The Ultimate List of Teacher Hacks
By Mary Montero
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After you’ve been in the classroom for a few years, you pick up teacher hacks and strategies for classroom management that make you think – how did I ever live without this?! Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok are amazing resources for finding new hacks, too!
I asked several teachers in our FREE Inspired in Upper Elementary Facebook group what their best hacks were, and I compiled it below, along with my own personal teacher hacks. From organization, systems, and classroom management, this is your ultimate list of teacher hacks!
Teacher Organization Hacks
I’ve worked in various classrooms and schools, and the resources, storage, and space available differs greatly! Sometimes you need a good teacher organization hack to help you make the most of small spaces or a lack of supplies.
Buy four or five large plastic storage containers with lids. These will be useful for various things, from moving classrooms to packing up at the end of the year. But best of all – this is always a good check for how much you have accumulated! If you can’t fit everything in the boxes anymore, it’s time to do a clean out.
Lacking space in your classroom? I’ve been there. The best alternative to cabinets are book shelves or metal storage racks. Then use containers to keep everything out of sight and away from students, as needed.
Make the most of the space you do have. Right now, I have VERY little storage space, so I’m intentional in how I use it all. Use low bookshelves underneath dry erase boards, get a tech cart that has storage drawers underneath, hang task cards off the sides of your rolling cart, etc.
Use a shower curtain to cover exposed storage spaces. Place binder rings through the outermost holes in the curtain. Then you can hook them onto adhesive hooks.
You don’t need fancy or expensive boxes and filing systems. Save extra shipping boxes and cut off the lids. Wrap in pretty wrapping paper that brings you joy. These can be used as turn-in bins, supply storage, and more. Don’t forget to label the sides to make it easy to locate what you need.
You know all those spare lids from dried up glue sticks or markers? Save them! You can use them as replacements when your students inevitably lose theirs. – Stephanie F.
Give students their own supplies to keep up with. This cuts down on germs, and it cuts down on arguments over who gets what supplies in the classroom. – Katrina S.
Classroom System Teacher Hacks
The systems we create in our classroom can make or break the daily function of our classroom. Honestly, a lot of times systems just take playing around until you find something that works for both you and your students. The key is that it’s something you can keep up with because ultimately you’re the one who keeps it functioning! Here are some of the best teacher hacks for classroom systems:
Teach your students simple classroom signals for things like bathroom breaks, needing supplies, tissues, etc. This will keep you from stopping class to attend to students’ needs. You can silently acknowledge and respond. Make sure students know where extras of EVERYTHING are so they can access them on their own without your help.
Make a sheet of paper with your students names down one side and a blank section on the other side. You can use this list for so much! Attendance, grading, checking off work – the options are endless. – April J.
Do all of your check-in items at one time. It’ll save you time and keep you from tracking people down. Order lunch and take attendance at the same time in the morning. – Lora F.
Buy pre-made game boards and activities that you can reuse over and over again. This makes stations really easy because students will get familiar with the rules, and can jump right into the activity. – Jenny K.
This teacher hack saves me my sanity! Make students highlight their name on their paper before turning it in. This keeps them from turning in no-name papers. – Christy Q.
Set aside time every day to grade papers, even if it’s only twenty minutes (don’t forget to set a timer!). This will keep the papers from piling up. – Markley W.
When a student is absent, write their name and date on the top of any assignments for the day. Then place the missing work in a hanging folder or other assigned place for students to access. – Dana H.
Print really important notes for students on colorful paper. Then, when students are cleaning out their folders, you can say, “Don’t throw away any yellow papers!” – Amy S.
Strategies for Classroom Management
Classroom management can be a big struggle! Similarly to classroom systems, sometimes it takes trial and error with different strategies for classroom management until you find what works best for your students. Don’t be afraid to say, “This is not working!” and try something new. Here are some strategies that have worked for me and other teachers.
Create classroom goals for students to work towards. When I had a particularly rowdy class, I had them work towards earning tally marks for their behavior. Students encouraged each other to be on their best behavior. If the class met the goal, they would get a prize, like five minutes of extra recess.
Classroom tickets have worked great for me for several years and in various grade levels. Students earn tickets for all types of behavior – answering questions, following expectations, and sometimes just answering fun trivia questions (about school content). Every month, I hold a lottery where students turn in their tickets. Tickets are drawn and winners earn a small prize. These prizes don’t need to be material– they can be a lunch bunch with the teacher, extra recess, etc.!
Assign jobs to students. Not only do students love having jobs, but it will save you some time and energy. It also allows you to multitask. Have students pass out papers while you set up your teacher station, or pick up supplies while you check in or sort assignments. I have students apply for specific jobs each quarter, so we aren’t switching every week.
Don’t want to manage 10 classroom jobs? Assign one student “class leader” for the day. They handle all the tasks that need done for that day, and the next day you can select a new student. – Renee P.
Need help keeping your room clean? You need this hack. It’s called “magic trash”. The teacher secretly selects a piece of trash, and if a student cleans up that piece of trash, they get a prize. My kids are obsessed with keeping the room clean! – Heather M.
Have a “don’t bug me” box. This is a place for students to put notes, tardy slips, and other items that they don’t need to stop class to give you. They can simply put it there! – Aubrey R.
I’m so glad you are here. I’m a current gifted and talented teacher in a small town in Colorado, and I’ve been in education since 2009. My passion (other than my family and cookies) is for making teachers’ lives easier and classrooms more engaging.