In the Classroom: Teaching Hacks

I frequently see tweets, links, and more to articles or videos celebrating methods to make something easier. In the “100 Life Hacks That Make Life Easier” you can learn how to waterproof your shoes, use newspaper to absorb fruit juices and more. So I figured I’d offer three that I’ve found helpful in my 4th grade classroom. Love to learn of more in the comments!

  1. Lamps. I find low lighting in my classroom soothing, calming, and a great help to keep my students focused during work periods. Unfortunately, I have no way to dim the glaring overhead lights. And so, a few years back, I found these little portable lamps for kids to use (turning off the overhead ones). The price has gone down and so I’ve now managed to get enough to have for every child. They need batteries, but over three years I’ve not needed to replace them yet. I wish I could show them in my classroom, but can’t (due to privacy requirements). 
  2. Tiny notebooks for our BoB (Book of Books) periods. This is a weekly time when my students read (using those lamps), fill out their BoBs with what they’ve read in the past week, and confer with me. I started this a few years ago when I decided to drop kids having to log their nightly reading. (See this post for more information.) I found some blank ones here so kids could decorate covers as they wished. 
  3. “Offices.” I am not a fan of cardboard cubbies like the one below as I like to see my students at work. So instead I give them “offices,” These are spots they move their desks to so they are all away from each other, not facing one another (usually their desks are in groups of six), and able to focus on their writing. My room is small and in order to have a rug I have to put those groups of desks fairly close together around it. It isn’t practical to have them permanently in offices — messy, hard to get around, and I want them to work in groups too! — but it is great to use when needed. I’ve a post about this here



Filed under In the Classroom

6 responses to “In the Classroom: Teaching Hacks

  1. Cassandra Gelvin

    Maybe you could show a picture of them in your classroom without any kids in the classroom?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I teach fourth grade in Concord, Massachusetts. I really enjoyed reading your post, especially about the lights and the BoB books. I shared the article with my team and we are wondering what kind of entries you have the students make each week in their books? Do you have a list of choices?

    We are also wondering if you use the lamps for both reading and writing and if they stay on their desk at all times.


    • The children simply write the date, the title, and the author. I don’t ask them to write more. Other teachers do. Some of them have the kids create their own rating system of stars. In my case, I want it to be as joyful as possible and use my conferences to check in rather than asking them to write. We do plenty of writing about literature elsewhere so here I want the pleasure to be front and center.

      The lights are for anything — reading, writing, drawing. Right now I keep them on top of the cubbies — easily accessible for the kids. Once I get the last two I ordered which will give me a class set I could have them stay on the desks, but I think it wouldn’t work well. I think they’d be distracting when not needed. We often mix seating for group projects, the kids eat lunch at the desks (we are too big a school for all to eat in the cafeteria –sigh), and I could see the lamps being knocked down when not in use. I also like them being a shared resource so all the kids are responsible for all of them, not just their own.

      I’d love to know if you go forward using these and how — give me some good ideas too!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The lamp idea is great. I have Chronic Daily Headache syndrome, many of which are migraines that last all day. So I use stand lamps placed around the room. While it improves the necessity for overhead fluorescent lighting, it isn’t quite enough light to allow kids adequate light for work. I will look into getting these for my class on my own expense. That way I can take them with me if I move to another school.


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