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    36 Tips And Tricks Teachers Of All Grades Actually Swear By

    Genius ideas for all grade levels.

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    We asked teachers in the BuzzFeed Community for their best tips and tricks of the trade, and here are their responses!

    1. Take the time to tell each and every student "hello!" as they walk into your classroom, so you get a sense of where they are emotionally that day.

    thecorecoaches.com

    Greeting every student outside of my classroom, every day, is key to me. It tells me what kind of mood each kid is in each day so I'm not surprised when a student isn't engaged or doesn't want to participate. —corrrndog

    Morning greeting signs optional, but fun! They're a $3.50 digital download on Teachers Pay Teachers, from The Core Coaches.

    2. Make a point of calling kids what they want to be called, including their rapper name.

    youtube.com

    Always remember that respect is a two-way street. (I had at least two students release their own R&B and rap music last year. It's more legit than it sounds.) And nobody calls me by my first name! —rsmith8235

    3. Wear your preferred pronouns on your name tag. Whatever your gender, making a point of stating your preferred pronouns can make it safer and more comfortable for others to share theirs.

    4. Remember that you can’t help students unless you build a trusting, friendly relationship first.

    We TV

    After teaching for six years (I know it’s not that long...feels like it) the one thing that has remained is to always come alongside students where they are at. Then and only then will they grow in their learning and will you be able to challenge them to move beyond. Oh, and teenagers can spot BS from a mile away. Just be yourself. :)

    michellee41c913d37

    Come alongside where they are physically as well. Standing and lecturing from a podium does not build rapport. Walk among the kids, see what they're doing, speak to individuals, get to know them. They're actually really fun and interesting!

    huh448

    5. Don’t hold a grudge against a student for something they did the day before, and never take anything personally.

    Disney

    Treat every day like a new day. —rakbarnes

    Kid bit me? They were mad and couldn't figure out how to tell me. The kid probably won't even remember doing it the next day, so holding onto it isn't going to do anyone any good. Correct/teach in the moment and then let it go.

    funnyvalentine

    6. Be consistent with your rules, especially at the beginning of the year.

    uppergradesareawesome.com

    A lot of people don't realize that many kids actually like rules and boundaries, especially when they don't get boundaries at home. It can be a relief.

    funnyvalentine

    On Upper Grades Are Awesome, she has each class come up with their own set of rules (above), then sign that "contract."

    7. Part of getting to know your kids is staying up-to-date with what they're interested in so you can use it in your lessons — which could really help them remember concepts.

    minecraft.net / giphy.com

    I use Fortnite and Minecraft screenshots to teach the concept of first- and third-person perspective, and boy do they perk up and pay attention!

    lisah43bcb1d6e

    8. On the first day of class, assign an "I wish my teacher knew..." in-class essay, or set up a year-round jar with some sticky notes.

    @pencilsandplaygrounds / instagram.com

    You find out so much about your students and you can build trust with this exercise.

    honu22

    Read more about how to make the jar system work on Pencils and Playgrounds.

    9. Help a student calm down by sending them on a quick walk break away from the classroom, disguised as a helpful errand.

    NBC

    I keep a stash of sealed envelopes addressed to other teachers with a note inside that says, "Please send my student back to me, and thank you for your assistance." When a kid is getting heated or a little out of control, I send them to take a note for me. It gets them out of the situation for a minute, and I can meet them in the hall to talk things over without pride and peer pressure when they get back.

    endersarcade

    10. Give students who like to talk out of turn small jobs or tasks they can do for you.

    Nickelodeon

    All they want is your attention and if you give them an errand to run they will feel that attention they crave.

    rakbarnes

    11. Structure your sentences as expectations, instead of requests.

    Fox

    My sister changed the way she structures sentences. Instead of saying "Jimmy please pass your book up," she'll say, "Jimmy, pass your book up, thank you."

    laurae486e9cb98

    12. But don't be afraid to let yourself laugh!

    Warner Bros.

    The most important thing I do is laugh. I teach high school and students are funny as heck and they love it when you laugh with them! —corrrndog

    Make room for laughter in your class! Teachers are really encouraged to come down hard and be tough all year, but nothing helped my classroom management more than having fun and laughing in class. I will never be the hardass, so I just leaned into being the fun one! Did that mean kids would sometimes try to get away with little things? Yeah. But I could call them on it, and since my kids really LIKED being with me, they didn't argue at all. I would say, "Hey, just because I'm a fun teacher doesn't mean you can take advantage of me," they'd apologize, and life would move on.

    madeleined400dd298d

    13. And if you don't know something, or realize you made a mistake, there's no harm or shame in admitting it.

    Netflix

    Kids are smart; they understand that you're human.

    schulzemary214

    In fact, your honesty might help them be more honest and willing to admit mistakes both now and years down the line.

    14. Give students a dedicated place to park their phones during class, so they aren't even the least bit tempted to get distracted (by that, anyway).

    buzzfeed.com

    I made a positive cellphone ~vacation~ spot! —corrrndog

    15. If you can't take phones away but you spot them out anyway, cut down on the temptation by stapling them up in a cheap brown paper bag.

    Fox

    I teach high school where administration frowns upon us actually taking the students' cellphones away from them. I combat this by placing the phone in a small brown paper bag (like what kids bring their lunch in), stapling it shut, and giving it back to them. The kids are usually pretty cool about it, and it makes the phone unusable, but they still have it in their possession. I've never had anyone take it out of the bag, but they are all aware that doing that is an automatic referral to the dean.

    adidaisy0122

    TBH I might start doing this to my own phone after like 8 p.m. You should be able to find paper bags for cheap at the grocery store, but if you're doing an Amazon order anyway (or just go through lots of paper bags), they're $4.99 for a pack of 40.

    16. Or use positive reinforcement — in this case, extra credit — to help your students learn to resist the need to check their phones.

    Fox

    We use something we call the “Phone Box Fist Bump” in our 12th-grade economics classes to teach concepts like trade-offs and opportunity costs. Put a cellphone-sized rectangle in the corner of every desk and tell students that for every day of class that they leave their phone in the box facedown without touching it, they get a stamp on a handout with a picture of a closed fist. When they get all the fingers on the fist stamped, they can use it as five bonus points on a test, and get a new sheet to fill in. “Class, what happens when you decide to spend time in your phone in class when you should be working?” “We give up extra credit points!” You’d be surprised to see how excited 17- and 18 year-old kids get about a stamp on a piece of paper!

    mattw53

    17. Send home at least as many positive emails/calls/texts as you do negative ones.

    Universal

    PARENT CONTACT! You’ll be amazed at how good you feel when you tell a parent how their child is succeeding and growing.

    rakbarnes

    18. You can even use happy phone calls home (or to a coach or other adult whose opinion they deeply value) as a positive reinforcement tool.

    Amazon

    One of the best things I’ve done is offer positive phone calls home. I tell my kids if they behave all week with little to no disruptions/disrespectful behavior, I’ll call their mom, dad, grandma, basketball coach, whoever, and let them know they’ve been a great student that week. I started doing this in the middle of the year because one of my classes was just wild. But even though they try to act tough and like they don’t care about their parents or school, most of them really wanted to make their parents/grandparents/coaches proud.

    belenl2

    19. And when you do have to call parents about negative behavior issues, help them feel like you're all on the same team.

    Disney

    I always say, “I know he/she doesn’t behave like this at home. Do you have any ideas about what I can try?” Say it to parents even if you know that student acts out at home. This way parents feel like we are on the same team and will be more motivated to correct their student. It works every single time.

    baileyj123456789

    20. Set up a student center that kids can quietly go to whenever they need something (tissues, pencils, erasers, a pencil sharpener, a hole punch, and so on) so they don't have to interrupt class to ask you for something. And include a "While You Were Out" bin to manage handouts and assignments when students are absent.

    buzzfeed.com

    My boyfriend and I are both teachers and swear by this. I tell my middle schoolers that they can use whatever they need as long as it doesn’t interrupt class. It limits distractions and gives students more ownership of the classroom. The best part is the “While You Were Out” bin. When a student is absent, I put their name on any handouts they missed and throw it in the bin. As soon as they come to school, they know to grab it themselves and turn it in to the “Makeup Work” bin once they complete it. Again, it keeps interruptions to a minimum and keeps us all organized. Top it off with a calendar of important due dates, and voila! —oliviab4aea0c45d

    21. Love that idea, but struggle to keep that stash of extra pencils stocked? Grab a few magnets from the dollar store to create a sign-out system on your whiteboard.

    @misscraftymathteacher / instagram.com

    Constantly giving out pencils and never getting them returned? I use magnetic clips on my board that each hold a pencil, with a space next to it for kids to sign one out. When they return their pencil, they erase their name. No muss, no fuss!

    kaylat4e58e8ff0

    Once the students get into a routine, it's super easy for them to go straight to the front of the classroom, write their name down, and borrow a pencil without disruptions. I also name my pencils to make it more fun, and change the names every time I change the pencils! "Queen," "Llama Mama," "Mr. Nicky," etc. (I teach middle school, sixth through eighth.)

    valeried11

    You can download the pictured sign from MissCraftyMathTeacher on Teachers Pay Teachers for $1.

    22. Use a finished work basket (it could have separate file folders for privacy, or clothespins with students' names) so no one can make excuses about whether they turned something in — it's the student's responsibility.

    3rdgradethoughts.com

    I no longer take any papers or homework from my kids. They know where the basket is and they’re responsible for making sure their stuff ends up in it. It cuts down on excuses, and no one can try the “but you took that paper from me yesterday!” trick. I set one up for each class I teach so things stay organized.

    maeganc4aa4e48b1

    Third Grade Thoughts uses a clothespin system (and hand sanitizer for bathroom passes, cuuute).

    23. Use fabric as the background of your bulletin boards. You'll waste SO much less butcher paper and the one background can last for years on end.

    primarily-speaking.com

    It doesn’t tear like paper and if it gets dirty/written on, you can simply take it down and wash it. Plus, there are so many patterns and colors available. I’ve used the the same fabric for three years now.

    jsmageary

    Primarily Speaking has this and many other bulletin board tips and tricks, and Performing in Education has a step-by-step tutorial for choosing and neatly hanging fabric on a big school board.

    24. If your school allows it, have some flexible seating available to help students be completely comfortable during class.

    writeonwithmissg.com

    Wobble chairs, yoga balls, bean bags, standing desks, etc. When students are comfortable and they know that the seating is there to help them be successful they usually choose wisely and work. I teach sixth graders and it has worked tremendously. Also, if they abuse the privilege I move them. Only wish I could afford more options!

    kathryna4d840e3c7

    Read more about flexible seating in high school on Write On With Miss G, in middle school on Edutopia, and in elementary school on Polka Dots Please.

    25. And at the end of the day, figure out what deeply inspires you to be a teacher, and tap into that whenever you need a lift.

    youtube.com

    I watch the TED Talk “Every Kid Needs a Champion” by Rita Pierson at the beginning of every year, and anytime I feel I’m struggling.

    audreym4e467c33f

    26. Hang up a tap light to help students understand when it's okay to raise their hand to ask to use the restroom or get a drink of water.

    firstgradespies.blogspot.com

    I bought a red tap light and a green tap light on Amazon. Taught my kids that when the red light was on, it was "my time," and they couldn't interrupt to ask to use the bathroom, sharpen a pencil, etc. When the green light was on, they could feel free to do those things. Cut way down on stopping the flow of a lesson just to tell a kid to wait to get a drink of water.

    alealibroberg

    You can get colorful tap lights on Amazon: two red or two green for $9.54.

    First Grade Spies uses a dollar-store push light for a different useful task — to remind the students that she's working with a small group.

    27. Try ClassDojo, a free classroom management system that includes all kinds of resources, like staying connected with parents, allowing students to post "stories" of their work, and giving students personalized feedback.

    apps.apple.com

    ClassDojo is the best thing since sliced bread — for elementary; not sure if it could be used in upper grades, but my kids and my parents absolutely love it.

    brookep42fbe47d1

    Find out more on ClassDojo.

    28. And check out GoNoodle, a free site with all kinds of follow-along videos to get students dancing and moving around whenever there's a moment of downtime.

    GoNoodle / youtube.com

    GoNoodle was my saving grace! If you teach elementary school, you know that your students aren’t meant to sit still for extended periods of time. This free online tool has tons of videos that get the kids up and moving to reset their brains and bodies for the next lesson. (Also, I would sneak in extra recess whenever I could!)

    annalisab44c7d197c

    Check it out at GoNoodle.

    29. To get students' attention and calm them down when everyone's talking, try a countdown with a twist.

    ABC

    I teach fourth-grade math. I used to hold up five fingers and require the students to hold up five fingers, then follow as I counted down to zero as a signal to get quiet. This was mostly effective but not with all students. So now, I count down using different arrangements of five and four (e.g., holding up three fingers on one hand and two on the other) so by the time I got to three every kid was paying attention or else they wouldn’t know which pattern of five and four I’d use. And if a kiddo wasn’t with me, it was easy to spot because they wouldn’t have the same fingers up as I did.

    patrickh46749c35c

    30. You could also try randomly writing a few of the students names down on the board.

    Hallmark

    It makes everyone stop talking because they’re trying to figure out why I’m writing names and what it means... Are they in trouble? Am I making groups? Is this a good thing? Then I have everyone’s attention and the class is quiet. Works every time.

    juliad4221f6fed

    31. Or enlist the help of a wireless doorbell to help everyone refocus on you.

    amazon.com

    Best $10 I’ve ever spent on Amazon. I use it for an attention getter/transition cue instead of calling out something (one, two, three, eyes on me, etc.) and it works like a charm — plus kept me from losing my voice this winter like I usually do!

    amberf5

    The pictured wireless doorbell is $11.99 on Amazon.

    32. Talk quietly and use limited eye contact when addressing those tough middle school behaviors.

    Hulu

    It will de-escalate the situation and help avoid a big confrontation.

    meghana4c762e4ee

    33. Create a mini economy and your classroom will run itself! Kids will be genuinely motivated to earn class dollars to buy prizes from the class store.

    thecoreinspiration.com

    If they misbehave, they can pay money to the teacher. You can create routines around your economy that match your classroom — my students earn money from clean desks, completing homework, independent reading, as well as good behavior.

    sblc1982

    I give out tickets throughout each class. At the end of the week I raffle off chips and juices. Students can also buy privileges (headphones, dress down day) and positive calls and notes home. My eighth graders are obsessed with the tickets.

    kelseyl49c7f0da4

    For a detailed explanation of how to run at least one kind of class economy, check out The Core Inspiration; she also has an editable Classroom Economy Toolkit on Teachers Pay Teachers for $7.

    34. Even little rewards, like a paper gumball in a jar, can go a long way.

    buzzfeed.com

    Student agency is big in my kindergarten class. I make sure they see the progress they make in a fun way. Each student has a gumball machine and they earn gumballs that have a specific goal printed on them (count to 10, count to 25, know all letter sounds, know 10 sight words, etc.) After we go over their data notebook I give them a quick assessment to see if they earned a gumball on a goal they set! They love seeing the gumballs accumulate! —gabbys401bb46e4

    35. Save kids' graded papers, and if they want to review or correct them, make sure you eventually get them back. And generally try to have paper records or at least notes of, like, everything.

    VH1

    This totally eliminates "but I turned that in, Miss!" — now you have excellent proof! —rsmith8235

    Save those parent-signed F papers, demerits, and notes from home. I save tardy slips and my discipline tracking sheets each week. I try to email instead of calling for parent contact, good or bad, and take notes on the times I have had to call. I don't have to refer to them much, but they're not hard to file, and the few times I've needed them, they have saved my ass, both with parents and administration.

    huh448

    36. Consider Google Classroom if all your students have laptops, which lets you do things like create a classroom calendar and manage assignments.

    Google

    It's the best thing ever if your school district is onboard. Too sick to teach but too well to stay home? Post a read/write assignment on Google Classroom 10 minutes before first period! Not to mention using it faithfully will eliminate the need to save every single one of students' graded papers if you use it all the time. (11th and 12th grade on-level science).

    rsmith8235

    Google Classroom is completely free for schools; here's more info.

    For even more tips (specifically classroom organizing and decorating tips and ideas), check out 35 Classroom Tips And Tricks That Teachers Actually Swear By.

    Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed

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    Note: Some responses have been lightly edited for length or clarity.

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