8 Smart Hacks for Elementary School Teachers

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One of the best things about being an elementary school teacher is getting in touch with your artistic side. To be an effective teacher for elementary students, you need to catch their attention with art and ingenious techniques, which can also make their classroom experience easier.

As an elementary teacher myself, I encountered several challenges and pet peeves while teaching in the classroom. The problems were actually not big a deal.  But, finally seeing that there are definitely solutions to each common classroom dilemma is a gift sent from heaven. So, I want to share to you what I’ve been applying in my classroom for a while now based on ideas I gathered from the internet.

Use tiny transparent storage containers to roll dice conveniently.

Some of my games, especially the ones involving math, require dice. But, it was so inconvenient for me that rolling dice could lead to minutes wasted finding them on the floor or worse, under furniture. I know it doesn’t happen all the time. However, once it does, it can be frustrating.

Cardigans & Curriculum

Thankfully, I’ve read from Cardigans & Curriculum that teachers can use small storage containers to ensure dice won’t scatter. The container must be white to easily count the dots. It’s just like playing Boggle!

Wash paintbrushes with conditioner.

I originally got this idea from makeup blogs. I use conditioner to clean and soften my brushes. Conditioner is so mild compared to other products. We need soft and clean brushes to use on our faces to avoid allergies and other skin conditions.

I was thinking, if I can use conditioner on my makeup brushes, why not on my paintbrushes in the classroom? Good thing I tried because my paintbrushes now glide smoothly on paper. Aside from softness, conditioner makes my brushes more long-lasting. Quick tip: Lay the brushes on a paper towel after washing. That way, the brushes would dry faster.

Post a reminder about different hand signals to signify various student necessities.

As a teacher, isn’t it a hassle to pause a lesson just because you thought that a student wants to ask something related to the discussion? Turns out, the child just wants to go to the bathroom or other personal stuff. Sometimes, I tend to forget my lesson for a while and pause for a minute to refresh my memory.

First Grade Fresh

So, I taught them various hand signals. I first found the simple tip on First Grade Fresh. I modified it a little bit based on the most common need of my students. As always, five fingers mean relevant to the lesson. One finger is for the bathroom. Two fingers is for getting or sharpening a pencil. When I first introduced this new rule, I posted a simple guide. My students eventually got used to the signals.

Make a pencil dispenser out of a straw dispenser.

Honestly, I used this hack because it looks so clever. I never had a problem with students getting sharpened pencils from the usual holder or container. But, with a straw dispenser, my students are so amazed with the idea. My pencils have different colors and designs, so it is exciting for my students to get a random one. Just make sure to teach your students the right way to dispense pencils. A student might break the dispenser. I originally got this idea from Come Together Kids.

Come Together Kids

Attach pom-poms onto the dry markers’ caps.

I find using tissues to erase white boards as wasteful. Buying many erasers is also uneconomical. With group activities, students sometimes fight over which group is using the eraser first. Thank goodness I found Fifth Grade Frenzy’s article. The blog says that pom-poms can be attached to the caps using hot glue. Another good thing about this hack is that it makes the markers look fun and youthful.

Fifth Grade Frenzy

Let the students use color-coded cards to quietly signal learning assistance.

One problem I noticed from some students is that they are too shy to say that they need help. I can’t blame them – raising your hand and let the whole class know that you can’t understand the lesson seems a sign of weakness for other students. With that notion, the student would be embarrassed to ask for help.

Love. Teach. Inspire.

Love. Teach. Inspire. shared a very helpful trick: Use color codes. With construction papers, make green, yellow and red cards. The student can just put a card on the table to signal his or her progress.  Green means the student understands the lesson. Yellow means the student needs a repeat on the discussion. Red means I need to teach the student briefly after class. It is also helpful to know how well I teach a certain topic. If there are many yellow or red cards, I should modify my technique in teaching the lesson.

Use old DVD cases as mini “whiteboards.”

I like organizing my own quiz bee inside the classroom. It makes the students competitive, encouraging them to study harder. I used cutout blackboards, but chalk dust is unhealthy and messy afterwards. I wanted to use whiteboards but I don’t want to waste money because my class doesn’t have to use them everyday.

Classroom DIY

So, I sacrificed a few DVD cases from my house to create mini boards after reading Classroom DIY. I don’t have to worry anyway because dry markers can be erased easily. Just insert construction paper or cardstock inside the plastic cover to make writings visible.

Soak glue caps in vegetable oil to remove clogs.

One of my classroom pet peeves is clogged glue caps. It is time-consuming to make the glue come out of the bottle. Good thing What the Teacher Wants shared a clever trick to unclog glue caps. You just have to soak them in vegetable or any kind of heavy oil to make them good as new. Just rinse the caps after soaking them in oil.

What the Teacher Wants

Final Thoughts

Sometimes, cheaper and simpler hacks are the most effective ones. They are also clever, making anyone say, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Continuous reading of DIY articles can make you even more creative and resourceful. These hacks I shared with you are definitely useful for everyone in the classroom.