1) Know your intention. In a world in which social media share a bazillion truly great ideas, filtering all this information will save your sanity. Your filter is your intention. Personally, I write down my intention. It brings me back into focus after losing an hour to the picture-perfect online world. If you know WHY you are doing WHAT you are doing, it is much easier to stay the course and reach the finish line.
2) Plan less to learn more. “But WAIT!!” you say, “I already have so much to do, how does planning less increase learning?” It is as simple as the fact that the brain can only focus on and process so much at a time. Learning takes effort and can drain our energy. By planning truly quality lessons (rather than assignments to keep students busy), our children are more likely to stay interested longer and remember the lesson!
3) Combine 2 or more skills in each activity. One of my favorite time-saving tips is to combine skills within one activity. For example, while searching in a book for words with a /ch/ sound (a new skill), my child’s recording chart asked her to sort the words she found by the number of syllables in each word (which is a review for her). So she is actually practicing 2 skills (identifying words with a certain sound, and sorting words by the number of syllables) within the same activity. This allows us to save time and include review of skills while practicing a new skill.
4) Get the kids involved in planning, preparations, and clean-up. Do you ask your children what they want to learn? Kids are so smart and know their areas of strength and weakness. By asking them what interests them, you can choose activities that will help them stay focused and want to learn. This means less time spent trying to motivate and encourage focus.
Also, involving children in preparation for activities both builds anticipation and gives them a sense of ownership of the activity. Likewise, when children clean up after an activity, they are learning to be responsible. I know we all want responsible children!
When we take the time to train kids how to help, they not only save us time, but they take a more active role in their learning.
5) Use the power of the Post-it. Let me confess that I don’t fully understand the power of the Post-it. However, when I give my kids 3 Post-its to write down facts in a book, jot down ideas for a writing activity, or mark words they don’t know in a story, there has never, EVER been a complaint. Also, if you leave a stack within reach, Post-its make a great mini-book! ☺
Why does this save time? Well, I use this strategy to get kids quickly working on something that is less appealing (no pun intended) to them. They focus and are happy to complete the task (and usually ask for more Post-its to keep working!).
6) Keep a timer handy. It is so easy to lose track of time, and using a timer helps keep us all on track. I use a timer to remind us to eat a snack BEFORE the kids get grumpy. I use a timer to allow us plenty of time to clean up and prepare for the next day (see #4), since rushing around doesn’t typically create a joyful day at our house. I use a timer just to keep me aware of where we are in our schedule. However, just because the timer beeps doesn’t mean we stop our science experiment to do math. It just means that I am aware of pacing us to focus on our intentions (see #1).
7) Pick your battles by letting them choose. This strategy is great for THOSE days. You know… the days when everything is a battle. I learned this strategy from the behavior specialists. People, no matter if they are 3 or 83, like to feel they have choices.
You simply ask your child, “Do you want to do math or reading first today?” Both options will get done, but the child feels he or she has a choice. This is a win for you because both need to get done anyway, and it really doesn’t matter which is done first today. You can also use this strategy for snack choices, which outfit to wear, selecting a book to read, and many more.
The key is that all of the options you give them are good options. Then, you secretly keep everyone focused on those intentions and moving along the course. This saves you time (and likely some stress, too).
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What are your favorite time-saving tips for teaching? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.
Amy Michaels is a certified teacher with 11 years of elementary classroom experience who is actively homeschooling her own children. Her mission is share the best teaching methods and resources with all homeschoolers. Amy supports parents through her podcasts, webinars, and online training for homeschoolers on her website http://www.thrivehomeschooling.com.