I love hacks. Especially teacher hacks since they usually involve making my school life easier/more efficient/cost effective. Below are some of the hacks that I use on a regular basis.
1. ) Mail Merge
Mail Merge is a command that you can do in Microsoft Word. If you have ever wanted to quickly address a memo to individual students and include other information (like their first period classroom number for delivery) this hack is for you. I use this a ton to contact my extra curricular team. I also use it for my information sheets (I like to have a paper version of what you see online to write on while talking to parents on the phone).
First, make an excel file that includes header titles in the first row. If you use PowerSchool, you can obtain this list through the reports function. Then, open Word and select Mailings.
Select Start Mail Merge>Letters.
Then Select Recipients>Use an Existing List and locate the excel file you created in the earlier step. Then start making your master document and
Insert Merge Fields
such as Name or Period as you go.
Finally, Finish and Merge. I usually select the option to edit individual documents if I want to see what things will look like before I print. Since we have student aides who will deliver the notices, I sort the list according to their first period room number to make delivery more efficient.
2.) 1 Quick Share on Google Drive
My document camera is no where near as crisp as my personal phone. Additionally, our school uses older PCs with Microsoft products which precludes me from using Air Drop to share student work but I have found a nice workaround (I wish I could give credit to the blogger who wrote about it, so if you know that person, let me know and I will credit them here). When I want to show student work, I do the following. I take a picture of it with my phone. Then click export.
Then select Google Drive (I have the app on my phone)
Then select 1 Quick Share (named as such so it shows up first here)
That folder is bookmarked on the internet showing in my classroom so that all I have to do is click and the picture is ready for viewing or for inserting into my SmartNotebook.
3.) Export SmartNotebook to .pdfs and Save to a Folder Linked on Schoology
I was not a fan of SmartBoards originally. I believed them to be overpriced whiteboards. Then with the advent of better software and apps such as Desmos and Geogebra, I have come around to appreciate the power of dynamic demonstrations and the ability of my students to touch the math. Now all of my lessons are made on the Notebook software. At the end of each period, I select Export to pdf and save the file to a Google Drive folder that I have shared with my students on Schoology (previously I would just share the link with a bit.ly or through PowerSchool). Now when a student’s IEP calls for providing them with the notes from class or when a student is absent, I can easily direct them to the notes from class and I do not have to keep updating the link.
4.) magnetic tape
Most white boards and chalkboards are magnetic. Having magnetic tape allows you to stick almost anything to the board for easy access. I put this tape on the back of my hallpass and it is stuck to the blackboard near the door so I never have to even touch it. I’ve used it on clipboards, dry erase markers, the daily period start and end time schedule in a plastic sleeve. Basically anything that you would like to have at your fingertips while near the board.
5.) Extra Copies Bin with 31 Hanging Folders
I keep a bin of 31 folders for each class. At the end of the day, any extra copies go in the folder with the date on it. Students who are absent need only go to the date that they were absent and get the copies they need. When I get to that date the next month, I recycle what ever is left over. I also link a digital copy of anything that has been copied into PowerSchool so that if we happen to run out of copies, a student can make their own copy through the link.
6.) Word Wall with Definitions
I had a conference with my administrator several years ago. I knew that my district really wanted us to have word walls but I hated the idea of giving up prime wall real estate for just words on a wall. Together, we came up with the idea of having the word on a flap that could be lifted with the definition hiding beneath. Genius. Now my word wall had “meaning” and I didn’t mind giving up the real estate since there was more of a purpose to the activity.