When you're an elementary teacher, hacks are a must, because teaching elementary students is not for the faint of heart. Your students are at an age that (overall) requires tons of individual attention and care, meaning your days are often full of exhausting small-group sessions and difficult heart-to-heart conversations. In addition, they are still developing self-control, learning to read social cues, and knowing how to simply sit still when it’s appropriate. You are the teachers who hear yourselves saying things like, “That is not Chapstick. That is our glue. Please stop putting it on your lips.” Or “We don’t pick our friends’ noses for them, even if they told you to do it!” (Read more crazy things you never thought you’d say here.)
It’s no wonder you’re exhausted by the time that last straggling student wanders out the door at afternoon dismissal.
Along the way, you’ve likely implemented some classroom procedures to help you maintain some shred of sanity by the end of your day. We’ve rounded up several elementary hacks for you to consider. If you aren’t already, give some of these a try! (Note - many of these can be used for any age!)
Any time students are working without you directly leading them–whether independently, in partners, or in groups–displaying a timer is such a great way to keep them focused. There’s a big difference between hearing the words “You have 15 minutes” and actually seeing a visual of the time up on the board. This helps students learn to manage their time wisely; as the minutes pass, they will learn to work more quickly or that they have extra time to go back and check work.
Bonus: This will help in the future with standardized testing as they learn what 15, 30, or 55 minutes really “feels” like. Check out this website, which has tons of fun (and FREE!) options to use in a classroom setting. An old-fashioned (or funky-themed) egg timer works well too, but may not be as visual around the entire room.
Check out this teacher's idea on Instagram!
For this hack, you need a long strip of color-changing LED lights, the kind that you can adjust with a remote control. This hack does carry a slight cost, but throw it onto your wishlist or just simply ask parents if anyone has extras lying around.
This idea on our elementary teacher hacks list is to hang those lights where they are easily visible throughout the room. Maybe frame your whiteboard with them. Or hang them around the ceiling in a shape of your choice. You can use different colors to communicate with students based on the current classroom activity. For example, blue may mean silent work time, no talking. Green might mean free computer time. Yellow could mean “no questions right now” while you introduce new material. Red might mean they are getting too loud in a group activity. There are all kinds of ways you can use these lights throughout your day. Get creative, and have some students help you make a chart that shows what each color means with a helpful graphic next to each one.
Check out how this teacher adds lighting to his classroom on Instagram.
It is always good to have extra copies of worksheets, forms, etc. on hand. Kids will lose things. And you may want copies to use as a key. Or to share with the sub who was called in last-minute for your teacher friend next door. Having extra copies saves you from having to run to the workroom, which is nearly impossible on some days. Pro tip: Hang on to extra copies for longer than you might think. Simply keep a folder of leftovers in a drawer somewhere to revisit maybe once a quarter. You never know when that old sheet of paper may come in handy! Just remember to talk sweet to the copier as you approach it…
Do you sweet talk the copier like this teacher on Instagram?
Host a Morning Meeting
We get it. You are BUSY. With so much curriculum to squeeze into your year, it can be difficult to consider having a morning meeting every day. (And if you’re like me, you might like to just get going on your day.) But consider a morning meeting as an investment. If you put in some time to allow your students to be seen, heard, cared for, and even have a little bit of fun, they may be more inclined to give you more attention and effort throughout the day. Knowing you appreciate them as tiny humans can set a positive tone in the classroom. And morning meetings don’t have to be elaborate or time-consuming. They can consist of a single thought-provoking question, doing a ball-toss compliment circle, or playing a simple game.
Finally in our list of elementary teacher hacks, velcro may just be your best friend. You can use it to stick things on the board that you use often: markers, remotes, bathroom passes, etc. It helps give you a quick visual when something hasn’t been returned to you as well. You can also use velcro to secure items to students’ desks, such as name tags or pockets for unfinished work. These are easily interchangeable to move students when needed.
Here is a great Elementary teacher hack using velcro.
What are some of your most useful elementary hacks?
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