10 Teacher Timesavers to Help You Become a More Efficient Teacher Today

In last week’s Facebook Live session, I shared ten ways you might be an inefficient teacher. If you missed that session, watch it here, and remember that you can tune in live each week at 8 PM EST to get even more valuable tips for use technology in your classroom.

Now that you’ve gone back and watched the video (you did, right?), you might feel like you have a problem (or ten of them) but no solution. That was exactly the point. I wanted us to spend time together focusing on your pain points (and mine) as a teacher. Teaching, by nature, is inefficient. That’s because we’re not dealing with machines. We’re dealing with people, and those student-people are usually not mature yet, so the very process of managing a classroom where they are the focus is going to be messy.

It may feel hopeless to you that you will ever spend less time and get more done in your classroom. But you can! In this week’s episode and post, I’m going to share ten solutions to last week’s problems, so here they are:

10 Teacher Timesavers to Help You Become a More Efficient Teacher Today

Problem #1: Too Many Tools

You might have one for grading, one for delivering content, one for student blogging, and one for assessing.

Solution: Though they’re all cool, I’m sure, your life could be simpler if you had one program that hosted content for, delivered content to, and received work from your students. We call such a program an LMS. If you are just getting into LMS world, let me recommend Edmodo. It has a Facebook-like look and has a free version you can use with your students. However, if you want a more robust and even system-wide solution, Canvas is the best program out there. It looks clean, functions well, and I can say with certainty, it will handle just about any classroom task you can throw at it.

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Yolanda Payton’s session includes Canvas and will show you how simple it is to drive instruction through an LMS.

Problems #2 and 3: Lack of Purpose, Priorities, and Balance

You spend plenty of time at work, but you wake up out of a stupor at your desk after several unpurposeful hours and haven’t accomplished anything, OR you might be a rockstar at work, but you scream at or neglect your family at home.

Solutions: An efficient teacher knows how to manage her time and balance her life well; she can’t be made just by a certain tool or set of tools. You could be the most efficient teacher in the world and still waste the time that you gained back. Scheduling and prioritizing have to be goals each day. One of my favorite virtual mentors for the prioritized schedule is Angela Watson, and you can read an article she shares on the topic here.

But you don’t have to take my word for it, or even Angela’s… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here.  Kelsea Studebaker’s session will show you the top characteristics of an efficient teacher. If you can become more efficient, you can get your life back!

Problems #4 and 5: The Paper Nightmare and Your Messy Desk

If you’ve heard any of my Facebook Live videos, you’ve heard me talk about how my desk was always a mound of papers waiting to be taken home in a rolling crate and (possibly) graded.

Solutions: Use paperless or less-paper solutions like OneNote Class Notebook to deliver work straight to your students and receive no papers back! Kids don’t even have to remember to put their names on their papers or bring pencils to class. There’s no more messy desk for you, and the students have clean desks too!

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Watch Tammy Dunbar’s session to find out how you can even be more efficient by using OneNote from your phone. Grade and deliver work from anywhere!

Problem #6: Inefficient Hallpass Systems

if you’re like me, you’re always looking around for a scrap sheet of paper or a kid’s often-lost agenda in order to write a hallway pass. Then, when the kid goes somewhere, you forget where he went or how long he’s been gone.

Solve that problem for good! Use a Google or Microsoft Form accessible with a QR code right by your door, and kids can scan to sign out on the way out the door. To combat the additional problem of kids staying gone forever and you forgetting, place a kitchen timer hung with command strips right beside the QR code. Kids push start when they leave, and have it set to beep after five minutes, so that you can track down kids who might be “lost” on the way back.

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Watch Missi Love’s session and find out even more tricks you can do with free Google tools.

Problem #7: Struggling to Enforce the Rules

Imagine this: Your class is a zoo. The kids don’t seem to know how to line up, their papers are everywhere, and they are rude every time you have a sub. Maybe you don’t have to imagine very hard, because you are picturing your very own class.

Solution: An efficient teacher makes rules and sets of classroom systems from the very beginning of the year. The more the kids are taught to follow a routine, the more efficient they are in it and the less you pull your hair out. Baldness would be very inefficient ūüôā

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Watch Ashley Millar as she shares plenty of tips on efficient behavior management in her session.

Problem #8: Poor Parent Communication

I don’t know about you, but in my classroom, I toggled among many forms of parent communication. From website to those carbon message books you use in offices to paper agendas to emails, it was always a struggle to keep up how I was communicating and how often.

Solution: Use one system to communicate. My favorite is Remind, but maybe you’d prefer to check out Bloomz, recommended by Vicki Davis. Whatever you choose, make it simple for you and the parents. Use one system that allows for two-way communication, and use it all the time.

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Watch

Problem #9: Assigning Student Supplies

Maybe you’re a math teacher, and students borrow a calculator from you every day. The problem is, you never know who took which one, who pried the keys off, and who walked out the door with that expensive pocket computer. Or you’re a teacher with laptops, books, crayons, or anything else kids use regularly. You don’t have a system for signing items out and checking their condition upon return.

Solution: I love the number system for so many reasons and used it often in my class, including when I assigned supplies to kids. Check out this post for more information.

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Watch Tanya Marshall’s session and learn several time-saving systems to stay organized, whether online or off.

And finally, this #10 item is keeping you from being efficient, and it’s the elephant in the room: Slow and Stressful Grading

The problem: I think you know it. It’s why you avoid grading (if you’re like me) in favor of any other activity. It’s grading where you learn just how little of what you taught the kids retained and where you just can’t seem to go quickly, no matter how hard you try.

Solution: Embrace digital and manual systems that will let your students evaluate themselves and each other, or allow tech tools to do the grading work for you. Here are a couple posts chock-full of information to help you with either of these concerns:

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Watch Meredith Dobbs wow you with her ideas for using audit-style grading to give good feedback while saving time.


Well, there you have the them, the 10 teacher timesavers to help you become a more efficient teacher today. But what if ten aren’t enough? What if you need 100 more, from all different subject areas? The Efficient Teacher Conference was created with you in mind. I knew what stressed me out as a teacher, and I painstakingly sought out teachers who could give real-life, effective advice to help you become more efficient in the classroom. Won’t you grab your free ticket today? 

With Tech and Twang,



Tech Tuesday #20: Putting Differentiation on Auto-Pilot


Did you ever read a choose-your-own-adventure book? If so, you know that the reader controlled what happened in the story. Differentiation should be the same way. Students who need help should get it, and those who have mastered content should be able to move on. Further, it should not be labor-intensive for teachers to set up such differentiation and try to keep up with which student is on what track. Today, let’s explore innovative uses of OneNote, Microsoft Forms, and Canvas LMS, three tools with features that make differentiation easier and even automatic.

In OneNote, we will:

  • explore the individual and groups distribution features
  • see how you can reward students with badges using those features

In Forms, we will:

  • turn on the branching feature
  • try a sample branched activity

In Canvas, we will:

  • create a module
  • turn on the Mastery Paths feature

Intrigued? Watch the video embedded below, taken from my Tuesday weekly Facebook Live session at 8PM EST, where I discuss all the features in detail and show them in action. Like the page now so you never miss another video!

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink

Tech Tuesday #9: Four Powerful Tools for Student Engagement


I’m what you might call a free spirit. For that reason, I probably should never commit to doing a blog series, because if something more interesting catches my attention, I will definitely abandon the series to go to that topic. That’s just what happened when I paused to talk about blended learning and email/file straight-up strategies. Anyway, here is the long-awaited conclusion for my series on choosing the right tools for your classroom. In previous weeks on Facebook Live and in this blog, I have addressed how to choose assessment tools as well as content delivery tools and my favorite recommendations for each. If you missed those parts of this series, go back and read them or watch the videos. So with part three, we’re going to talk about student engagement tools. No matter what grade you teach, you probably struggle at least some of the time with your students’level of engagement. I know I did and still do, even with my adult students. And we’re only making the problem worse when we lecture or do worksheets or even show videos for extended amounts of time with no application. I’ve referred to the 10-2 method as I’ve discussed benefits of blended learning and other best practices. What do you do, though, with those two minutes of application? Well today, I have four tools I’d like you to try when you’re ready to engage your students. But before we get down to the tools, let’s talk my favorite topic: pedagogy. How do you know what tool to choose? What if the tools I recommend don’t work in your school or those companies go out of business? You can’t get too attached to a tool. I’ve learned that as one of my favorites, Office Mix, is retiring in a couple months. I have to instead get attached to what the tool does, and that’s what I want to help you learn as well. So without further ado, let’s dive In.

 Choosing the Right Engagement Tools

¬†What are the best features you should look for when you’re trying to find a tool to engage your students mid-lesson?
  1. First of all, look for live response. There’s nothing that excites a kid more than to see his or her name or nickname pop up on the board with a response. It could be exactly the same thing that we previously would have had them put on a sticky note, draw on the dry erase board, or write on a piece of paper. It’s not the topic. It’s the methodology.
  2. Next, you will want a tool that will allow you to have either anonymous or name-associated posts. Sometimes you need your students to be accountable for what they write. At other times, though, you might be looking for survey tools that will allow your students to do a response, especially if you’re expecting honest answers. Make sure what you pick is appropriate for the job. You could use a tool that allows anonymous or named posts, or you could use two different tools for either one. That might add some nice variety anyway.
  3. Number three, and this is basic, is to choose a tool kids like. Referring to what I just said in tip two, that pursuit of the elusive student interest might mean that you have to change things up every once in awhile. I showed the tool Sway, which I’ve discussed in a separate post, to a sweet male teacher a couple years ago. He fell so in love with it that he said, “Suzy, I’m having my kids make a Sway every week!” While I shared his excitement about loving this tool, I’m sure the kids did not enjoy working with the same tool week after week. So pick a good one, but don’t be afraid to change it up.
  4. Number four is to make sure the tool is free or affordable. You are the boss of how you spend your money, and maybe you’re still in one of those blessed school districts that still has classroom budgets to give out. Or maybe you can talk PTA into giving you some money. But if not, free is the way to go. If you do decide to pay for a tool, look at how many times you’re going to use it and divide that up from the total cost. That way you can see if you’re really using a tool that’s worth it.
  5. My last tip before we go diving into some of my favorite tools is to make sure that the tool does not mine student data. I am loving the new Common Sense Privacy Evaluation Initiative research. I was at ISTe when the organization launched this initiative to a small group of us at dinner, and the project asks companies to evaluate and provide evidence of their abilities to protect student privacy. I know it may not come to our minds all the time, which is why I’m sharing this tip here, but you really should care about what the cost of free is. Make sure the tool does not give away more than you would want to share about your classroom and the students in it.

Four Powerful Tools for Student Engagement

Now let’s get into the fun part and the reason that so many teachers go to conferences. I get it. You want tools you can use today or tomorrow. So let’s get down to business.
  1. Have you heard of Mentimeter? It’s a great pulling tool that allows you to collect student options in word clouds and eleven other ways. From their phones or devices, students simply go to menti.com and put in a code for your presentation. Preparation on your part is minimal, and students can respond to form a word cloud, take a poll, take a quiz, and more. If you’re using the tool to have students vote or give feedback to each other, I also love the ability to present only the winner, complete with a confetti celebration. Here’s a video that shows how the tool works:¬†https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfKj2s69nio¬† ¬†Mentimeter has been the go-to tool at many conferences I’ve attended recently, so it definitely merited a place on my list. However, I don’t want to ignore the tried-and-true.
  2. Poll everywhere is a tool I’ve used for years. Though I’ve been out of the classroom for 5 years, I’ve still found use for this tool even in church camp settings. It allows students to respond to an open poll, again in word cloud or graph style. A practical classroom use I had for Poll Everywhere was the ability to have my students instantly vote on debates. I matched my freshman students in mini one-to-one debates for three minutes. At the end of each debate, other students were instantly able to vote for the winner. Though I graded everyone individually, the winner received bonus points. It was a great motivating factor. Any time that students can give instant feedback, that feedback is going to be more valuable. Also, the fact that the feedback comes from peers makes it ten times more exciting for students than if the teacher had just graded them.
  3. My third tool is Today’s Meet. Again, it’s an oldie but a goody, and I don’t want to assume that everyone’s heard of it. Today’s Meet allows you to open up a temporary room where students can chat or answer question you’ve provided. After the amount of time that you selected, the link deactivates, but there is a transcript feature while it’s still open. When I was first introduced to back-channeling, maybe ten years ago, this is one of the tools that caught my attention, and it still works well. A neat little feature that it has also is that students can’t put their full name in. When they start to type more than one word, it limits them–the tool respects student privacy. Try this fun little tool for shy kids in your class who may need to have an ongoing chat with you but don’t want to ask questions in front of everybody. You can also read any questions at the end of the lesson and answer them.
  4. Finally, Microsoft Forms is definitely a favorite. It replaced Excel Survey a few years ago,and has a beautiful layout that I was missing with the older tool. You can give surveys and graded quizzes. It also embeds beautifully in your learning management system or in a Sway. If you need to collect easy data and have beautiful visuals at the end of it, Forms is worth checking out. I actually did a whole webinar on this tool. Though some of the interface has updated, the basics are the same and I think you might find the webinar helpful.

Want to know more? Watch this video for a quick sample of all four tools in action.

So those are my tools and tips. I want to end, though, with two other little tidbits you might find valuable. First of all, try taking your link from one of the tools and pairing it with either a QR code or a short link or both. Any way that you can make the student link more accessible will just speed up the ability for students to get there quickly and to interact with you. You don’t want to waste the two minutes out of the 10-2 method just getting to the link. Also, as I stated earlier, you want to make sure your students have each other as the audience as often as possible. In addition to the debate idea I gave you, here’s another idea: two groups of students who need to give speeches could do so over Skype or video conference. As one student is speaking, the students in the other class are giving compliments and critiques via one of the tools we suggested above. These are just two more ways to get your students flowing with technology and engagement.¬†

Do you have other engagement tips or¬†tools? I’d love for you to share them in the comments below.
With Tech and Twang,