Teaching is a hard job. So, time-saving teaching strategies are indispensable to teachers’ success.
I have been a teacher for over 18 years, both abroad and in the US. So I know and hang out with lots of fellow teachers. One of the top issues we all agree upon is that paper grading, lesson planning and material development are too time–consuming, and they compromise teachers’ work-life balance. They render the job dreadful, difficult, overwhelming and unattractive. As a result, about 8% of K-12 teachers leave the profession annually.
Consequently, anyone who wants to last in the teaching game has to play it well. Work smart. Protect his/her sanity. And manage his/her workload wisely. But how? Here are the teaching strategies that can get you there.
Time-Saving Strategies that Make Teachers’ Lives easier
1. “Don’t do for students what they can do for themselves.”
Caleb Gattegno, who was a well-known and innovative educator, once said this. He is the inventor of the Silent Way, and his teaching strategies have improved my view of teaching and learning. I have come to understand that teachers should provide students with the opportunity to contribute to their own learning process actively.
In most cases, students should come up with their classroom rules and keep their space organized and clean. Additionally, the class should read, interpret and clarify instructions. They should also distribute and collect class materials and resources.
Likewise, students can research information, under your guidance and to the best of their ability, to generate class content and solve math and science problems. Remember, controlling every aspect of your teaching and classroom will wear you out if you do it alone.
2. Recycle your teaching materials well.
If you want to last long in the teaching business, you need to develop a repertoire of teaching strategies, activities and ideas. These include videos, handouts, projects, articles, exercises, quizzes and lesson plans. Store any new interesting materials or ideas that come your way. You might not use them immediately, but they will eventually come in handy.
Making and keeping a few copies here and there won’t take you far. You will lose them anyway. Rather, it’s better to create course folders, preferably in cloud storage services like Google Drive and LiveBinder, to store your activities and resources.
Once you have a repertoire, it will be easier to find, modify and adapt materials for lesson planning purposes.
3. Use Open Educational Resources (OER).
There are hundreds of lesson plans out there on any subject you are teaching. OER allows you to search for and access ready-to-use materials, ideas, videos and lesson plans. You can also get materials from OER to populate your repertoire. In other words, you do not have to reinvent the wheel.
Make sure to use the materials wisely, respecting all the restrictions or guidelines. Also, be generous, and pay it forward. Feel free to upload and share some of your best materials or lesson plans on OER websites.
4. Collaborate with fellow teachers and borrow their best ideas.
You know what they say: “Two heads are better than one.” Similarly, two teachers are also stronger and better than one.
The thing is, you can learn from any teacher, regardless of what he or she teaches. It’s even better to collaborate with colleagues that teach the same class or subject that you do. You can learn more about how to do this effectively by checking out Edutopia.
My job as a Learning Specialist and Instructional Coach has allowed me to borrow ideas from lots of teachers. And guess what? I have, therefore, become a better coach and continue to pay it forward.
5. Use students as researchers, giving them a reason to use technology productively.
Giving students the opportunity to research topics and bring content into your class, depending on what subject or level you teach, will reduce Direct Instructions (DI) and alleviate your burden.
Start by teaching students to use search engines. You can also scaffold the process by referring students to trustworthy academic sources. Your role then will be to add rigor and facilitate the learning process.
For students to be good researchers, you will need to provide clear instructions and directions through guidelines, rubrics, examples and precise language. These teaching strategies will work well in social studies, science, and any other content-based classes.
More Time-Saving Strategies for Teachers
6. Use peer grading or correction.
Even the US Supreme Court might have your back on this one. No joke!
Don’t be a sage on a stage. You aren’t the only one that can differentiate between correct and incorrect information. Share some of your power by letting students evaluate their peers’ work, which might help them further with processing information. To be safe, go over the answers with your class. Do an accuracy check before students proceed with the grading. This way, you help everyone process the content and they help you grade some classwork.
The caveat is that you need to make sure peer grading is appropriate for the type of subject you teach and your students’ level. The process might be chaotic initially, but you and your students will get better at it. Keep practicing.
7. Make technology work for you.
Leverage technology to provide practice and independent work opportunities for students. With technology, you can create online activities, quizzes, discussions and projects that students can complete individually, in pairs, in small groups, at home or in the classroom. Don’t forget to give students a purpose (grades, audience, publication) to complete the tasks.
Moreover, you can use YouTube videos and create personalized videos to present and explain your content. You won’t need to recreate the videos every class term.
Another tip is to use educational games for practice purposes as much as possible. Yes, they help students learn.
8. Minimize your talking time.
Start your lessons with guiding questions and let your students speak. Create space to let them challenge each other’s ideas and assumptions. Generate discussion opportunities and let students have a go at them. When necessary, ask follow up questions to guide the process and make students think critically. This will add rigor to the class.
However, keep quiet as much as you can. Silence might be uncomfortable for you. Get used to it. It’s necessary for students’ brains to process information. Jordan Catapano wrote a post titled “Classroom Management: Silence is the Sound of Thinking.” I learned a lot from it, so feel free to check it out. You might learn something new too about silence in the classroom.
9. Teach your students how to learn and think.
Exposing students to content is one thing; however, helping them to learn is a different ball game. Focus more on the best teaching modality for your topic or content. Discuss appropriate learning strategies with your students. Learning how to learn your subject is what students need the most.
You can’t totally regulate your students’ learning, but they can if they know how to. For example, students can’t study math the way they study social studies. Therefore, they should approach each subject with a different set of strategies.
It’s also critical to always encourage students to reflect on their learning process, regardless of what you are teaching.
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