Working Smarter Not Harder in the Classroom

Sometimes working harder in the classroom doesn't make us a better teacher. Over the years I've had some awesome ideas that teach students the content perfectly and look great. Well at least I thought they were awesome ideas then.  Now I know they were time consuming and energy draining.  When I design my classroom now my first thought is:  Will it help  the students throughout the year?  Then I move onto:  Is it visually distracting for students?  Here are a few tips.

Word walls are an essential part of elementary classrooms.  We have a few up in our classroom.  For sight words and frequently used words we sectioned off our white board.  We can add and delete words easily as the students need them.  We chose not to use cards because we go through hundreds a year and filing them is too time consuming.

Our math and science vocabulary words are written on index cards and then stored in library pockets.  We display them in small pocket charts from the Target Dollar Spot.  This allows us to organize as we go.  There aren't nearly as many terms as our sight words so writing them is easy.  We save these cards for each unit and use them again the next year.

Having a million anchor charts around the room is distracting.  We have all of our core areas on interchangeable clothes pins.  This way we can clip it up, take it down and store it as needed.  The clothes pins are hot glued so that they can store about five charts at a time.  It gives the room a clean appearance, helps the student's brains to rest and serves as an anchor for students when needed.  Above the writing anchor I have our morning work examples.  We allow students to come into class 30 minutes early each day.  The students trickle in throughout this period.  In order to save copies and make learning meaningful, I put up four writing centers (from Mel. D. at Seusstastic)  a week.  The kids get to choose which one they want, grab their copy from a drawer and work on it as time allows before school.  This saves us from making copies for every child every morning.

Does your roster change a lot at your school? We always lose and gain at least one different name.  Instead of making a fancy chart that I have to change out I like to print them individually.  This way I can just change out one as needed.  (These printables came from the Inspired Owl's Corner.)

I LOVE personalized student work areas, but it makes it difficult and time consuming when we lose and gain students.  A nice general area where work can be put up and taken down quickly gives the same sense of pride to students, but makes the task of putting it up pretty simple for us!

If you have any ideas on working smarter not harder in the classroom I would love for you to leave your ideas in the comments below.

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