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25 Insanely Clever Schoolteacher Hacks

Brilliant tips and tricks to help teachers of any grade save time, money, and patience.

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We asked the teachers of BuzzFeed Community to share their best tips and tricks. Here are the genius hacks all teachers should know.

1. Keep students from texting in class with "cell jails."

"This is a great way to avoid endless detentions and referrals. We've even had a kid ask for a cell jail in the beginning of class because they 'really needed to focus today!'"



3. Let students do practice work on their desks. They make for perfect dry-erase boards!

"It should come off with a Kleenex or wet wipe. It's an easy way to save paper and money, and the kids get a kick out of it!"

–Kelley Acela Patterson, Facebook

5. Buy or create your own fake scratch-off tickets to reward high school students.

"I make it a contest and give the winner their choice of scratch-off (prizes include bonus points, free time, etc.). Surprisingly, the teenagers love it."

–Lindsay Alison, Facebook

6. Ask stores to donate parts of their awesome displays for your classroom.

"If you find a store display you like, ask a manager to donate it when they take it down. I found a gingerbread house from a candy display in Target, and the manager let me have it at no charge."



7. Steal. If there's an awesome lesson plan online, copy it for your own class.

Paramount Pictures

"You don't always have to reinvent the wheel, especially when something already works well and the kids benefit in the end."

–Jenny X. Ma, Facebook

8. Elementary school classrooms are cringeworthy at the end of the day, so have your students clean up for you with a game.

"I have my students find the 'magic piece of trash.' It gets everything cleaned in minutes. There's no real 'magic piece.' I just reward to the kid who picks up the most trash."

–Maria Sajjad, Facebook

9. Use websites and apps like so parents can easily monitor their child's behavior.

"Parents can download the app, and it's a great way to keep them in the loop with the classroom."

–Kenzi Richardson Neuman, Facebook

10. For easy clean-up, tape a plastic garbage bag over the table during art projects.

–Katie Melody, Facebook


11. The best time-out hack = a sparkle bottle. Give it to the troublemaker to shake, and let them rejoin class when the glitter settles at the bottom.

"Fill an empty water bottle with glitter glue, hot water, and lots of fine glitter. It has a calming effect for most students and is a positive spin on time-out."


13. For elementary school kids, take a 10-minute stretch and chat break during downtime.

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"This lets the kids tell me about their wiggly teeth and siblings. It also creates a sense that I'm not just a teacher who makes them do work, but an actual person who cares about them."


14. "Heads down, thumbs up" is an easy way for high school students to assess their own understanding of the content.

"Students put their thumbs up if they have the concept down, middle if they could use more info, and down if they need to revisit it entirely. This lets them assess their own comfort of the content before we move on."



16. Use to create interactive multiple-choice quizzes and track each student's scores.

"You project questions on the board while the kids respond on their devices, and you can download detailed results, so it's a fun way to do informal assessments."


17. Label Post-It strips with each student's name for easy-to-make (and to recreate) seating charts.

"I print out my seating arrangements and label seats with mini Post-It strips (with a kid's name on each strip), and organize them that way. Next time I want to make a new seating chart, I just move the Post-Its around!

Pro tip: Put each chart in a plastic page protector and use dry-erase markers to make annotations on your chart for substitute teachers."


18. A great way to get parents ~and~ students to attend open house is to make it a secret game.

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"I give my students bonus points if they secretly write their names on their hands and immediately wave at me when they enter the room at open house. Attendance is always high!"



19. The Zip Grade app makes grading so easy. It keeps digital copies of everything, so say goodbye to Scantron machines!

"It lets you create custom answers for each student with a unique ID. You use your phone to scan a student's answer doc and it gives you his or her grade immediately. It does all the item analysis for you as well."


21. Low participation? Randomly start giving out tickets for an end-of-day candy raffle.


"When no one is participating I start giving out carnival tickets to the ones who do. Pretty soon everyone is jumping out of their seats for a ticket, even if they don't know what it's for."


22. GoNoodle is the perfect website for those much-needed brain breaks during long, tiring days.

"This is especially great if you have the same group of students all day and they need to get up and move around."



23. Tired of minor disruptions? Have students hold up a number of fingers to replace common questions (i.e., three fingers = "May I go to the bathroom?").

"This way a bathroom break, water request, or nurse's visit won't disrupt the flow of class. Middle schoolers love it!"