Ten Totally Random Tips for Teachers

There are some little things I have and do that make life a little easier.  Just thought I'd share some.

1) Keep a Snack Shelf
I have a shelf in my cabinet with my favorite drinks (Fuze and Cranergy Drinks – which taste fine at room temp) and some healthy snacks like almonds.  When I'm having a rough time, I just go to the shelf and am not tempted to binge on candy bars in the machine. I restock this twice a month!

2) Use Sandpaper to Sharpen Scissors
We do so many creative things that I end up with dull, sticky scissors – I keep a large piece of sandpaper and just cut the sandpaper a few times and it sharpens the scissors. It works on a papercutter too.

3) Keep a Paper Towel Tube of Power
OK, so you have to carry things around all the time. When I am inundated with those plastic bags from the grocery store and get to the end of a paper towel roll, I take the cardboard roll and jam it full of plastic bags and take it to school and put in a drawer.  I never know when I'll use these but they come in handy.

4) Put Dry Erase Boards Everywhere
One of the coolest new things in my classroom are the six small dry erase boards I have now.  I got tired of buying (and throwing away) poster board, so I bought 6 small magnetic dry erase boards and stuck them to the wall using double sided sticky velcro tabs. The student groups of three rip the boards off the wall and use them and stick them back up – I also stuck an eraser under each of them.  The kids use these ALL the time – in homeroom, they are working math problems — they use it for team projects. This is the single coolest new thing I have in my classroom.

5) Use Colored Duct Tape to Color Code

I've used colored duct tape to help color my walls but use it to color code all kinds of things – you can buy it in neon colors.  I use it on the carpet, on chairs – on anything I need to color code or group – it is just so neat looking (and the colors actually match the neon of the Dry Erase boards in #4.) Just buy 4 neon colors and keep it – you'll see!

6) Poker Chips to Easily Make Cooperative Groups

I can't take credit for this one. Robert Marzano talks about using these to divide up teams in his book, but I take it one step further.  I count out the number of teams I need (divide everyone by three as that is the ideal size for a team – may have 2 – 2 person teams.)  Then, I write A, B,C, on the inside of the chip also – the kids draw a chip and then first start with the color of their team – then they will move to the letter for a nice jigsaw.   I love using these for dividing up teams.

7) Use Magnetic Photo Frames to Organize

I have a lot of metal near my desk but not a lot of desk space.  Wal-Mart has these tiny magnetic pliable photo frames that I am using all over the place.  For example, if there is something I need to have handy by my desk, I'll print it out and then stick it on the filing cabinet next to my desk.  I also use these for photos on the side of my filing cabinet and also one for the color coding and a list of major categories of files in each of my filing drawers.  They are so useful!

8) Have Two of Everything
I have two staplers, two hole punchers – two of everything – one for my desk and one for the area where students process papers.  I label clearly where my items are and (try) to keep them at my desk. I even have TWO trashcans!  It helps!

9) Take Beauty Breaks
The toughest thing about my day is sometimes I feel rundown.  Well, this year, I went to Wallgreens and bought a small cosmetic bag – I have a toothbrush and toothpaste, and a whole other set of my makeup, a comb, and a few pony tail holders. So, each day after lunch I hop in there and mentally tell myself  “Beauty Break.”  Now that I'm forty, just taking extra care of myself helps me hold my head high and I just feel better about myself and my day.  As teachers, we often don't take care of ourselves and I've found this extra “umph” is great for me – and I don't have to remember to carry my pocketbook to the teacher's bathroom, I just keep it in there!

10) Embed Your Professional Development
The transformational practice that has made me into “Cool Cat Teacher” is that I take 15 minutes three times a week to learn something new and play with new tools – I keep a list handy and explore or just read my RSS reader. It is so easy to become self absorbed and forget everything out there, so I find a nice little appointment with myself helps me explore. (I'll have to share more about how I do this later.)  I call it International Research and Development (R&D)

Do you have some totally random tips you'd like to share?

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Colleen Young September 4, 2009 - 12:11 pm

Great ideas, totally agree with 8 & 10 – I do those.

I keep a supply of those little sticky bookmarks which I can give to my classes. If they are giving me some homework to comment on, they insert the marker so I can go straight to the right page!

Mister Sill September 5, 2009 - 6:08 am

Thanks for the great ideas. I especially like the use of poker chips with numbers to create groups. This will work great in my class. Off to the store!

Elizabeth September 5, 2009 - 4:02 pm

Great ideas. May I use them at my BTSA meeting?

I have free interventions and curriculum and links at chapinpinottilearningcenter.com Check them out.

Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous September 6, 2009 - 8:02 am

1. Keep your desk cleaned and organized. It makes it easier to find things, and it’s just easier on the eyes! I think subconsciously seeing the mess stresses you out. Also, the very act getting organized makes you feel more in-control.

2. Use rubbing alcohol to clean your dry-erase board. So much cheaper than the board cleaner. Seriously.

3. Turn out half of the lights in the classroom. It makes the kids more relaxed. Crazy but true.

4. Pick one student each class period and make it your job to make them feel special/important/appreciated. It doesn’t have to be a public thing, either. As a matter of fact, if it’s a quiet kid, that might be more of a punishment for them!

5. Make a bulletin board about you, showcasing the things you like. You’d be surprised at how many bonds you can make with students by learning you have things in common. It gives you things to talk about and bridges the age gap.

My Blog-

Donalyn September 7, 2009 - 3:50 am

I use old decks of playing cards to sort children into groups. Jacks in one group, tens in another and so on. This is a great way to recycle decks of cards with a few missing.
I also keep a class list and a seating chart back to back inside a sheet protector for every class. I can write any notes I need onto the sheet protector with a vis a vis marker: check off reading and writing conferences, note absences or groups, take a status of the class, whatever I need. At the end of the day, I wipe off the sheets. I leave the same charts for a sub.

Tracey Waid September 11, 2009 - 2:06 am

Thanks for posting this, I enjoyed seeing your ideas and comparing to what I do. I use the whiteboards too – but I went to Lowe’s and bought a piece of white tileboard (it’s in with the paneling) that’s 8 feet by 4 feet. The nice workers there cut it into 12 by 12 squares for me and voila, instant individual whiteboards for $25 total (I have 50 of them now). We use them for everything and the kids love using them. Great for me to see at a quick glance what areas need more review, practicing spelling, using for pictionary games or having students draw scenes as another student narrates (I teach French/Spanish).

For partner pairing, I used Deb Blaz’s conversation clock. They have a clock with 12 hours on it, the first day they go around and make appointments with other students in the class at the various hours. When I call for 2 o’clock partners, they look at their clock and know who to work with. Keeps them working with a variety of people, gets them into groups quickly and they like it because they have a choice on which 12 people to put on their clock.

I also assign tasks to every row of seats so everyone has a responsibility to helping run the class. First row person passes out daily folders, 2nd person checks off HW, 3rd person fills out makeout work sheet for any absent student in their row, 4th person passes out papers at the start of class, 5th person gathers materials and straightens/cleans the row at the end of the block. Empowers the kids to take charge and feel like the classroom is theirs, and as a plus for me, I don’t have to do those things!

I have students fill out cards the first day with their name and parent contact info on the front of a piece of cardstock cut in half. Then on the back I put a spot for me to note any parent contact and notes about classroom behavior. If I need to call a parent I have all my notes right there and the contact info in the same place. I use the cards daily to call on students so I make sure everyone gets to participate (and I note on the back if students are off task, not with us, etc.)

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