Top 5 Teaching Hacks for 2015

It’s time for another exciting start to a school year! This is a big one for me, and I am personally too energetic for my own good this September. I think most of my colleagues are already sick of it.

I wanted to do a different kind of new year post: here are 5 teaching hacks I plan on using this year.

Churrascaria-Style Assessment


If you’ve ever been to a Brazilian steakhouse, you will have experienced the sheer joy of turning your red and green table card over to the light side of the force and watch trays of delicious meats be run by your table for sampling. While I don’t think most children will necessarily find much joy out of it, they will certainly find help, even the most shy students. Using colored post-its for this task is a clever way of quickly diverting your attention to those who need it most during class time on problems and writing exercises.

Wearable Reminders


Even as a techy guy, I greatly appreciate low-tech solutions to important problems, and this one is brilliant. You can buy a sheet of those adhesive bracelets for around $2-$3 at party city. If you need a student to remember to do something, write it on a bracelet and slap it on their wrist! Sure, students should learn how to write things in their planner and remember to act on them, but as most of us know, that doesn’t always work and sometimes you just need the kid to bring in the field trip form so that they can go with you to the museum on the next day. This also eliminates any complaining about students writing things on their body, and what kid doesn’t love a cool neon bracelet?

Phone Jail


I don’t like the “phone hotel” that people always post on social media because it discourages students from actually learning to control themselves with their devices, and instead just removes the distraction altogether. Spoiler alert: that’s not going to help the student. This, on the other hand, offers them the choice, and provides a fun but meaningful consequence when they choose wrong. I love it.

Vistaprint is Your Friend


This is one that teachers really don’t use enough. You can easily print flyers and handouts at your school, however anything more premium generally requires either special machinery, or outsources. Fortunately, Vistaprint is here for you. Sign up for their Pro Advantage program for a flat 40% off everything in their store all the time. Adding a premium touch to special event flyers, making giant banners using HD photos, and bulletin boarding just got a whole lot more awesome. The best part of this program is that they have a lot of first-time deals, like the banner on our NSBA booth which I received for just $5.


I’m not sure if this is a hack, but I think it’s an awesome app idea and actually a subtle, “the teacher is not the bad guy” way of alerting students that they’re being too loud. The noisedown app┬álets you set a decible level and then leave your phone on your desk. When the room gets too loud, it releases an alarm. I know that it shouldn’t require an app to do this, but here’s the twist: have the students download it and use it to monitor themselves during group work. If teachers are generally aware when a room is too loud, kids rarely are, and this app lets students monitor themselves and also not be the uncool kid telling their peers to quiet down.

What are your teacher hacks for this year? Let me know!