Figuring out how to get it all done is a challenge for all teachers, not just new ones. Sometimes it will feel like there are simply not enough hours in the day. But here's a secret: As these first few months pass by and you gain more experience, you'll realize that you can accomplish more in a day than you did at the outset of the school year. Until then, here are some time-saving tips for managing all you have to do as efficiently as you can.
- Analyze your schedule and set priorities. Categorize activities such as reading, math facts review, and oral language learning as high priority and activities such as holiday art activities, free-choice time, and an enrichment video as low priority. Be assertive in cutting down on the time for low priority items.
- Cluster specials such as music and art in order to give yourself a longer planning time and to create fewer interruptions in reading and writing time.
- Offer immediate activities for your students to do as soon as they come in. In many schools, students arrive at staggered times. Many teachers have students immediately begin to read from book boxes or write in their journals.
- Streamline housekeeping by creating efficient ways to accomplish housekeeping tasks, such as taking the roll and determining lunch status with a sign-in board or name magnets.
- Keep materials readily and quickly accessible to your students. One teacher I know has students' folders (color-coded by subject) in different crates. The students are divided into committees of five, and each committee has its folders in one crate. The crates are in different parts of the room. When students need to retrieve their writing workshop folders, they scatter to different points in the room. Only five students are getting into a given crate to retrieve materials. This simple system eliminates the lines and inevitable delays that occur when all of the students are getting materials from one place.
- Use mini-lessons. Mini-lessons are just — that quick, focused lessons. For a week or two, estimate the appropriate time for each mini-lesson you do. Set a timer for the estimated time. When it goes off, are you still introducing the lesson? Are you halfway through? Are you writing the last examples on the chart? This exercise will help you be more aware of the pacing in the lesson.
- Talk less. While it is important for you to have conversations with your students, you will find that the less talking you do, the more students will learn and the faster lessons will go.
- Develop systems for yourself so that you can efficiently accomplish tasks. For example, establish a system of checking reading journals over the week. Some teachers have the Monday Kids, Tuesday Kids, etc. This way, you have five to seven journals to look at each day rather than a whole pile at the end of the week.
- Try incidental teaching during in-between times in the day. If you have five minutes before lunch, review a mini-lesson or read aloud a bit of a familiar well-loved story. If young students are lining up, have them sing a song or enjoy shared chanting of a favorite poem (thus promoting phonemic awareness).
This article originally appeared in Teacher magazine, published by Scholastic.