Math = Love: Time-Saving Tips

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Time-Saving Tips

The more I teach, the more I look for time savers.  There is just not enough time in the day to do everything I want to.  So, any time saving measure I can implement allows me more time to get my work done and still try to have a life outside of school.

Occasionally, I will admit to my students that I didn't grade their quizzes or homework or something else that they expected me to do.  I usually apologize and try to make it into a joke.  "Sorry, but you know I like to have a life sometimes, too."  They usually follow this up with something like this: "Oh, did you go clubbing last night?"  "  Actually, I was asleep before 9 pm."  I guess my definition of having a life and theirs varies greatly.

So, here are some ways that I try to save myself and my students time.

Make copies of frequently used interactive notebook forms.  It's no secret that I love the Frayer Model for Vocabulary.  I usually print 50-100 of these at a time and chop them in half.  I keep them in a file folder labeled "Frayer Model."  Whenever I want to use a Frayer Model with my students, I just pull out the file, and I'm ready to go without having to make copies.

I also run off our Unit Table of Contents pages in bulk.  We put one of these table of contents forms at the beginning of every unit in our interactive notebooks.  I also print 50-100 of these at a time and chop them in half.  They are kept in a file folder labeled "Table of Contents."  I always know where they are at, and it's nice to not have to make copies every time we go to put one of these in our notebooks!

Frayer Model / Table of Contents Form
Make copies of frequently used tables/reference sheets on colored paper.  The next idea is something that probably saves my students more time than it does me.  In Statistics, we are working with the Normal Distribution Model.  Our textbook has tables in the back, but they are kind of inconvenient to use and find.  Students quickly tire of flipping back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.  So, I ran off copies of these tables, double-sided, on colored paper.  I keep them in a folder at my desk.  Whenever we are working on problems that require the use of these tables, I set out the folder.  Students grab a table from the folder and return it when they are done.  These have been a giant time saver!

Normal Distribution Tables
Laminate stuff so it lasts!  My Algebra 2 students and I LOVE conic cards.  I will continue writing about conic cards until the entire world knows about their greatness!  :)  I've learned the hard way that simply printing activities on card stock is not enough if I want to reuse them the next year.  Laminating stuff and cutting them out is time consuming.  But, having to recreate the same activities year after year is also time consuming.  I've found it's better to take a little extra time and laminate stuff in the first place so I don't have to spend time the next year recreating it.  I also laminated the answer sheets to my conic cards.  The fact that they are laminated and color-coded makes it much easier for me to find my answer sheets.

Conic Card Answer Sheets
Keep Track of Future INB Changes In This Year's INB.  Recently, I had an epiphany in regards to interactive notebooks.  Every year's interactive notebooks are different.  I'm continually trying new strategies to engage my students.  From year-to-year, I keep the best pages and strategies from the previous year, and I try new things in an attempt to give my students the best education possible.  Sometimes, I have a brilliant idea AFTER we create a page.  Or, I find after teaching something for the third time that day, I decide that there has to be a better way to word something.

This summer, I picked up some light bulb post-it notes at Target in the Dollar Spot.  I've started marking things that I want to change or did change with a light bulb note.  This way, next year, I will be able to remember what did and did not work well with my students.

Light Bulb Notes - Reminders for Next Year
Make SBG Quizzes Easier to Write.  I haven't written about it a lot, but I'm kinda sorta trying out SBG with my Algebra 2 classes.  This means I've been writing more quizzes lately than I've ever written in my life.  Quizzes can be time-consuming things to write if I let them.  In college, I remember thinking poorly of professors for hand-writing their tests and quizzes.  For some reason, I thought that if they really cared, they would type everything.  Well, I'm coming around and seeing things differently.

I can hand write a quiz in about a third of the time that it takes to type a quiz.  Let's be real.  Equation editors are nice.  But, it takes forever to input all of the various equations needed for a quiz.  Recently, I decided to steal Dan Meyer's blank SBG test (at the bottom of his page before the comments) and use it to write my quizzes.  I've made 15 or so copies of this that I keep in a file.  When it is time to write a quiz, I pull out a blank copy, write my quiz, and make copies.

SBG Quiz Template
Split Up Calculators.  To save my students' time, I have recently placed my calculators in two different locations in my room.  This was actually a suggestion of one of my students.  Now, students who sit toward the front of the classroom can pick up a calculator from the front of the classroom.  Students who sit toward the back of the classroom can pick up a calculator from the back of the classroom.  I'd like to think that this also makes students more likely to put up their calculators when leaving the classroom.

Calculators At Back of Classroom

Calculators at Front of Classroom

What cool tips do you have to save time?  Share them in the comments!


  1. where can I find your conic cards sort?

    1. Conic Cards are a creation of Cindy Johnson, a NBCT. She requests that anyone interested in using them e-mail her for the files. Her e-mail is johnsoncindy2002 at yahoo dot com.

  2. I love this topic so much, I wrote my own post on how I save time because my comment was becoming way too long!

  3. Love your ideas. I need to make those notes in my INB, that is a SUPER idea!

    I use table buckets for supplies, that is helpful. I also have incorporated "While You Were Out" folders each class I teach for absent students. I just stick their work in their period and they are responsible for getting it when they return. It is awesome, an easy and a bulletin board that stays up all year.

    Hodges Herald

    1. Awesome tips! Thanks! I tried table buckets last year, and they did not go well. I didn't make the kids keep them neat/organized, and it was a disaster. Maybe next year I will try again. I'm slowly learning how to manage my classroom effectively.

    2. I'm on my third semester of trying group supplies and it is finally working. Did a blog post about how I did here:

      I'd love it if you took a look around my blog! I've just started. Going to be doing some INB posts soon.


  4. All my students are assigned a number that corresponds with their calculator, text book, and if it is our turn to use the laptops or Ipads they use that number then too. I keep a color-coded list of names and numbers posted by the calculators that I made in Excel. (ie: red for class 1, orange for class 2, blue, green, so on...)

    1. Great advice! That is brilliant! I love that the students have the same number for EVERYTHING. Thanks for sharing!

  5. When you print out pages to put in your notebook, what scale factor do you use? I am almost positive I have seen you post that information somewhere else, but I have looked through so many pages I can't remember where it was (ahhh!). This is my first year to use INBs so I am looking for all the advice I can get. Your site has been WONDERFUL! I am so appreciative of all the information you have put up. Thank you, thank you, thank you! :)

    1. Hey Tamara! I typically design my own notebook pages so they print 2 to a page. This way, I can easily chop the papers in half with a paper chopper, and all my kiddos have to do is glue it in.

      Hope this helps! It means so much to me that you read my blog!

      If you ever need help with anything, just let me know!

  6. Where did you get the number line that you have in your classroom? Did you make it yourself or did you buy it somewhere?

  7. ery well written and extremely practical, thanks for that! Whenever I see a bargain online, I just click and buy it straightaway, which is not good for my home budget. I should learn a lot from you!