6 Things You Can Do to Stop Wasting Your Own Time in the Classroom

If you’re looking to regain some of your essential time, this is a post for you!  Many of the daily systems teachers have setup for themselves and students can quickly turn into time-sucks.  Now, I’m not talking about the ever-important relationship building part of teaching, but the nitty-gritty paper passing out, finding absent work, and making seating charts side of things.   I’ve found a few ways to streamline my routines and classroom practices so that I can stop wasting my own time by being inefficient.  Here’s my tips for you:

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1.  Post your “Office Hours” for the Week

I have posted “office hours” each week right next to my desk.  This makes it really easy for students to plan ahead and know when they are going to be able to get help or make up a missing assessment.  It cuts down on any, “well, I stopped by but you weren’t here” conversations, and, despite telling them EVERY DAY when I’m available for help (insert eye-roll), I was always asked, “are you free after school for _______?” about 50 million times a day.  Since I started using this poster, those conversations have gone down to almost zero! I’ve gotten really positive feedback for my students who work and do sports because it makes their planning for the week that much easier. IMG_1983_LI (2)

2.  Streamline the Seating Chart Process

Over the summer I got the idea to put numbers on my desks.  I didn’t really know what I was going to do with it at first, but it has become one of my best ways for saving time making seating charts!

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IMG_1987I have a template of my desk arrangement saved on my computer and I hand-numbered it the way the desks are numbered in my classroom and have a pile of photocopies ready to go whenever I want to mix up the desk assignments.

To make things quick and easy (and obviously fair), I’ve come up with a popsicle stick system.  The desks up front are reserved for students with poor vision and IEPs/504s.  The rest of the desks are for anyone else.

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On a new seating chart day I’ll stand outside my classroom door and catch students as they walk into class.  They’ll draw a stick out of the appropriate container, and I can write down their names on the seating chart.  For my biggest classes (~35-37), this is completely done within 1 minute of the bell ringing.

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On the majority of days that I’m not making a new seating chart, I just stack them and keep it in a cabinet. IMG_1989

3.  Don’t Waste Class Time Passing out Papers

Have a dedicated paper pick-up area in your room–preferably, near the door.  My students are trained to pick up whatever is on the counter on their way in.  I leave papers for the day and any supplies they might need (scissors, glue sticks, highlighters) here.

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4.  Let Class Start Itself

As students walk in, they are trained to pick up whatever is on the cabinet by the door and then read the instructions that are projected on the SmartBoard.  I have a PowerPoint file on my computer that I never close and have a color-coded slide for each period (Algebra 1 is green, Statistics is yellow, and Algebra 2 is purple).  This frees me up to do whatever I need to be doing as class is starting.  It also gives us a few more precious minutes each period. Here’s a few of our most recent slides (there’s a large date gap because of snow days).

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5.  Let Students Take Care of Their Absent/Missing Work

At the end of each class, I put any extra papers in the corresponding class-bin.  Each bin has tabs labeled 1-31, for each day of the month.  If an Algebra 2 student was gone on the 23rd of the month, when they get back they know to look in tab 23 of the Algebra 2 box to find any papers they need to make up.  Students are trained to ask a classmate for a picture of the notes they missed, and if they need extra help getting caught up they can stop by during my office hours for the week. This system practically runs itself.

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6.  Immediately File Missing Assessments

This has been a HUGE game-changer that I’ve added this year.  In the past I have just piled up extra assessment papers and I was often left scrambling to sort through my disorganized pile of tests and quizzes to find an assessment a student wanted to make up from when they were absent two months ago.  Most of the time I was able to find the assessment, but sometimes that led to the pile of tests and quizzes falling all over the floor.  Sometimes I’d have to print a new one. It wasn’t efficient and I didn’t feel good about that system (it could be embarrassing at times when a student was waiting and I was empty-handed).

I also have a standing policy that any student can drop by during any period of the day to make up missing assessments.  I have many seniors that that have early release and are only at school for 4 or 5 periods of the day.  Instead of coming before or after school, it works best for them to just stay an extra period and take their quiz/test in the back of my class or in the ELA (my school is made up of pods of 4 classes and there’s a common area in between them called the Extended Learning Area.  All of the walls that back up to the ELA are made of floor-ceiling glass, so I often let students take assessments out there, so long as I have their phone and backpack behind my desk).  When students pop by to make up an assessment during another class, I needed a way to be able to find their test/quiz ASAP, and my old system was failing horribly in that regard.

This is the ELA.  There’s 2 more classrooms to the right of this photo. My classroom is the one with the door open.

My solution?  I found this paper organizer in the staff room of my building being given away for free (seriously, staff rooms have the BEST stuff!) and have a folder for each class that I teach, as well as for no-names.  When I’m giving a test or quiz and the students are quietly working, I will write the names of any absent students on a quiz and put it in the proper class period folder.IMG_2041

For my statistics classes which are college credit, I have to be very strict with the makeup policy (students are required to make up their assessment within one day of their return, or it’s a permanent zero in the grade book) and remembering the dates for 2 classes of students was too much to keep track of.  Now, I just write the date that the assessment must be made up right on the paper when I’m filing one away for an absent student.  When they show up to makeup their assessment, it allows me to remember if they can or can’t at that point. IMG_2044

These systems and practices take very little time of your own to set up, but yield great time-savings throughout the year.  I hope this gives you a few ideas to use in your own classroom!

-Audrey

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Algebra 1 Interactive Notebook Pages | Unit 4 – Linear Functions

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen the following tweet about a month ago.

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You could say I got a bit behind on my semester 1 INB gluing and, as a result, my INB posts have fallen by the wayside.  Semester 1 ended the first week of February and I’m just now getting around to catching up on getting it organized, since I’ve had a few snow days in a row (I really thought this would be a snow-day free year, but nope!).

Without any further ado, here are my INB pages for Unit 4 of Algebra 1: Linear Functions. Note:  There were activity/quiz/review days built into this unit–the days listed out are for days that note-taking occurred.

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Day 1

We started the unit off with what it means to be linear in form:838839

From there, we moved onto a foldable that covered finding intercepts of linear functions using various representations:840841

Then, we used our skills of finding intercepts to graph linear functions in standard form:842843

We finished up our class with a foldable, focusing deeper on horizontal and vertical lines and continuing to build off the last two examples in the chunk of notes before.  844845

Day 2:

We continued to expand our abilities with finding and now interpreting intercepts. 846847

We finished off the class by solving linear functions by graphing and introducing the idea of a “zero” and how it relates to an intercept. My students found it REALLY hard to not just algebraically solve these equations.  We talked a lot about why we are practicing solving by graphing for linear functions when the algebraic method is quicker.  We discussed that, because later on in the year, the algebraic method may become much more time consuming, and graphing can be a quicker method for many functions. We also mentioned that the graph allows us to see more of the story. 848849

Day 3:

We started off with a recap warm up from the previous two days.  The boys in my class really loved problem 4. 850

We then talked about slope and connected it back to the graphs we’ve made in the previous two days and how they either had a constant incline or constant decline…slope!851

We looked closer at the different types of slope using this foldable from Lisa Davenport. 852853

Now that we had a bit of practice with calculating slope, we moved onto interpreting it and finding it from different representations. 854855

Day 4:

We started off with a recap warm-up of slope, and then learned about what proportionality means.

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We extended our ability to determine whether or not a relationship is proportion to create equations. 859860

Day 5:

We started with a recap warm-up on writing equations for proportional & non-proportional linear relationships. 861

We then did graphing absolute value equations by making tables.  This was mean to motivate students to use transformations instead of tables (we introduced transformations the next day), as well as help students remember the properties of absolute values and domain & range. 862

I started drawing the absolute values in with marker because |3-4| started looking like 13-41 for many students.  863

Lastly, we glued in a tips for success reference sheet that students can use if they ever get stuck. 864

Day 6:

We started class with a recap warm-up on graphing absolute value equations by tables.  To further motivate transformations (we started to learn about them RIGHT after doing this warm-up), I made sure to make the second example REALLY annoying. Either you’d have to go up by 3’s or deal with the decimals.  At this point, I think we established that making the tables takes SOOOOOOO much work, but it does get the job done. 865

Next, we were on the hunt for patterns.  What the heck do these a, h, and k things do, anyway?866

Now that students had some observations, we applied it to make graphing SO much quicker!  It only takes 3 points, you know! Once you have the vertex and the slope, you’re golden!867

Day 7:

We did a recap warm-up over graphing absolute value equations by transformations. 868

Lastly, we glued in a flowchart reference page, just in case students ever needed an easy refresher of how to graph absolute value functions by the quicker transformation method. 869

Meal Prep, vol. 6

Background:

Teachers are some of the busiest people I know and frequently sacrifice doing things for their own well-being (like making home-cooked meals) in order to make the best lessons and classroom environment for their students.  In an attempt to manage my work-life balance, force myself to get better at cooking and also eat a proper meal each night, I’ve decided I’m committing myself to cook 3 meals each Saturday morning to last me through the week.  Each evening, I’ll quickly make a side to go with it (steamer veggies, minute rice, fruit, etc.).  I hope that posting these compilations of recipes will help other busy people of the world.

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The Recipes:
Total Active Time = 30 hrs

This week is mostly a leftover week.  I have frozen about half of what I’ve cooked for the last few weeks, so now it’s time to eat it up.

I have leftover:

Recipe #4: Spicy Thai Noodles
Difficulty Level: 1/5
Time: 30 min (5 min prep, 25 min cook).

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I made a lot of tweaks to this recipe (Mr. T doesn’t have the spice tolerance that I do), but it really was a winner and it was SO easy! I’m bringing this for lunch this week!

Since I made so many tweaks, I’m including my copy of the recipe that has been all marked up.  I also added some chicken to “beef up” the meal. 😉 I forgot to mark it on the recipe, but I didn’t strain the pepper flakes out of the oil.  I’m not fancy enough to have a strainer small enough to catch the pepper flakes.  I figured I’d just use less, since I wouldn’t be straining it out.  I will definitely be making this recipe again!  Easy and tasty! I think it’ll taste great cold, too!

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Meal Prep, vol. 5

Background:

Teachers are some of the busiest people I know and frequently sacrifice doing things for their own well-being (like making home-cooked meals) in order to make the best lessons and classroom environment for their students.  In an attempt to manage my work-life balance, force myself to get better at cooking and also eat a proper meal each night, I’ve decided I’m committing myself to cook 3 meals each Saturday morning to last me through the week.  Each evening, I’ll quickly make a side to go with it (steamer veggies, minute rice, fruit, etc.).  I hope that posting these compilations of recipes will help other busy people of the world.

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The Recipes:
Total Active Time = 3 hrs 30 min

Recipe #1: Copy Cat Madras Lentils
Difficulty Level: 1/5
Time: 45 min

I frequently buy these delicious pouches from Costco, which are SUPER DELICIOUS and are perfect for those “I need a quick lunch that’s also super filling” moments.  I like to serve this on top of rice and it’s just comfort in a bowl.  I don’t think I got a 100% perfect match on the recipe, but it’s very close flavor-wise.  I think the original recipe uses darker lentils than are sold in the stores in my area.  I have really lightly colored ones.

Despite how delicious the lentils are pre-packaged, they cost nearly $12 for an 8 pack at Costco, so that’s not something I want to be buying all of the time.  That was my major motivation for trying to copy-cat the recipe.

 

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Ingredients:  

  • 1 16oz bag of lentils
  • 2 TBSP of olive oil
  • 1C finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 medium jalapeno pepper, de-seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 TBSP butter
  • 1 TBSP of shredded and lightly dried ginger
  • 1 16 oz can of low-sodium kidney beans (drained)
  • 1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1C water
  • Salt/Pepper to taste
  • 1 TBSP of cumin
  • 1/2 TBSP of garlic powder
  • 1 TBSP of chili powder
  • 1 tsp of ground ginger powder
  • 1/4C of heavy whipping cream

Instructions:

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Once boiling, add the lentils and cook for 15-20 minutes under reduced heat.  While the lentils are cooking, finely chop the onion and jalapeno pepper.
  2. Strain lentils and rinse with cool water to prevent further cooking.
  3. In a deep frying pan on medium heat, add the olive, onion, and jalapeno pepper.  Cook until the onion has become translucent and the peppers have softened.
  4. Add the butter and the ginger.  Cook for a minute or two until fragrant.
  5. Add all remaining ingredients.  Mix well.
  6. Simmer mixture for 10 minutes, mixing occasional.
  7. At this point, alter any seasonings to meet your preferences, if necessary.
  8. Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture for 30 seconds – 1 minute, depending on the consistency you desire.
  9. Simmer for 10 more minutes.
  10. Serve on top of rice.

As a side note, this recipe made a TON of food and was really cheap to make!  If you’re looking to make a ton of food and you’re on a tight budget, then this recipe is perfect for you. I froze half of the finished recipe straight away to eat at a later date.  I also googled it, and apparently heavy whipping cream freezes well.

Recipe #2: 40 Clove Chicken & Cream Sauce
Difficulty Level: 2/5
Time: 1 hr (10 min prep, 50 min cook).

Instead of using 40 cloves, I used 20.  Don’t get me wrong, I like garlic, but 40 just sounded like a LOT.  Even with 20 cloves, there was still a lot of garlic-y flavor (I used garlic from a jar that was pre-chopped).  I also Hogue Chardonnay and it tasted great, which is a high praise for someone who’s not a wine fan. My only basis for picking it was it was white wine (like the recipe called for) and it was cheap.  If you know more about wines than I do, you may have a better pick.  Also, for this recipe I went on my FIRST EVER trip to a liquor store to by a whopping 4 TBSP of brandy (less than what comes in one mini bottle).  I’m really living the crazy life, right?! Lol. One mini-bottle of brandy cost $1.75.

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A pro-tip: I bought a sour-dough baguette and it tastes DELICIOUS dipped in the sauce.  The sauce in the recipe has an extremely strong flavor, which I think would be tasty over linguine pasta.  I think it’s a bit sour on it’s own or directly on the chicken, but somehow when it gets soaked in bread, it tastes much more balanced.  In the future, I will remake this without the potatoes (I’m not really crazy about them), half the brandy, and I’ll add cooked linguine pasta in the end and shred up the chicken thighs a bit.  I plan to add the chicken back after the pasta and sauce have been well combined so that the chicken doesn’t get quite as much sauce.  I have a feeling I’d like the recipe much better with those tweaks than as-is.  (PS: I sill plan to include the bread to dip in the sauce.  Always include the bread!).

Recipe #3: Easy Baked Spaghetti 
Difficulty Level: 1/5
Time: 1 hr (20 min prep, 40 min cook).

This recipe was easy but nothing super special (it’s spaghetti, but a bit more time consuming). That said, if you like spaghetti (who doesn’t?), you’ll like this recipe.  This is the recipe that I plan to eat for lunches this week.  I could definitely see myself making this again.   (I forgot to take a picture before I took a bite…woops!).

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Meal Prep, vol. 4

Background:

Teachers are some of the busiest people I know and frequently sacrifice doing things for their own well-being (like making home-cooked meals) in order to make the best lessons and classroom environment for their students.  In an attempt to manage my work-life balance, force myself to get better at cooking and also eat a proper meal each night, I’ve decided I’m committing myself to cook 3 meals each Saturday morning to last me through the week.  Each evening, I’ll quickly make a side to go with it (steamer veggies, minute rice, fruit, etc.).  I hope that posting these compilations of recipes will help other busy people of the world.

meal prep logo

The Recipes:
Total Active Time = 2 hrs

Recipe #1: Mississippi Roast
Difficulty Level: 0/5
Time: 8:05 (8 hr cook on low, 5 min to shred and remove fatty pieces).

This recipe is insanely easy to make and truly falls apart by the time it’s done cooking.  When I make this again, I will probably make it again with unsalted butter because I am a bit sensitive to salt.  I think the main saltiness factor comes from the pre-packaged mixes (ranch dressing mix and dry onion soup mix).  That being said, I don’t think the average person would have any issue with the salt in here.  As recommended, I’m eating it as a sandwich meat filling.  I think it would also go well with potatoes.

Recipe #2: Potato, Pepper, & Sausage Casserole
Difficulty Level: 1/5
Time: 1 hr and 35 min ( 20 min prep, 1 hr and 15 min cooking).

This is a recipe that I made on the fly a while ago, and it was tasty and EASY.  You can season it however you like. I like it because you can serve it as a side or eat it alone for lunches.

Ingredients:

  1. 1 28-oz package of frozen Potatoes O’Brian from Orieda (diced potatoes with onions and peppers)
  2. 1 4-pink (12 oz) package of Italian chicken sausage (I am picky about sausage, but I love this one).
  3. 1 cup chopped onion (I used white)
  4. 2 cups chopped bell pepper (I like to use a mix of colors, but I don’t think it’ll really matter)
  5. Salt/pepper to taste
  6. 3-5 cloves of garlic, to taste.
  7. 1 tbsp of garlic powder
  8. 3 tbsp of olive oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Drizzle 1 T of olive oil onto a 9×13 casserole dish.
  3. Add all ingredients except for the sausage.  Mix well with hands.
  4. Cook for 1 hour.
  5. Mix well, and taste.  Update seasonings to taste at this point, if needed.
  6. Add the sausage (cut up into bite sized pieces).
  7. Cook for 10 more minutes.

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Recipe #3: Egg Roll Bowls
Difficulty Level: 2/5
Time: 45 min (25 min prep, 20 min cook).

An edit I made was to use about 2 Tbsp of honey into the mix.  I also used pre-shredded “angle hair” cut green cabbage, which made this recipe even easier!

I made this recipe last week and loved it so much I made it again as a double batch!  SO delicious.  I packaged this up into 5 Tupperware containers for lunches this week.  I put 3/4C of brown rice with about 1/2 C of the meat and cabbage mixture.

 

 

Meal Prep, vol. 3

Background:

Teachers are some of the busiest people I know and frequently sacrifice doing things for their own well-being (like making home-cooked meals) in order to make the best lessons and classroom environment for their students.  In an attempt to manage my work-life balance, force myself to get better at cooking and also eat a proper meal each night, I’ve decided I’m committing myself to cook 3 meals each Saturday morning to last me through the week.  Each evening, I’ll quickly make a side to go with it (steamer veggies, minute rice, fruit, etc.).  I hope that posting these compilations of recipes will help other busy people of the world.

The Recipes:
Total Active Time = 1 hr, 15 min

Recipe #1: Crockpot Potato Soup
Difficulty Level: 0/5
Time: 4:05 on high or 8:05 on low (3 min prep, 4-8 hr cook, 2 min to blend).

This recipe was modified from the one found on StatTeacher blog.

Crock Pot Potato Soup
Ingredients:

  1. 1 32-oz box of low sodium chicken broth
  2. 1 28-oz package of frozen Potatoes O’Brian from Orieda (diced potatoes with onions and peppers)
  3. 1 18.5-oz can of  Progresso’s Chicken & Cheese Enchilada Soup
  4. 1 8-oz package of cream cheese
  5. (optional) 1 crock pot liner, so you don’t have to clean up!

Directions:

  1. Dice the cream cheese into small cubes.
  2. Dump all ingredients into a crock pot.
  3. Mix together.
  4. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.
  5. (optional) Use an immersion blender to lightly blend the soup to give it a creamier consistency.  I like to leave a few potato chunks in it.

Recipe #2: Chicken Parmesan Stuffed Bell Peppers 
Difficulty Level: 1/5
Time: 1 hr and 15 min (15 min prep, 60 min cooking).

Easy to make and tasty! I will probably make this again.

Recipe #3: Egg Roll Bowls
Difficulty Level: 2/5
Time: 45 min (25 min prep, 20 min cook).

An edit I made was to use about 1-1.5 Tbsp of honey into the mix.  I also used pre-shredded “angle hair” cut green cabbage, which made this recipe even easier!

I LOVED this recipe! I wish I made a double  batch!  I served it over rice and it was SO good!

 

 

Meal Prep, vol. 2

Background:

Teachers are some of the busiest people I know and frequently sacrifice doing things for their own well-being (like making home-cooked meals) in order to make the best lessons and classroom environment for their students.  In an attempt to manage my work-life balance, force myself to get better at cooking and also eat a proper meal each night, I’ve decided I’m committing myself to cook 3 meals each Saturday morning to last me through the week.  Each evening, I’ll quickly make a side to go with it (steamer veggies, minute rice, fruit, etc.).  I hope that posting these compilations of recipes will help other busy people of the world.

The Recipes:
Total Active Time = 2.5 hours

Recipe #1: Lentil Soup
Difficulty Level: 1/5
Time: 1 hr (20 min prep, 35 min cook, 5 min to blend).

This recipe is very tasty and SUPER easy to make.  As a note, this recipe called for 1/2 tsp of “grains of paradise,” which I couldn’t find at my local grocery store, so I substituted 1/2 tsp of black pepper.   This recipe makes a TON of soup, so I am going to freeze half of it to eat for later.  Also, if you have an immersion blender USE IT! (It’s so much easier to use than a regular blender, when making soups.)

Recipe #2: Taco Stuffed Bell Peppers
Difficulty Level: 2/5
Time: 45 min (25 min prep, 20 min cooking).

Easy, tasty, and quick.  Load them with your favorite toppings!  I also enjoy to drizzle a bit of green Cholula sauce on it.  Serve with a side of rice for a complete meal. This was my favorite recipe of the bunch, and I see myself making it many times in the future!

Recipe #3: Shredded Beef & Carrots Pot Roast
Difficulty Level: 1/5
Time: 7 hours and 20 min (15 min prep, 7 hours cook, 5 min to shred).

It was…okay.  I won’t be making it again, but it wasn’t bad.