Susan C. Anthony

Time-Saving Tips for Teachers

One thing I learned in my years in the classroom is teachers never have enough time. Here are some of the best ideas I found and used to conserve precious time and keep things running smoothly in my classroom.

Bulletin Board Solutions

One reason I wanted to become a teacher was because I liked doing bulletin boards. I still do, but not under pressure. A solution for me was to buy BIG wall maps: a world map, a U.S. map, a map of my state, and a map of Europe. These go up before school begins and don't come down until the year ends. I relate anything we learn in any subject to the maps whenever I can throughout the year. We use them for geography and games. They are in use practically every day.

Another yearlong display is a long time line extending from 3000 B.C. to 2020 A.D. marked out in 500 year increments. National Geographic photos illustrate the following eras and events: Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Birth of Christ, Middle Ages, Columbus (1492) and USA began (1776). I introduce this rough outline of western history early in the year, and as we study events in any subject, we locate them on the time line. See the Fun with Facts handout for more details.

This made for a beautiful and useful classroom while leaving me with only one or two bulletin boards to change again and again.

Hall Passes

It's time-consuming to write a pass every time a child leaves the room. If hall passes are required in your building, cut 4" lengths of 2x4 and decorate them with permanent markers. Make one for the boys' bathroom, girls' bathroom, nurse, library, office, principal, etc. Cut some extras for future passes or replacements. Write your name and room number on each pass, and keep all of them in a box near the door.

These passes have several advantages over others I tried:

  1. They're almost impossible to destroy.
  2. They can't easily be used to hit people or things.
  3. They can be used year after year.
  4. They usually find their way back to you if they're lost

Some teachers have kids sign out when they leave the room and sign in when they return.

Organize by Number

Assign a number to each of your students at the beginning of the year. The teacher is #1. Students can be numbered randomly, or perhaps assign a number related to birth date. If a student moves away, his/her number becomes available for the next student who enrolls. Here are some ways these numbers can be used:

  1. Student texts are numbered. Then there is no need to write names in the texts.
  2. List students by number rather than alphabetically in your grade book.
  3. Have each student write his/her number in the top right-hand corner of each page before it's turned in. As papers are handed in, students insert their paper in the right sequence in the pile. Then they're in order for recording in the grade book.
  4. For fire drills or to check attendance, the teacher starts a count by saying "1" (the teacher's number). Students count out their numbers quickly and the teacher notes the number of anyone who's missing.
  5. Use the numbers to keep track of turns. For example, lines can start with #1 on the first day of the month, #2 on the second, etc.
  6. Have a can with a token in it for each number. If you need to choose a student for doing something special, draw a number for the lucky winner.

Lining Up Quickly

The teacher stands in front of the line as it's forming and says the following checklist orally:

  1. Faces forward.
  2. Hands at your sides.
  3. Mouths shut.
  4. Bodies behind bodies.

If a line starts to break up or straggle, stop and repeat.

Handling Late Work

Checking and recording late work was a major waste of my time. And it was really no favor to my students. Unless students are held accountable for turning in work on time, they will learn that irresponsibility is OK.

Nevertheless, I forget things myself occasionally, and few teachers have the heart to be severe when a normally responsible child slips up. A solution is to prepare a coupon that can be stapled to a late assignment turned in no later than the following school day. There is no penalty in this case, and no excuse is required. I copy the coupons on bright paper and give one to each child on the first day of school and on the first day of each succeeding quarter. The expiration date is the last day of school. Students who are able to save one or more of their coupons until the last week of school and who have no late work can redeem them during the last week of school for some special reward or treat. You may wish to give out more than one coupon the first day.

Some students use their coupons immediately and continue to try to turn in work late, which I don't accept without a parent conference. I explain to parents that I do not expect perfection but I do expect responsibility. It helps to have a system in place that allows for occasional error but not perpetual irresponsibility.

Device to hang artHanging Art and Displays

I like to have mobiles or other hanging displays in the classroom. Before the school year begins, I put permanent cup hooks above each student desk.

It's time-consuming and dangerous to climb up on chairs and desks to hang or change displays. Teacher Opal Miller gave me this solution:

Take a 1x1 length of wood and two yardsticks. Attach a yardstick to each side of the 1x1 wood, with the yardstick ends extending beyond the end. To hang a mobile, put its string over the ends of both yardsticks. Lift it and loop the string over the cup hook. To take down a mobile, turn the yardsticks sideways and knock the string off the hook. With this device, even students can safely change hanging displays, saving you time.

Go on to read Teacher Morale Boosters
Source:, ┬ęSusan C. Anthony