
    With this system, if someone comes to accuse me of not presenting the material in an "easy to understand" way, I will just tell them that qualified curriculum planners made it and to complain to them if they are not pleased with the way the material is made.
     
  14. mathmagic

    mathmagic Connoisseur

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    These aren't strategies that the average teacher can apply though. The goal is to find ways that any teacher can actively reduce the amount of time they're working or increase efficiencies. What you have already exists for you, and is out of the control for most teachers.
     
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  15. Strick18

    Strick18 Rookie

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    Well, I think that teachers could expect a bit more from their aides. Having an aide grade stuff saves me time, and I know that many schools have them. Even the Detroit school I previously worked at had an aide (2 hours per day) for every teacher 1st grade or lower.
     
  16. swansong1

    swansong1 Maven

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    I actually prefer to do the grading myself so I know what concepts are not mastered by the students. For example, I can see how they solved a particular math problem and see how they did it incorrectly. That knowledge is very valuable to me, much more than just the grade the aide would place on the paper.

    And I would feel extremely unnecessary as the teacher in the room if I had absolutely nothing to do with the lesson preparation or delivery. But, to each their own.

    As far as helpful tips, I save all my lesson plans from year to year with comments about how lessons need to be reworked, changed, etc. For the next year, I can cut and paste with those modifications. Saves hours of work writing plans.
     
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  17. Backroads

    Backroads Connoisseur

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    To me the point of anything being corrected is so I can see it.
     
  18. vickilyn

    vickilyn Phenom

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    To get more bang for the buck, make sure that any comment is specific, not a vague "Good work." "Nice job" means so much less than "Great character development."
     
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  19. mathmagic

    mathmagic Connoisseur

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    I both agree and slightly disagree with this: my goal is to have eyes on everything that is corrected, whether by me (obviously...haha) or not, but I personally never have any other parent / person correct it (and our grade has been given an hour aide time a few times this year). That being said, especially for homework and occasionally other simple-to-correct work, I try to have students correct their own work as much as possible, as I'm not worried about 100% perfection in its grading, and more just looking for trends...and plus, this allows them to get immediate feedback as well as drive that self-assessment/reflection that can be so helpful. Either way though, my eyes always at least pass over every paper that I collect, even if it's just a quick glance.
     
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  20. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    - Know your Gradebook System
    Most online gradebooks allow you to email all parents at once, saving you time creating emailing lists or searching for parent emails. Some include even better time-saving features like being able to email all parents with students who have a grade under xx%. Some even have quick grade entry modes which make it easier to enter grades when you don't have the assignments in alphabetical order in front of you. There are other tips and tricks that are available for different grading systems. Also to save time in the future from printing progress reports, if your gradebook allows parents and students to check grades using a phone app or online, require them to make accounts so they can stay on top of their own grades without relying on you to print things out all the time for them.
     
  21. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Whenever I'm organizing or straightening up in my home or classroom I use the OHIO method whenever possible: Only Handle It Once. If I pick something up, I put it down only in its home, not anywhere else "just for now". Sometimes I have a tendency to make piles and move them around as I'm organizing, and it takes up a lot of extra time. This method helps me a lot.

    I rely a lot on students and student aides/helpers whenever possible. They can straighten up bookshelves and student supply areas. They can switch the desk arrangement into rows before standardized testing. They can erase the board at the end of the period/day. They can sharpen pencils. You get the idea. I'll admit that it can be hard sometimes to let go of some control, especially when the products aren't as neat as what I'd do myself, like rows now being perfectly straight or something. In the end, though, it's a huge time-saver for me and it has the added benefit of making students feel empowered and like our classroom is theirs. They also police each other better: "Hey! I just straightened up that bookshelf! Put your books on it the right way!"

    I always carry a pen to the mail room and office. Often when I get to those places there is something for me to sign. Rather than drag it back to my room, sign it, risk forgetting about it or losing it, and ultimately having to walk it back to the office or mail room later, I can just sign it there and be done with it.
     

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