My Top 10 Classroom Hacks
Life hacks are probably my favorite posts on the internet…so as a teacher, classroom hacks are even better. Teachers are so busy planning and creating things for our classrooms, that we need things to make our lives easier. If something is going to keep me more organized, the kids focused, or my classroom running efficiently…I’m all ears. Below you will find my top 10 favorite classroom hacks in hopes of making your life a little bit easier!
1. Self Monitoring Sheets
I teach 4th grade, so by now they know the basics, so name tags are usually unnecessary. However, I use their desk for other important resources that will enhance my student learning.
On their desk I included a self-monitoring sheet. The kids can quickly glance at it and I’ll ask them to “Rate Themselves.” By late fall the kids know what each number means, but it’s still nice to have a visual on their desk.
Including self monitoring sheets in the classroom also encourages students to be responsible for their learning and it’s an easy informal assessment.
I currently use something similar to Marzano’s level of understanding. You can see my ranking system below.
4 – Expert: The student can teach others by using their own words. And they can translate these skills to new situations.
3 – Master: The student can do this without help and can show their understanding.
2 – Apprentice: Students understand some or part of the concept and can do it with support.
1 – The student doesn’t understand, may need more practice or support.
Guided Reading/Centers go by SO FAST and frequent interruptions waste valuable time. Assigning two student leaders makes a world of difference. I usually pick students that are “mastering” a skill or students that I want to ‘push’ to increase their knowledge and skills. My kids love it! They call each other “Miss …. ” and “Mr ….”
If you’ve never heard of Classroom Screen…GO NOW. It’s a total game changer! 🌟 It’s essentially a screen with different widgets to assist you and your students. Some of the widgets include volume level, a random name generator, timer, a place to write messages and instructions, and even A QR CODE that leads you to a website of your choosing.
I use Classroom Screen during guided reading to remind my kids not to interrupt while I’m meeting with students and how much time they have left to complete their centers.
I also use it during testing, so students know what to do when they’re finished.Providing students with visual reminders has always proven successful in my room 🙌🏻.
4. Homework Binder
I’ve always struggled to keep track of missed homework. I needed one place to store all my information (parent contact slips, a log, etc). Having a homework binder is a saving grace… I grabbed this cute cover from Education Lahne.
Inside my binder I have a student roster and missing homework slips for parents to sign. If any students are missing their homework, I simply put an X and hand them a slip to be signed and brought back tomorrow. They may also return the missing homework the next day for half credit.
5. HOT bucket
Aka “Higher Order Thinking” bucket. Research has shown that asking students higher order questions promotes a deeper level of learning and requires students to USE the material they’ve learned. Often times, we THINK we’re asking questions correctly (we have good intentions), but we might not be challenging our students enough.
This is what makes the HOT bucket so perfect. It provides you with 8 sample questions for each level (of Bloom’s Taxonomy). The trick is…to make it a big deal. Each time you pull from the HOT bucket, make it a celebration!
6. Technology Shortcuts
Currently in my classroom, we are 1:1 with Chrome books. However, even if you only have a few computers, these shortcuts are a skill that will be used for the rest of your life and your students’ lives. You can grab this resource as a freebie here.
7. Printing on Sticky Notes
Out of my top 10 classroom hacks, this one is my favorite. Printing on sticky notes is an incredibly easy way to make lessons more interactive while saving paper. If you want to print on sticky notes, but you’re not sure how – click here.
8. Mystery Doug
Mystery Doug is a fun website where students can ask “Doug” questions, such as “Is Pluto a Planet?” or “What is the biggest spider in the world?”
Afterwards, Doug records a grade appropriate video explaining the answer to the question. I love using this in the morning to get my students engaged and calm.
9. Absent Student Filing System
A filing system for absent students is an great way to keep track of missing work. It puts most of the responsibility on the student in an easy and manageable way. I simply staple all of the missing paperwork together and place it in file for them to pick up when they return.
I grabbed my filing system in Target’s Dollar Spot, but you can also grab them at Lakeshore and Amazon.
10. I Wish My Teacher Knew Bucket
“I Wish My Teacher Knew” is an idea that’s been floating around the teacher community for years… there’s also a book written about it (Disclaimer: I haven’t read it & this is NOT an affiliate link). It’s designed to be a system that allows students to communicate with you and tell you if there’s something on their mind…good or bad. You can read my full blog post about it here.
Bonus Hack: A Love Me Box
When I met my boyfriend’s grandfather he always talked about his “love me wall.” This wall was filled with awards, pictures, and letters that he was proud of. My second year of teaching, I started my own “Love Me box.” It’s filled with pictures, cards, and letters from past students thanking me.
It’s also filled with cards from coworkers and parents that make me feel empowered and loved. If I ever feel like I’m not making a difference, I take out my box to remind me of all the things I’ve accomplished and the people that I’ve helped. I promise this box will lift you up when you need it. Keep it in your classroom for when you need it & keep making a difference.