Back To School - Teacher Tips & Tricks

Louie Fisher

Following an extremely well-deserved break, schools kicked off these last couple of weeks. The start of a new year usually brings about a plethora of emotions: excitement, anticipation and maybe a smidgen of anxiety! And while I’m not going back into the classroom as a teacher this September, I am looking forward to supporting our school staff from behind-the-scenes, ensuring they have all the tools and technology to support their incredible work.

Here at Compass, we’re all about maximum efficiency, time-saving and productivity - so here are 5 tips and tricks I used to rely on to help me hack my productivity when teaching.

  1. Gamify behaviour tracking for a positive classroom environment.

If your current MIS doesn’t have a seamless and easy means of tracking behaviour through a system that records positive and negative behaviour points, find an online website or App that does this for you - my personal favourite and teaching go-to was ClassDojo. It enabled the pupils to create their own avatars, and points could be rewarded for a variety of customisable behaviours (good listening, great contributions etc) or removed for negative behaviours (not listening, shouting out etc). The points are displayed next to each avatar - This gamified my classroom and pupils loved the competitive element - You can turn this into weekly/monthly competitions whereby the pupils who’ve got the most points or made the most improvements can win prizes.

Our own wellbeing module at Compass, Chronicle, does something similar, in which behaviours can be logged, points can be tracked and there is a simple messaging tool in which you can contact parents quickly and regularly to update them on lesson content, behaviour and progress!

  1. Improve metacognition while saving time with peer assessment.

The term metacognition refers to a pupil’s ability to monitor, evaluate, and make changes to their own learning - essentially it is “thinking about thinking” and is centered around students being able to understand their own cognitive abilities, evaluate their own performance and understand what caused success or failure on a learning task. 

When teaching, I relied hugely on peer assessment - not only as a means to improve pupil metacognition but also to cut down on my marking workload. I would often prepare a printable A4 sheet with a number of outcomes and targets and give it to each pupil to stick into their book next to the learning task: ie. if we were studying Adjectives, one of the targets would be ‘Highlight all the uses of adjectives in your partner’s work’ - by doing this, the teacher’s are saving time, and the pupils are furthering their learning by looking at work from a new perspective (ie. the marker) and learning to understand where they are making errors, and subsequently where to improve.

You can then use the last 15 minutes of a lesson to go through a previous task, rather than take home 30 books to mark every single individual piece of work for each student!

  1. Delegate and share the workload while teaching pupils the importance of responsibility.

Every member of the teaching staff has a thousand things to do at any given time, from printing resources to handing out books - and that’s before the teaching even starts! I always liked to delegate many of the small tasks to selected pupils - ensuring that pupils had the responsibility to complete this task every lesson, as well as creating time for me instead of doing all these tasks myself. 

For each lesson group, I devised a job list in which pupils were assigned to small tasks (such as handing out books, wiping the board clean, and guillotining and distributing printed resources) freeing up my time to focus on ensuring my lessons started efficiently and punctually. Pupils thrive from the responsibility and your bitty jobs get done - win win!

  1. Make customisable task templates for quick differentiation.

This tip is very much short-term pain for long-term gain, with the work going in early in the year in exchange for huge-timesaving later on! When I was teaching, I devised templates for the number of levels of differentiation needed for each class on Microsoft Word and saved them as blank templates. Rather than having to individually produce resources for each group for every lesson, I’d simply edit my templates with all my differentiated tasks and hand this out to all students, who would stick them in their books.

At this point, you can easily display the list of which tasks each pupil needs to do, without having to create several different sets of resources. This can also be managed at an admin level and shared amongst teachers in Compass MIS (school resources module) to be reused each year.

  1. Understand how your class feels with a class feedback system.

It is so difficult to gauge how each pupil reacts to specific lesson content without doing a deep dive into their workbook and combing through what they’ve done. Creating a system for pupils to let you know how they’re feeling about any given topic will enable you to get quickfire class feedback. I used an emoji system, in which I printed off a number of emojis for pupils to put by their work (Happy, confused, need some extra support) but this can be done in a number of ways - for example, getting pupils to return their workbooks to a number of locations depending on how they feel about their work.

This, in turn, will inform your decision-making - ie. Are we fine to move on to the next topic? Are there pupils that specifically need supporting next time etc.

I hope the hacks that have helped me so much will help you gain the edge going into the new year - good luck!

Louie Fisher

Product Specialist

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