This blog has been on my mind for about a year now. What are the best simple teacher time-savers? These are little ideas which I have embedded in my practice over the past few years. They all save me some valuable time. I hope they might save you a few minutes as well – remember every second counts.
I have either come up the ideas myself or heard the idea elsewhere so I can not take credit for them all. I will try to justify how and why they have saved me time and I hope like every good #teachmeet you are able to take one strategy away with you.
1. Number Student Exercise Books:
A simple idea, that I started to do in preparation for (idea 2). I export a class list from SIMS and number the students 1 to 33 (or generate a class list from Plickers and project this as this has numbers as well). Students then put this number on the top left hand corner of their books.
This saves time as I am able to (or selected lucky students can) quickly order the books, so I can see which numbers and so students are missing. Before this, I spent ages checking the register to work out who didn’t quite understand the instruction of “Please leave your books on the desk!” by the time I realised it was Joe Bloggs, they were long gone.
These numbers can also be put on home learning, so again you can quickly order the work and see who has handed in what has been asked.
2. Using Plickers for Low Stakes Assessment:
I have blogged and raved about Plickers many a time. One successful blog is how I have used Plickers to assess for mastery. https://sciencetltoolkit.wordpress.com/2017/01/25/using-plickers-to-assess-for-mastery/
Low Stakes assessment as retrieval practice and quizzing is an area Barak Rosenshine promoted in his “Principles of instruction” https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/periodicals/Rosenshine.pdf
Plickers is very quick and easy to set up and is a great AfL tool to assess students, monitor progress and inform future planning. Once you get the hang of it, it is simple to quiz students. I use it most lessons to recap previous knowledge but every couple of weeks I create a longer quiz, in which I take in the marks.
The time saving aspect of Plickers is that it saves your questions, it is self marking and exports results straight to Excel. You can see which questions stumped the most students to inform future planning and which students didn’t quite perform as per expectations, so you are able to offer a little encouragement. It is very quick and easy to copy and paste in excel, and I do so in to my Excel Spread, which brings me on to time saver 3.
3. Excel Marksheets
I have marksheet for each of my classes. These contain baseline data from SIMS, to help with seating plans etc. But I also record the day to day goings on. Stuff you think about but forget by the time it comes to report writing and parents evening (time saver 4). It only takes a moment to jot it down. I also record student absence, if they have forgotten their books and lack of equipment. These are updated and added to each term. The spread sheet is where I record home learning marks & efforts (time saver 5) and scores from Plickers as well as summative end of unit test scores.
I have taught my current Y11 since Y9 – Looking back, it is brilliant to see how some students have progressed along with trends and patterns.
I print a copy out and have it in front of me at parents evening. Talking of which….
4. Parents Evening
Parents evening as much as they are dreaded by some teachers because it adds another 4/5 hours on to their working day are very important. They are important for parents to meet their children’s teacher, who they are trusting to support their children to get brilliant results and significant for teachers to meet the parents!
I found in my first few years teaching, I repeated myself at parents evening. This frustrated me, as I felt I wasn’t doing students, parents or myself justice. So I now offer up a more detailed analysis of students performance, attitude and attainment using the excel marksheet (time saver 3). This gives evidence to parents and students, suggesting I am not just making it all up.
One question I get a lot, so I assume this is a common theme across is “ what can I do to help xxxx” and “what else can they do…” I now produce a simple parent take away slip which logon details for software the department has purchased for students, useful websites and tips. I have now to log on to Kerboodle, Seneca learning and links to exam board specification. Feedback from parents is very positive. This saves you time, as once it is done it is done and printed. It can be edited. It also saves your voice, on an evening when your voice needs to be conserved.
5. Peer or Self-Marking Home Learning
Home Learning or Home Work is the vain of many a teachers life. I am a believer that any work a student does at home should consolidate learning and not be a filler. I hate seeing students doing a title page or word search because school policy states home learning needs to be set every week.
Home learning could add a considerable amount of time to marking workload. In the past, early in my career I may have done this. I apologise if this was the case. I now make sure every task I set to be completed at home, is relevant, useful and promotes learning.
I use exampro to download past paper questions from AQA and edit them. The questions can then be self or peer marked. Students put their number (time saver tip 1) and adding to marksheets (time saver tip 3). No teacher marking, but when you go through the questions you can give detailed feedback on how to answer questions and those extra snippets of knowledge.
The home learning isn’t always on the topic in hand either. Why not try to set homework from a topic from the previous topic or even year.
6. Retrieval practice
Creating a selection of questions that can be used a low staked starter. These are time savers, as questions can be saved for topics and can be repeated at any time. Remember to mix up the questions – they don’t just need to be on the topic in hand. See The Learning Scientists for the latest educational research on this.
Here is a previous blog I wrote on embedding retrieval practice into every day lessons: https://sciencetltoolkit.wordpress.com/2018/05/23/10-ways-to-embed-retrieval-practice-into-your-lessons/
7. Live Feedback
Live feedback should not be live marking……….marking for the stake of it……. or…….. marking because school policy states it should be done!
I am a believer in live feedback during lessons because not only does it save you time but also it saves the students time. Rosenshine states that the more mistakes a student makes the harder it is to reteach it. So why allow students to make the mistake in the first place.
Once again, I hold my hand up to this. In the past I have seen a student draw a graph and not put units on an axis label. I have thought, great, I can now highlight this and prove to the powers that be that I am offering great productive feedback. Now, I tell students, as I check and monitor work what they need to do to improve. I am not writing anything in books, I may get students to jot down a self-assessment note, to what they have to do to improve, but this is purely for them, not for “the powers”.
Don’t allow students to make mistakes, this will save you time reteaching in the long run. This is another nudge to read Rosenshine.
8. Feedback and D.I.R.T
How many times do you write the same comment in students books? Do this…do that…think about this! This wastes time, why not get students to write it?
I jot notes down as I go through students books. Write down students of praise and of concern who made need intervention. I use these notes to inform future planning – for instance if there was a message or comment I would have written in most students books I would make sure I address those issues the next lesson. This is a great opportunity to promote the use of DIRT (Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time) to get students to improve their work.
9. Student Reflection and metacognition
Linked to live marking (time saver 7) I use this when I have taught sections of work and want some feedback on how students have found it. I have just used this, [today in fact] after teaching alpha and beta nuclear decay equations. After modelling and teaching, I have lots of examples for students to complete on the board. I then went through these and students self assessed their answers. I then asked students to write a brief sentence or two describing the method of how they solved the problems and explain how they felt about the process. This included, how confident they were of their learning processes. You can read more on Metacognition here:
10. Checklists – referenced through work to aid revision
At the start of every topic I hand out a checklist and knowledge organiser to all students. The organisers contain key words and definitions, timelines and visuals such as annotated diagrams and practical equipment. I have uploaded these to TES and they are free to download.
My checklists have been written in student speak from the exam specifications. I have given each ‘can do’ statement a code. Students use these codes to reference their work as they go through their books. Sometimes I tell students……today we are focussing on F11 sometimes they have to work it out themselves. Students find this a great help in organising their work. Students can tick as they go along, this is also a great visual overview for students who haven’t attended lessons for a while, they can see what they have missed and what they need to do to catch up.
A bonus if you are not already on twitter do it. There are ideas shared a plenty evert day. To those that share, thank you.
Let me know your top teacher time saving tips.