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Education Teaching

11 Timesavers for Teachers

In this post, I have collected some timesaving tips that I have found helpful for reducing the workload of a busy teacher.

Prepare your test with checking in mind

If you are busy and stressed, you may feel that you want to be as quick as possible when creating tests. But this can become a time consuming mistake! If you have even one ambiguous task in the test, checking and grading that will cost you hours and hours of valuable time!

Laminated repeat

Write down (and laminate, if possible) issues, you have to go through over and over again in the classroom. But don’t hang it on those on the wall, just keep them close. If they are on the wall, students will unfortunately become blind to them. But if you show them once a month or so, these notes will be burned into their memory.

Make your discipline passive

Keep students names or initials in a visible list in the classroom. If a student misbehaves, mark a warning after his name. Two or three warning marks lead to consequences. This way, you don’t have to interrupt your teaching. Students often point the warning out to the misbehaving pupil.

Use self-grading tests, where possible

Many people use spreadsheets for this (like Google Sheets). You can do these tests yourself or find some online. 

Discard papers you don’t need

If you are unsure, get a special place for “probably useless” papers and get rid of the older ones every now and then.

Share lesson plans with your colleagues

You will get engaging variation to your lessons with less work! Nowadays, most schools have some online tools that can be used for that. 

Do things as fast as possible

This may seem obvious, but if you use 15 minutes grading papers rather than getting some coffee, you may get 15 minutes more sleep the next night, and you won’t even need that much coffee the next day! And the time saving pattern is ready.

Track your schedule once

If your teaching work is consuming a tremendous amount of time, you may want to keep track for a week where your time goes. Do you spend much time chatting with your colleagues? Browsing “quickly” facebook when you should be making lesson plans? Watching television while checking tests at home.

Delegate

All those classroom tasks, delegate those to students!

Emergency file for substitute teacher

This doesn’t help your everyday work, but keeping an useful file for substitute teacher can help you when needed most: when you are ill. I recommend that this would be an old-fashioned file, because it’s very likely that the substitute teacher doesn’t have the access to the school online system when the first lesson starts. 

Binary grading

Some subjects can be very time consuming from a grading point of view. Consider creating a very simple grading system you use after each lesson. It can be like: good – moderate – not completed. You can collect them as a numbers to Excel worksheet during every lesson (during, not after!) when students are doing something creative. Zero means not done, 1 means moderate and two is for good. Remember to put 2 for every student that is absent for a legit reason. That way occasional cold won’t affect their grades. If someone is missing many classes, you may have to consider their grade otherwise, anyway. Now, at the end of the semester, you just calculate every student’s points with Excel, and there is a base for the grade or points for class activity. Then you only have to adjust / count in points from other areas, such as tests.

Hopefully these tips were helpful! For myself, the last one has been the most helpful, but maybe for you, it’s something else. Take care!

See also: Why my students dislike me?

Categories
Education Materials Teaching

World flags – Harsh history smoothed

Some time ago, I got this idea about “fastly and quickly” doing some printables for all the little flag enthusiastic out there. I thought that colors and symbols in flags will represent peace, prosperity and all furry and cute things.

Little did I know. Stories behind flags were full of blood and tears. There are so many countries out there that have fought to get their independence! To keep it appropriate for children, I had to come up with euphemisms for these situations. I think the worst story was that after a fight, the king was totally covered in blood and the only non-red part was the one that had had a belt on it during the fight. Do you know what that flag was?

Other problems were flags that were so old, that experts can only make educated guesses where the colors and symbols come from. Sometimes the symbols are no longer the best representatives of the current nation and its people.

Take the Scandinavian cross for example. The cross represents Christianity and has been copied to other scandinavian flags from the Danish flag, which is the oldest continuously used flag in the world and design is likely to date back to crusades. However, scandinavian countries are quite secular and non-crusadic these days, but the flags remain (and people are proud of those flags, too.)

I also learned that there are certain color sets, such as pan-African colors and pan-Arab colors which appear in many flags of their representative area. There is also a pan-Slavic color set, but that happens to be the same as the “colors of freedom” and you are not always sure what the reference is. 

The set contains a small presentation, list of world flags and their meanings and some crosswords to recognize flags. It’s available here.

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Education math TPT

Irrational Numbers – More than Infinite

Irrational numbers are numerous and yet, you can’t think of any of them. “But I can think of pi!” you might say to yourself. Well, ok. How does it go, then? Is it a fraction of some number we are already familiar with? No it isn’t.

Today, we have many things that are absolutely too complicated to understand completely, such as quantum physics. Unless you spend your whole life researching it, of course. But there is something much more familiar yet still surprisingly complicated: the irrational numbers.

Let’s think of it this way: You start in the morning with a notebook and start writing random decimals to a number. For example, you start with 0.628465963 and add random digits until you have five pages full at lunchtime. What you now have in your hands, it’s a rational number, not irrational. That’s because you can write it as a fraction. The numerator will be all the digits after the decimal point and the denominator is a power of ten; it has one and as many zeros as your number has decimals.

So, any number you can create decimal by decimal will be a rational number. Irrational numbers will look like special cases, square roots etc. And you would probably think: “Well, there must be only a limited amount of irrational numbers, then.” 

But that is not the case. There are a lot more irrational numbers than rational numbers. That’s where the infinity really comes into play. If you think of a decimal number as an endless journey to infinity, digit by digit, you realize that every time we take the next step, there will be ten directions we can go. And at the next step, again ten different directions. So numbers we get this way is countless. And only rare cases are rationals, like those that happen to have repeating decimals. If you want a rounded estimate, 0% of all real numbers are rational, the rest about 100% are irrational. 

Whoa! That was something. If you want to familiarize with the subject more, I made a free pdf material that you can download from my tpt shop. It has a concept understanding crossword and a story about how we even know that irrationals really exist.

If you need to teach this subject to let’s say, eight graders, there is presentation & worksheet bundles in my shop: 

Version for Google Slides™

Version for PowerPoint

These are essentially the same, but one has presentations for PowerPoint and the other for Google Slides™.

Hopefully you enjoyed this article! Irrationals are so intriguing, because they are easy and very complicated at the same time. If you want to challenge something, please leave a comment. 

The writer used to be a math teacher in Finland and has a master’s degree in math.

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Uncategorized

Practice, more practice in elementary math

As a professional math teacher, I can not emphasize enough the importance of persistent practice. The thing is, when you repeat something numerous times, it eventually becomes an automated skill. When we have an automated skill, we don’t have to think about it. Sounds simple, right? 

People have a limited working memory. If it becomes too crowded, something falls out of the other end. This isn’t the precise word from psychology, but the idea is clear. So, if you would have to do a complex equation in your head without practice, it would be impossible because your working memory couldn’t handle all the details.

But now, if you have completed some parts of the task automatically, without thinking about it, there will be more space available in your working memory for steps that really need creative thinking. This way, the students with higher level automation can complete higher level tasks in maths!

I teach mostly in middle school but I’ve also prepared some worksheets for elementary students to level up their automation in basic operations. 

The larger set works as a backup for third or fourth grade teachers. You can always draw a fresh, seasonally themed worksheet from the pile. There are also bit different difficulty levels starting from three terms and no brackets to four terms and brackets. The worksheets of this theme back can also be purchased separately. 

The pictures of the themed worksheet pack are made by Prettygrafik

Before this pack, I made a worksheet that has the same structure but isn’t season themed. It is actually the best selling product in my store at the moment. For this, I made graphics myself.

Did I mention that even if there are lots of tasks, they are all unique? Happy practicing!