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Essential tips, tools and resources for busy teachers

By Lorraine Clarke Reilly,

24 Jan 2020

From classroom management to marking and assessment, to homework and time management, every teacher needs a ready supply of useful resources, best practice tips and tools in their armoury.

In this article, we've gathered the best of what's out there, concentrating on peer-reviewed resources, as well as tried and tested tips we know from experience makes teachers' working lives a lot easier. Walking into a raucous and ransacked classroom is a scene that evokes fear into the heart of many a teacher, and one that we are all likely to have witnessed at one time or another.

Being greeted by bedlam as you arrive to class is guaranteed to set you off on the wrong foot, and possibly fill you with quiet unrest for the lesson that follows. What measures can you take to avoid revisiting said bedlam? Don't give pupils time to get bored and disruptive by having them wait idly at their desks.

Arrive early and spend a few minutes getting organised.

If you have to step outside, have students complete an exercise against a timer so they're working with a sense of momentum and to a deadline.

Use the same timer when it comes to clearing away at the end of each lesson. Set up a seating plan that allows you to control classroom dynamics as much as possible.

Seating plans should be flexible, so revise as needed, and if needs be, move a pupil who becomes disruptive as quickly as possible. Set boundaries and routines and be consistent in your approach.

Once students are used to doing things a certain way, e.g.

entering class, submitting their homework and so on, you'll find they adopt these routines as standard. Resist the urge to raise your voice in an effort to get pupils' attention, lowering your tone encourages pupils to mirror your behaviour and creates an atmosphere of calm.

It also serves to remind pupils you are in control. Create a classroom environment that is conducive to learning by having displays that include pupils' work and classroom rules.

Creating a grander and more prominent display themed around what pupils will be learning over the coming term will encourage children to engage as well as pique their curiosity. Effective planning relies on efficient organisation and prioritising.

In the recent article 'Time management: Successfully juggling the demands of teaching' we explore a step by step approach to workload planning.

In summation, you have to organise priorities  realistically with achievable milestones, using a system that suits you, and one that you know you'll stick to. You can also try these small but useful tips for planning and organising, which cumulatively over time makes a positive difference.

Store papers under a filing system for each calendar day, so you can easily retrieve as needed.

Use lesson plans that don't take an inordinate amount of time to prepare.

Exchange or swap resources with teachers, and pass on surplus materials you no longer need.

Finally, don't rely on the idea that you'll remember every piece of important information that comes your way, make notes throughout the day to serve as an aide memoire as needed. Most teachers will tell you that paperwork is their number one bugbear, with marking playing a large part of a demanding workload.

To ease the pressure of copious marking, try these simple techniques. Take the opportunity to get started on your marking during class time.

Even just a few books marked makes the task of getting the rest completed seem more achievable and less daunting. Make use of peer, self-assessment and in class marking during lesson time.

Giving pupils verbal feedback as they're completing their work encourages and motivates, it also gives students the opportunity reflect on comments while the subject is still fresh in their minds. To speed up the marking process, invest in a set of rubber stamps, thereby eliminating the need for written comments.

Have students use a bookmark or ask them to leave their books open on the page which needs marking so you're not spending time looking for the relevant work. The TES recommends that teachers start writing reports as early as possible, as it's very likely the first few will be time consuming until you get into the swing of it.

Get into the habit of recording pupils' achievements and progress as you go, so you have notes on their work to refer to.

Develop a bank of clear and simple statements to use as needed.

Finally, have a look at older reports written by colleagues to get a feel for your school's preferred approach. There are a plethora of online tools available, some of which you may already be using, that help make teachers' lives a great deal easier.

The likes of Dropbox, Google Docs and Share Point provides you with a central storage space for files which can be accessed and edited in collaboration with colleagues. Moving into teaching and learning, Moodle is a free open-source software with a pan-global reach.

Teachers can use the software to create collaborative learning environments. Other notable mentions include Ted Talks, You Tube, Socrative and Coursera all of which offer free resources for schools, teachers and learners. To stay in touch with colleagues, many teachers create groups using WhatsApp which allows you to share images, video and audio media messages free of charge. is written by  - Curriculum Developer and Instructional Designer   Useful resources and links
  • The Teachers' Tools website has a planner which Save & Exitome teachers may find helpful for organising their daily workload.
  • Linguascope and Duo Lingo.

    Both Linguascope and Duo Lingo help schools deliver MFL languages, the former has at a cost, while the latter is free.
  • For those who want to pare back time spent lesson planning, the 5 minute lesson plan is worth checking out - The Guardian.
  • TES's ever-popular website contains a comprehensive bank of resources, guaranteeing something for everyone.
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