- I don’t often blog about teaching, but over the last 12 years, I’ve picked up some strategies and hacks to make the workload easier. These are my time-saving hacks for teachers – planning. These are planning, hacks rather than classroom-decoration; for me, it’s the planning and marking that takes up the time!
My Top Time-Saving Hacks for Teachers: Planning
1. Create templates for your lesson displays
By displays, I’m talking about your powerpoint, flipchart or whatever else you have up on the board during the lesson. Personally, I use a whiteboard a fair amount: I play videos, model examples, give instructions… I’m sure we all do.
I used to spend hours creating the perfect powerpoint. It would have video clips, colours, animations. You name it, it had it. But all that work didn’t really bring a huge amount of value to the lesson. So often, I was pretty much creating the same powerpoint from scratch.
Then I created a ‘Lesson Template’ powerpoint. The first page contains the same instructions for each lesson: title, date and task for an immediate start (bell work). The second page contains the objectives, plus any relevant information from the specification. The third page is the ‘Modelling’ page. It broadly follows the sections of my lesson plan.
For me, the creation of these templates (I create one per unit and change the images and colour schemes accordingly), saved hours of work. It also helped to create routines in my lessons (you know I love a good routine) as the students knew exactly what to expect when they came in and so on.
- I now use Flipcharts as my current school prefers that, but the template model is still the same.
2. Create resources which can be adapted for different uses.
After a few years teaching, you find your favourite activities. For me, these include co-operative learning structures, team quizzes and extended writing (I’m an English teacher). I’ve been creating resources which I have a bank of photocopied or laminated, and can be used again and again.
For example, traffic light cards. I got them laminated and made up in sets. I never have to make them again. Poetry terminology placemats are similar. It saves you creating or adapting the same resource.
3. Colour-code your handouts
I’ve only started doing this in the last few years, but it has made a real difference. I use a simple colour-coding strategy: blue for mark schemes, yellow for reading texts, white for work sheets, green for example work etc. It makes it a million times easier to check that each student has the right sheet in front of them, especially if you use the resource over a number of lessons.
4. Use a formula to work out your seating plan
In the first few years of my career, I made my seating plans according to students’ behaviour. I thought that seating plans were the answer to everything. If you could only find the right seating plan, the behaviour would be good.That’s not true. It might work for a few weeks, but the effect wears off!
Now, I seat students according to their ability. Students sit in numbered seats on the table (I have groups of 4 where I can), and students know that their numbers correspond to their ability.
Then, I change the seating plan every half term.
I have had students move from seat 4 to seat 1 over the course of a term. They were so motivated by the desire to improve their rank in the class that they worked really, really hard. This also works really well for differentiation: you can easily set the 1s a different task to the other students, for example.
5. Batch your planning
Last year, I did You Baby Me Mummy‘s Productivity Challenge. (You can still get this course for free if you pop over to You Baby Me Mummy’s course here.) I completed it with blogging in mind, but I’ve actually transferred lots of the things I’ve learned on the course to teaching.
One of those things was the concept of batching. This is when you do, for example, all your writing in one go, all your photography in one go, and all your editing in one go. It takes the principle that you lose concentration when you switch tasks, which makes you less productive.
In the past, I’ve always planned a day at a time. So in a typical 4 or 5 period day, I might plan one Year 9 lesson, followed by one Year 13, then one Year 11 and one Year 10. It means I’m really only a day or two ahead of myself.
Now, I’m trying to plan a week’s worth of lessons in one go. So I’ll plan 4 Year 11 lessons in one evening, ideally after marking their books. This then sees me through the sequence of lessons. I’ll be honest, this can be hard going, and sometimes, on Mondays, I’m not completely sure where they will be 4 lessons ahead. But the majority of the work is done, including setting homework, and I can get my printing done and resources made.
If your department has really solid schemes of work, you’ll be absolutely ready to go with this. As we’re in what I’m calling a ridiculous period of change (GCSE and A Level specifications changing dramatically in the same 2 year period), I’m not yet in that situation, but batching is really helping with this.
So there are my 5 top Time-Saving Hacks for Teachers: Planning. Look out for my Time-Saving Hacks for Teachers: Marking next week. If you find this kind of post interesting and helpful, please let me know in the comments and I’ll do more of them!