Simple Ways to Solve Common Classroom Problems

Did you know that studies show that teachers make over 1,500 decisions a day?  That's more than 4 educational decisions every minute!  No wonder we're so tired!  I'm always trying to implement tips and tricks to make all the decisions I make and all the things I have to do to manage my classroom much, much easier.  In fact, I have a few simple ideas about how to turn common classroom problems into total non-issues in the classroom.  (As a disclaimer none of them are rocket science and none of them have a solution for how teachers can use the bathroom anytime they need to, but I'm working on it!)

school start, beginning of the school year, setting up the classroom

Problem:  Students without pens or pencils.  
How many times have you started your class only to find out that some of your students don't have a pen or pencil?  It's super frustrating and stops the lesson in its tracks.  There was a time when I would send my students back out to their lockers for a pencil, lend them one of mine, or have them borrow from a friend.  Not any more.

Solution: A box of 144 golf pencils.  
I stick a bunch in a cup in the back of the classroom and encourage my pencil-less students to grab a pencil and get to work.  That box of pencils may just be the best school supply I purchase every year!

students without pencils, common classroom problems

Problem:  The tedious task of making and changing seating charts.  
When I first started teaching I agonized over seating charts.  I felt that if I could get the perfect arrangement of students everything else would fall into place.  I'd spend a good amount of time writing out seating charts or designing them in my grading system.  Pretty soon it became a time consuming process.

Solution:  Post-it notes.  
Now, I just use thin post-it notes.  I sketch my desk arrangement on a piece of white paper and then write my students' names on thin post-it notes.  Then, I stick a post-it note at each desk on the paper and slide the whole seating chart into a clear page protector.  Since I teach multiple classes, each class has a different post-it note color, and I store all the seating charts in a binder at the front of the room.  My favorite part about this system is that I can change seats on the fly.  If I suddenly want Joey at the front of the room it's as easy as moving the post-it note.

seating chart ideas, seating charts, solve classroom problems

Problem:  Handing Back Student Work.  
Handing back papers always seemed like such a waste of instructional time to me.  I used to walk around the classroom, weave between desks, and hand back student work one paper at a time.  All the while I could have been teaching.

Solution:  Student Mailboxes.  
Then, I decided to take a cue from elementary classrooms and designate mailboxes for my middle school students.  I bought a few cardboard paper organizers, labeled each with students' names, and designated a classroom job as 'Homework Manager'.  Each time I finished grading papers I put them into a single basket.  Then, it was the Homework Manager's job to put each classmate's papers into the mailboxes.  Super easy and super fun to have all the hand-back-paper time back!

classroom mailboxes, handing back papers

Problem:  The missing bathroom pass.  
As much as I'd like to keep students in my classroom for every single instructional minute, sometimes nature calls and they need to take a break.  Over the years I used various systems for coordinating bathroom breaks including paper passes and cute cardboard tags.  But after I got sick of tracking down the little passes and filling out paper passes, I wised up and solved the bathroom pass problem.

Solution:  A big, simple bathroom pass.  
Now, I use a big wooden letter that I picked up at Michael's.  I painted it and added a string.  I love how it is big enough for students to keep track of and durable enough to last the entire school year.  An added bonus is that I can easily wash and sanitize the letter, too.  (By the way, I just use the initial of my last name for the pass letter.)

Bathroom Passes, wooden letter pass

Problem:  Creating Bulletin Boards.  
To be honest, when I dreamed of being a teacher I thought getting to create and design bulletin boards was a perk of the job.  Now that I'm hundreds of bulletin boards into my career, I realize that creating a bulletin board can be a time-consuming process.  Getting a bulletin board to look presentable can take away valuable planning time, so I went in search of a very simple way to display student work throughout the year.

Solution:  A clothesline.  
For years I've had a huge clothesline spanning the width of my classroom.  I love it!  Then, one day I realized I could apply the same ease of a clothesline to a bulletin board.  I just added some fun wrapping paper to the back of the board, put up a paper border, and strung up colorful ribbon onto the bulletin board.  Along the ribbon I added clothespins.  Now, changing and updating the bulletin board is as easy as clipping new student work along the bulletin board clothesline.  It's super easy and totally does the job!

Bulletin Board Idea, Classroom Clothesline

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With each of these tips, now I only have to make 1,495 decisions a day!  Actually, my favorite part of all these ideas is that each give me more time to work on creating fun and engaging lessons for my students.  Recently, I just put together this resource filled with SIX WEEKS of instruction for students at the beginning of the school year.  It has everything I'll need to start off the year - 1st Day of School Activities, Classroom Management Resources, and 4 ELA Units.  You can check it out here

What is something you do in your classroom to make life easier? I'm always in search of more time-saving ideas!

Thanks for stopping by!
Brain Waves Instruction

P.S.  I recently joined Facebook (yes, I've been living under a rock) and established a page for Brain Waves Instruction.  I plan to post updates on products, special deals, and links to great resources for educators.  If you're in the mood to 'like' another page, I'd absolutely love to be liked by you!

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