Tips for Saving Time in Your Classroom


As special educators, we have so many things going on in our classrooms everyday. We all want to find a way to be more efficient and save time in the classroom. That’s where the CORE model comes in. Setting up the different elements of the CORE model may take some time upfront but will save you so much time in the long run.

When trying to save time in the classroom, there are a few tips that can really help. We want to ensure we have buy-in from our paraprofessionals, set aside specific time to complete tasks, set time limits for ourselves, and make information easily accessible for ourselves and other staff members.

If you have some great efficiency tips, I’d love to hear them! Come share them inside the Special Educators Connection Facebook Group. If you’d like more in depth information about how to create these systems, check out the Special Educator Academy.

03:04 – Why you should be getting input from other team members when creating your classroom systems 

05:31 – How setting specific times to work on different elements of your systems will help make you more efficient

07:17– Why you should be setting a time limit when completing different tasks 

09:22  – How centralizing information for your team saves you and your team time and increases efficiency

11:44 – How checklists and to do lists can help save time in the classroom

12:48 – The power of getting an accountability buddy to complete tasks with

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Welcome to the Autism Classroom Resources Podcast, the podcast for special educators who are looking for personal and professional development.

Christine Reeve: I’m your host, Dr. Christine Reeve. For more than 20 years, I’ve worn lots of hats in special education but my real love is helping special educators like you. This podcast will give you tips and ways to implement research-based practices in a practical way in your classroom to make your job easier and more effective.

Welcome back to the Autism Classroom Resources Podcast. I’m Chris Reeve. And the last few weeks we have been focusing on the core model, the Classroom Organization Results in Efficiency model.

And what it means, or effectiveness model depends on what day it is. What that means is that we’ve been looking at systems that you can put in place in your classroom, so that your classroom begins to run itself to some degree, which frees you up to actually do more teaching and maybe take a breath or two every now and then.

So we’ve talked about what the CORE model can do for you and how it impacts it. I talked last week about how it can save you time and reduce your stress.

So this week, I have some tips for increasing efficiency in the classroom. No matter how we, what were you doing, whether it’s creating the elements of the CORE model, which I know can be a little daunting when you first start, or whether it’s any other part of your job, there are some things that can keep you from getting stuck, and spinning your wheels, so to speak.

And those are the things I’m going to talk about today in relation to the elements that we use in the CORE model. So let’s get started.

Now, let me just say, if you are interested in finding out more and how to set up the CORE model, definitely come and join and check out the Special Educator Academy, you can get a free seven day trial at specialeducatoracademy.com. And we have all of the how-to videos of how you implement the elements of the CORE, so that you have more time to yourself.

So let’s talk about some other tips that you can use. And you can apply these to the CORE. You can also apply these to other activities during the day. But essentially, when we’re using the CORE model, we’re trying to create a classroom that is running itself, essentially, without having to have somebody right at the helm making every turn.

The beauty of having the classroom run itself is it means that you can get back to focusing on teaching rather than managing, which you’ve heard me say several times. It is more work upfront, but it pays off in the end. And it does get easier, the more that you do it. So don’t be put off by that when you first get started.

You also want to make sure when you are creating the systems that you are getting some input and collaboration from the other people that are going to be part of that system. Whether that’s your paraprofessionals, or a general ed teacher that students is in their class, or the speech pathologist, whoever else do you need to coordinate with or whoever else is living in this dynamic CORE model.

If you get them involved in the process, they’re going to be less likely to have problems with the system. Now I’m not saying that the CORE model is going to solve all of your team building types of issues. But it does help because it takes the onus of running it off of you and makes it a process instead. And that’s often a little easier for people to understand.

It’s really going to help if you get their input into developing the systems so that they’re familiar with them, and they buy into them. And probably the best example of that is when you’re thinking about data collection.

You probably don’t have paraprofessionals that stay when there are new kids who can help with analyzing your collected data. But I strongly encourage you to share your findings, your graphs, your analysis of the data with the paras, because that helps them see how their collection of the data goes into your decision making about the student’s progress and what they need.

And because of that, that’s a really critical piece of the puzzle. We’re not just asking them to fill out a piece of paper, that piece of paper has an impact on the student.

And we’re not just trying to track a behavior so we can track it. We’re tracking it so we can see if what we do doing is working or not. So the more that you can involve them even at that level, I think the more buy in you get.

So let’s look at some things that you can do to help reduce the amount of time that some of these processes take. I’ve talked about the fact that you need a system for data collection. And I’ve done a podcast on that. I talked about, and we’ll talk in the future, about how we need to have a system for lesson planning, and how we need to have a system for progress reports.

One of the things you want to do to make sure that these systems actually happen is to set specific times regularly that you’re going to work on them. And stick to those times.

Find a routine time that you can choose to do your data analysis every week. And do it that day, at that time every week, especially before you start saying well, I have a meeting so I have to move the day. Try and schedule it at a time that you can do it every day of that week, for several weeks, because then it’s going to start to become a habit.

And you’re going to start to realize how having that information informs your instruction. So that’s true, whether it’s data collection, whether it’s a lesson planning system, or doing your progress reports.

Having a specific set of times and activities, that you’re going to do them and doing them routinely at that time, is a way that makes you more efficient. You may have a ritual of things that you do. I get a cup of coffee, I go and sit at my desk, and I open my planner.

Whatever it is, that is your kind of ritual of how you do this, I encourage you to use that, because it’s going to make it more memorable and feel like this is the right time that I do this, and that means it’s going to be more likely to become a habit.

Now, if you find that you get bogged down in your data collection, you’re looking at the data and you’re like, I don’t know what to make of this and you’ve gone through your checklist.

If you’re an Academy member, you’ve gone through our data assessment tool. If you’re not, you’ve gone through kind of your checklist of what you’re looking for, and you’re just stopped.

Okay, one way to help that is to set a time limit that you’re going to use to do each of these activities. So I’m not saying just set an arbitrary time, or how long you’d like it to take, I’d like my lesson plan to take 10 minutes, that’s probably not realistic. But I also don’t want my lesson planning to take me five hours.

So by setting a deadline for yourself, and I often will actually set a physical timer, I can keep myself motivated and making decisions, because I’m not getting stuck in them because I gotta keep moving. You want to think if you get stuck, you want to kind of go okay, here’s my three choices, pick one. And you’ll find out you know if it was the right one or not, and that’s okay. Because chances are good that what you’re trying to choose between are all equally good options.

So I set a timer. I set a time limit. I generally will base that time limit on the amount of time that task takes me, or how long I think it should take me if I think it takes too long in actuality. In that case, I might take it down slowly.

So rather than thinking that I’m going to take my task that takes an hour and a half, and do it 30 minutes, it might be well let’s do it in an hour to 15 minutes and slowly shape my time back just like we would do for a lot of our students.

So by setting the timer, I don’t have to think about how long I’ve been doing this. If I don’t set the timer, I find either I work longer than I wanted to because I didn’t bother to check the clock, or I spend all my time checking the clock and I can’t concentrate on what I’m doing.

So the advantage to setting a timer is you set it and then forget it. And then it goes off. So you can check it periodically and it’s going to tell you exactly how much time you have left. And so it takes that out of your brain so your brain can focus on your planning.

Another thing you want to make sure you do is you want to centralize information for your team. Part of automagically transforming your classroom is making sure that the staff can do what the staff need to do without having to check in with you every five minutes.

So you want to centralize information for them so they have access to it and they know where it is. So you want to customary place where you keep it.

So probably one of the biggest examples is I keep students data and students TIP documents in a program notebook. And I believe I have a blog post that I will link up in the show notes that gives you kind of how I break down what goes into a program notebook.

And the thing about that is that then they know if I want any information that is student specific, I go to their program notebook. I’m going to find their reinforcer assessment. I’m going to find their behavior plan. I’m going to find their IEP and their TIP.

As the teacher, I’m going to find their latest evaluation information. I’m going to find contact information in there for the family if I have to call home. All those kinds of things are going to be in one place that they need to go to.

You also want to centralize your lesson plans. So you can give your staff copies to carry around with them. But I would always make sure that I’ve posted it in the classroom. Your principal will probably like it but the other good thing is it that way, when I’ve lost my lesson plan, I can go to that copy and see what we’re doing right now.

Your schedule obviously needs to be posted. We can’t rely on the visual schedules always been correct. And in fact, I take my schedule grids, and I post them right above the schedules. And that makes it easier to reset the schedules at the end of the day.

You want to post your zoning plan. So once you have your zoning plan worked out, you want to have it posted somewhere so that everybody can go refer to it. Maybe somebody just had a brain blip today, and they can’t remember what they normally do during this time, it’s helpful for them to be able to go and see what the zoning plan says. And that way, they’re going to get the fullest amount of information, rather than just looking at the schedule.

Another way that you can make things go more quickly and more efficiently are to use checklists so that the staff can reset and set up tasks for you the way you want it done. You can also have a to do list where things that need to be made for materials are there so if a student is absent, and a staff member has an extra few moments, they know to go to that box and grab the next thing on the to do list.

Checklists can be very helpful, because they help the staff do something the way you want it done. I know that many of you, and I have been guilty of this myself, I really feel like it’s easier if I just do it all myself. The problem is, it’s not easier in the long run. And that’s going to burn you out. Moving towards other people doing it for you, if you’re putting systems in place is going to be a smoother transition than just telling them what you want them to do.

Another thing that you could do that can make it more likely that you will stick with a system and continue it and get it done is to get an accountability buddy. Get somebody who does something similar, it could be the same thing or you know, another teacher that’s doing their lesson plans, or another teacher that’s evaluating their data.

It can be anything like that, or it could be somebody who does something completely different. It could be you know, I have somebody who has a different kind of work project that they’re working on. But we’re working at the same time, that makes it more likely that you’re going to stick with the system that you put in place.

So if I have a system for analyzing data every Thursday afternoon, if my accountability buddy is there, that is doing it, I’m going to be more likely to follow through. I’m going to be less likely to cancel doing that and say I’ll do it at a different time.

So having an accountability buddy works really well for data collection and review, for doing your progress reports, and for doing your lesson plans. It’s just easier sometimes to do it with somebody and know that you’re not there doing it by yourself. It also gives you someone to bounce ideas off of if you run into kind of have a problem where you got stuck on a decision. And it also makes it more likely that you’re going to get things done in an efficient time.

And finally, my biggest tip for increasing your efficiency is set a goal for doing it and reinforce yourself for doing it. So make sure you know what your own reinforcers are and make sure that you’re reinforcing setting these habits in these systems, because that’s going to make it more likely that you’re going to increase doing it.

And so that’s another way to really help you stay on track, get the strategies set up, and then get them implemented. You don’t want to spend all this time setting up all these systems and then not follow through. So we really want to find as many ways to help with that as we can.

I’d love to hear your efficiency tips. Please come share them in the Facebook group at specialeducatorsconnection.com. And if you are looking for more information about how to set up these systems, definitely come grab a seven day free trial of the Special Educator Academy where we are putting together an entire pathway for setting up the systems for the CORE classroom.

Thank you so much for listening. I really do appreciate it. And I hope that you will be back next week.

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