Today I was typing and discovered I had kept the caps lock on by accident. With a sigh, I went to delete my work and start again, but I quickly asked if anyone knew how to change capitals into lower case and what do you know… 1 second later the problem was solved.
One of the team had the answer at the ready. It’s just the ‘Aa’ key on the home toolbar in Word! Simple! Why didn’t I know this? I can only say that, as a busy teacher, I have never stopped and made time to learn many of the ICT shortcuts that may have saved me valuable time over my teaching career.
This led me to think about how we work here at Schoolscapes and our team philosophy and I wondered if this approach could help anyone else. Often, in this demanding world, we’re so busy with achieving our own goals that we do not stop to benefit and learn from the skills and knowledge around us, knowledge that could make our lives so much easier and ultimately save us time.
At Schoolscapes, we are used to brainstorming any time inefficiencies as a team and collectively coming up with ideas to move forward, which is how we’ve made our days more effective and our business more efficient. We apply this philosophy to any problem we come across, sharing and solving any issues with joint brain power. Someone will always have the answer you need.
As teachers form an integral part of the Schoolscapes team, we truly understand first-hand how short on time teachers are. Juggling teaching, planning, preparation, assessment, meetings, after-school clubs, lunch clubs and productions, alongside a busy home life, isn’t an easy task.
So we’d like to share some of our time savers, as any small amount of time saved on a regular basis gives teachers back some valuable minutes and importantly helps to improve our work-life balance.
Timesaving Keyboard Short Cuts
Like it or not, we are all spending more and more time using computers for our planning, teaching and assessment. I am amazed at how many useful, speedy keyboard shortcuts there are that can speed things up that I’d not discovered before.
Here are a few useful ones that I use along with some that were new to me, shortcuts I wish I’d known about years ago. It’s never too late to save a minute or two. Perhaps there’s a new one here for you too.
Useful Microsoft Office shortcuts for general word processing: CTRL +
F: Find a word (ideal for changing names and he/she etc speedily in a document)
P: Print S: Save O: Open A: Select All N: New Z: Undo Y: Redo
C: Copy V: Paste U: Underline I: Italic B: Bold
To select two or more non-adjacent items at the same time: hold down CTRL and Click all the items (perfect for selecting photographs for learning journeys or for evidence of teaching and learning).
Selecting continuous rows of images or text: Shift + Click the first one, hold down the shift key and then click the last one (easy to move photos, text or lists of names around).
CTRL + Shift + V and the contents of your clipboard will paste as plain text (great for when you’re creating worksheets or PowerPoints)
Shift + F7 quick thesaurus to find synonyms: highlight the word to look up and a list of related terms appears (so useful when composing descriptive writing and a great tool to teach the children in the class to support them making more specific language choices).
To rename multiple files at the same time. Just highlight all the files you want to rename (Shift + click lets you highlight many files at once), hit F2, type the new name and press Enter (good for naming all the photo files of a lesson that are linked).
Windows Key + M minimizes all your windows so you can see everything that’s on your desktop (perfect when you need to show a programme quickly to a class on your interactive whiteboard, after a working lunch, but don’t want to lose all you’ve been working hard on during that valuable free moment of time you’ve taken advantage of in your busy, hectic day).
Shift + Space to select an entire row in a table/spreadsheet. Once you select a row, delete it by hitting CTRL + – (minus key). To select all the rows below or above by hitting CTRL + Shift + Up or Down Arrow (ideal for editing your numerous class lists and data sheets).
Snap windows next to each other so you can split the screen evenly between two to four programmes (excellent time saver when multi-tasking or using multiple programmes, perfect for PPA time):
Windows + Left Arrow to snap a window to the left side of the screen
Windows + Right Arrow to snap it to the right.
Windows + Up Arrow or Windows + Down Arrow after you snap it to the left or right will move into the corner, allowing 4 programmes to be split equally.
Windows + Up Arrow maximizes it, while Window + Down Arrow minimizes it if a window is not snapped.
Outlook shortcuts (making your time emailing faster and more efficient): CTRL +
N: New Email R: Reply F: Forward S: Send Q: Mark Read U: Mark Unread
ALT + Left Arrow takes you back web browsers ALT + Right Arrow takes you forward
CTRL + SHIFT + M: Open new email message wherever you are within Outlook
CTRL + SHIFT + R: Reply All
CTRL + SHIFT + G: Flag an email
F9: Send and Receive All Folders
CTRL + D to bookmark the current webpage, edit the name of the bookmark and select a folder to store it in (great for quickly bookmarking all your favourite websites, as you discover them).
If you think just a few of these shortcuts would help you, try them and incorporate them into your work and you’ll soon find you’re spending less time on the computer and are freer to spend more time on the fun and creative aspects of teaching.
Extend Lifespans of your Resources
Coat your keyboard with a protective layer of clear nail varnish, that will protect it from the hours of daily wear and tear it receives during the long teaching day. It’s much quicker typing on a keyboard you can still read, and saves time filling out endless forms to the ICT support, who just tell you there’s no money for a new keyboard!
Make individual whiteboards out of white shower-board from a building merchant; these are very cheap and durable and there are no plastic corners that will fall off. Then cut up some pieces of felt for individual rubbers; these are flat and easy to store and cheap to replace.
Store your resources in well labelled, clear, accessible storage boxes, so children can select and return relevant items independently, without interrupting you; then nothing gets lost and has to be remade, saving you valuable time.
*Teaching Forums allow you to draw upon tried and tested teaching ideas and to benefit from the knowledge and expertise of educators from a much wider community than just within your school. Why not join a teaching forum and reduce your lesson planning time?
TES Community – https://community.tes.com/
TeachersTalk – www.teacherstalk.co.uk/
UK Teachers Forums (@uktf) | Twitter – https://twitter.com/uktf?lang=en
Twinkl Forums – https://www.twinkl.co.uk/support-communities
*Download ready-made teaching resources such as inspirational lesson plans, teaching ideas, assessment ideas, schemes of work, interactive games, topic packs and informative PowerPoints in an instant from Teaching Resource websites like:
Twinkl – https://www.twinkl.co.uk/
Topmarks Education – https://www.topmarks.co.uk/
SparkleBox – www.sparklebox.co.uk/
Primary Resources – www.primaryresources.co.uk/
Ictgames – www.ictgames.com
*Check out any interesting YouTube videos for teaching and learning ideas and investigate the Learning Centres on Pinterest for ideas for lesson ideas, crafts and seasonal music and songs.
Share the planning load with your team; collaborating with teachers within your Year Group, Key Stage, a local school cluster or the parallel teachers in your Academy chain can be invaluable. Consult colleagues regarding teaching and learning issues, as there will always be someone who’s had a similar experience and has a strategy you could try. A trouble shared is a trouble halved!
Take Learning Outside
Children love learning outdoors and we all know the benefits to health and well-being to venturing outside. Often an outdoors lesson requires fewer pre-made resources, as it gives you the opportunity to utilise nature’s natural resources and explore the grounds at setting. The fresh air will revitalise you too! Active Playgrounds can be an easy solution to making outdoor learning easily accessible and fun and often need little teacher resourcing.
Here are a few places to help you to gather ideas …like a squirrel.. enabling you to start escaping more often into the great outdoors. Ideas can be adapted easily for all ages and abilities and just get out there and have a go…it’s been well researched that all of us benefit from time outside. Take photographs as evidence and place in a class evidence folder, which means much less marking and glueing in books! Here are a few useful starting points:
Nature Detectives – Woodland Trust – https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/naturedetectives/
Wildlife Watch – Educational resources – https://www.wildlifewatch.org.uk/educational-resources
Wildlife Trust – https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/30DaysWild/Downloads
Institute for Outdoor Learning – https://www.outdoor-learning.org/
Resources for outdoor learning and play – https://outdoorclassroomday.org.uk/resources/
Take Control of Time… Like Doctor Who!
Improve your work-life balance with improved time management. Then you’ll have so much extra time on your hands, you’ll be the happiest most satisfied teacher in the universe and beyond! Here are a few tried and tested ways to gain time:
Know when to say no! Don’t say you’ll take on board too much that isn’t physically possible to achieve. You’ll just feel like you’re failing.
Action paperwork and emails immediately and don’t pile up paper and things to do ‘later’. Or you’ll soon have trays full of piles you’ll never realistically get back to in time. Bin it if it’s not important.
Don’t take marking home: mark as much as you can in class with the children present, as its more purposeful, meaningful. When relevant, get the children to write VF for ‘Verbal Feedback Given’. Invest in marking stamps that follow your schools marking scheme and for the date. Using bingo pens to mark with a colour coded dot for punctuation errors etc; this is an amazing time saver.
Getting in early can allow you quiet time to get on, get productive and action important points. If you do things then, you have limited time, so you can’t spend too long on them, making them too jazzy unnecessarily! Ask yourself what is actually going to make a difference in teaching and learning?
Create a Dropbox file at home and at school, so you do not have to constantly save work, find work and transfer files on flash drives. Then you won’t suffer the dreaded “I’ve lost all my work” moment when the flash drive goes missing.
Delegate: if the kids can do it, then get them involved! Reward them for being helpful.
Be nice to your TA and make them feel valued by taking on board their ideas and observations. Make them a coffee! Then they’ll enjoy following any clear routines you’ve set up independently and enjoy helping you! They are like gold dust.
Times Ticking… Go Reclaim Your Time!
So hopefully, if you’re a teacher that has taken time out to read this far, you’ll have found at least one idea that may give you a few seconds back each day, and saved seconds do add up. I know I’ve recently learnt some shortcuts that have made a difference to my life; I’ll now be keeping an eye out for more time efficiencies!