30 Immediately Actionable Time-Saving Tips for Physics Teachers

I am a physics teacher and I love most of what my job entails, but I find that I’m constantly working.

We can all afford to make our lives a little easier.

I founded Guzled with the aim of helping physics teachers of all levels. Even if it just allows you to go home a bit earlier and see the kids before bedtime or meet friends in a pub for a drink.

This blog post lists 30 time-saving tips to help you save time.

 

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This list is pretty long! If you want to skip ahead – use the contents below:

Some of these tips were shared during a Twitter #ASEChat.
I have cited each contributor.

Time-Saving Tips for Marking

1. Mark By Question

“When marking a pile of work, mark a question at a time rather than a script at a time.”Helen Coomer (@AmazingBendara)
Pembrokeshire College

At Fettes College (like many schools) we would carry out internal exams before writing subject reports at the end of term. This meant a huge amount of marking. 

This tip was given to me at the start of my career and I am forever grateful for it! It really does save time when marking exam papers or topic tests.

2. Use THIS Marking Tool

“Students are more likely to act upon weaknesses that they have identified themselves, rather than act upon those pointed out by their teacher.”Sally Weatherly
(Guzled Founder)

If you have marked a set of topic tests (or past papers), use this teaching tool.

I GUARANTEE it will:

  1. Cut marking time in half
  2. Provide individual feedback to all students
  3. Improve exam technique
  4. Engage your students in their own learning
  5. Encourage your students to self-analyse and improve

This marking grid gives super individual feedback to students on their performance in topic tests or past papers. The best bit…? 

Students do it themselves!

Click Here for a “Clean” Version of this Marking Grid

3. HINT, HINT

“Instead of writing a full solution when a student gets the wrong answer. The teachers should write a hint or a promo for the next step. This will have the effect of the students completing the correction themselves.”Nathan Cole, Deputy Head at Wilson’s School
via (@HeadGuruTeacher)


4. Marking Codes

“Use marking codes to save writing the same thing again and again. (e.g. FWAU – formula-working-answer-unit.  To emphasise one aspect e.g. fwAu or FWAU to show that there is a problem with the answer.”Andy Pugh, The Norton Knatchbull School
via (@AndyCPugh)

I can’t believe I’d never considered this before. When Andy emailed me, it was like a lightbulb moment! It’s such a simple idea.

Here are a few that I use now:

guzled-physics-marking-codes



5. Open Exercise Books

“Get students to open their exercise books to the page with their prep/homework before collecting it in.”Dr Matthew M J French
Prior Park College

6. Mark in Batches

“Mark in batches. A pile of 30 books takes me much longer to mark than three piles of 10 spread through the day”Emma (misssuperscience.wordpress.com)
@MsSuperScience
Free eBook
30 Time-Saving Tips
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7. Use Plickers

“I have students mark alongside app like Plickers, so feedback immediate and data ready for Q level analysis”Steve Marshall
via (@stevethedoc1)

Plickers lets you poll your class for free, without the need for student devices.

Just give each student a card (a “paper clicker”), and use your iPhone/iPad to scan them to do instant checks-for-understanding, exit tickets, and impromptu polls.

Best of all, your data is automatically saved, student-by-student, at plickers.com.

Fantastic Formative Assessment!!

I LOVE Plickers! I discovered Plickers at a training last spring. I immediately jumped right in and printed a class set. Super easy, and my 6th graders loved it!! This time I printed a set for each class because collecting and passing out each period was a lot, but they will go right inside their interactive notebooks. It is fun, engaging, and private. No one sees who answered what, so it's very safe. Great way to see how your students are doing. You just need a smartphone! Thank you Plickers! And what a great way to include use of technology for teacher evaluations!
by Susie

Five Stars!

8. Mark with an Open Spreadsheet

“Get your spreadsheet open and add QLA marks in as you go. That speeds up time at end.Alex Weatherall (scienceteachinglibrary.wordpress.com)
@A_Weatherall

A spreadsheet like this is very easy to set up.

Use the =sum( ) function to add up the numbers at the end of the row/column.

Use a nested =if( ) function to set the preloaded grades. The syntax for the nested IF function looks like this:

=IF(condition1, value_if_true1, IF( condition2, value_if_true2, value_if_false2 ))

9. Organise your Student’s Seating

“Collect books in in rows and keep them organised like that as you mark so you can hand them back out by placing them at the front of each row and asking the students to take theirs and pass the rest back.”Heather Hardy
Tuxford Academy

10. Project Corrections

“Rather than writing corrections on every piece, write a number then put correction on a piece of paper. Project in lesson”Andy Pugh, The Norton Knatchbull School
via (@AndyCPugh)

11. Instant Feedback

“Mark as students are doing work-instant feedback for them & saves you time”Mr Gillet (teachingscitoday.wordpress.com)
@Mr_Gillet

12. Check for Missing Homework

“Get students to number books so when you ask for them in you make sure you have numbers 1-30 etc.”Tom Johns (@TJohns85)
Leader of Achievement, Kingsmead School

Time-Saving Tips for
To-Do Lists

13. Make a To-Do List

“My to do list keeps me focused – priorities sorted and less dead time stressing/thinking what I should do”Mr Gillet (teachingscitoday.wordpress.com)
@Mr_Gillet

14. Use todoist

“Check out todoist. Love it! Have it in outlook and on iPad and phone, really helps me”Sam Turner
(@missturnerwbs)

Manage tasks and projects anywhere with Todoist. At home. At school. At work. Online. Offline. And across 10+ platforms.

todoist

15. Use Workflowy

“I use it for all my lists. and lists of lists. I have a work account and a home account. Can link both. So it’s seamless. I LOVE IT :)”Alex Weatherall (scienceteachinglibrary.wordpress.com)
@A_Weatherall

WorkFlowy is an organizational tool that makes life easier. It’s a surprisingly easy way to make to-do lists, share tasks with other teachers, plan lessons and generally organise your brain.

Lists can collapse and expand. Completed tasks can be shown or hidden. Tasks can be found via search or tagging. You can even share lists with other.

Great for Heads of Department?

 

16. Prioritisation Grid

“Use a grid similar to that found in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey”Linda Needham (@NeedhamL56)

It is pretty much impossible to be on top of thorough planning and constructive marking in teaching these days. There are too many administrative tasks and pastoral roles that are added to job descriptions.

Don’t try to do everything. I try to use the grid shown to prioritise jobs.

priority-box

(The examples are my priorities – everybody’s will be different. Sorry to those who really value Health and Safety committee meetings!)

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17. Use Transition Times Wisely

The notion of a free lesson is hilarious. We all have some “free” time in our timetables and mostly use them to climb that massive mountain of admin and marking.

Your plan of your free lesson may look something like this:

  • Mark homework on Projectile Motion
  • Plan Boyle’s Law lesson

If you plan these activities, the chances are that you will get them done.

BUT, what about the transition times? By these I mean:

  • Waiting on your class to come in and get settled
  • Waiting for the staff meeting to begin

Now, plan things to do in these times. They needn’t be related to your job (you might simply want to catch up on the news) but use these transition times wisely.

Student Self-Assessment Effort Chart

For example, while students are coming in and getting settled, I often ask them to complete my student self-assessment grid based on their own understanding of their performance so far in the year. I politely ask my Technician to photocopy them for me during the class and…

BOOM! – I have basically written my super-personalised reports in 5 minutes.

Time-Saving Tips for Planning

18. Use Outlook to Plan Lessons

“I set up recurring appointments for all my classes in Outlook pre-filled with headings for learning intentions and success criteria, I can then do my planning there and share easily with classes, put in links to resources etc.”Allan Reid (@WeArePhysics)
Elgin Academy

outlookrecurringappointment

  • Set up recurring appointments for all classes in Outlook
  • Pre-filled these appointments with headings for learning intentions and success criteria
  • Do your lesson planning on Outlook.
  • You can share easily with classes and put in links to resources, etc.

19. Don’t Plan Chronologically

“Do you remember English lessons at school? I was always told to write the introduction AFTER I had written the essay.”Sally Weatherly
(Guzled Founder)

Always plan your starter activity after you have planned the main activity in your lesson.

If you start to plan a lesson by planning your starter – that’s OK if it can be done quickly – but if you get stuck then the whole 60 minute lesson gets stalled because of a glitch at the start.

Your Planning:Delivery ratio will be completely skewed.

It’s easier to plan a starter once you know what the rest of the lesson entails.

Free eBook of Tips
Click Here

20. Get Your Planning : Delivery Ratio Right

“Don’t spend 60 minutes planning a 5 minute activity – your planning:delivery ratio will be all wrong”Sally Weatherly
(Guzled Founder)

A lesson typically lasts one hour. If you spend one hour preparing that lesson then your planning:delivery ratio is 1:1.

If you use that lesson plan again for another group in the same year, your planning:delivery ratio is 1:2. GREAT!

Ideally, you should be looking to make this planning:delivery ratio as high as possible.

For example, a lesson starter would typically last 5 minutes. DO NOT spend 50 minute planning this starter – your planning:delivery ration would be 10:1. TERRIBLE!

Only plan quality resources that can be used again and again. Include differentiation and different learning styles in these resources. They will be useful for any ability in years to come.

21. LabLogger for Planning Practicals

“We are starting to use ‘LabLogger’ to organise practical orders with technicians.  This should save time in the long run as all standard practicals will be stored on the system.”Justin Clements
Head of Physics, Wycliffe College

I’ve had a good look into LabLogger and it really should be a time-saver for all schools. It is super quick (and easy) to tailor it to your exact timetable and practical needs. It becomes a completely bespoke system that allows you to define your lesson periods, labs, holidays, experiment deadlines and equipment.

Click on the video below for more information:

It’s completely free for one year, which is really generous and allows you to experience a full academic cycle before you sign up for a reasonable £99 per year.

Sign up for your LabLogger Free Trial Here

22. Design Quality and Repeatable Resources

“Guzled resources are a massive timesaver and the relevance to the specification is brilliant.”Kieran Wilson
Director of Science, Rastrick High School

Tips for designing quality and repeatable resources:

  • Try to include differentiation in each resource – This will allow it to be used for any class ability
  • Diifferent learning styles (V-A-K) should be included. So things like practicals, card loop game, Splat!, etc are all good for meeting this requirement.
  • Make sure these resources include some element of self-assessment (to save you time in marking)
  • Make worked solutions to any questions you ask. This will help with self-assessment and marking.
  • Create sample data for any practicals. If a student misses the lesson – you can give them some sample data to analyse.

They will be useful for any ability in years to come.

Obviously I’d like to point out that you can see some examples of great physics teaching resources that include differentiation and learning styles by visiting Guzled! But many teachers enjoy the act of resource preparation and I totally understand that.

As a rule of thumb, resources should take a maximum of half the time to create that they’ll be used for.

Quick tip: save computer documents with a name that makes them easy to find.  It’ll be easy to find next year.

Check out the Guzled Premium physics teaching resources here

Time-Saving Tips for Reports

23. Use This Student Self-Assessment Tool

Did you know that secondary school teachers write between 320-600 individual subject reports every year?

Make this task an absolute breeze by simply:

  • Giving a copy of this grid to your students
  • Asking them to tick statements that they agree with
  • Have them hand it back to you

Student Self-Assessment Effort Chart

You can write a super-personalised report for each student detailing:

  • Efforts in class so far
  • Specific targets

and it takes minutes….

Click here for your copy of the Student Self-Assessment Tool

24. Make Parent’s Evening a Breeze

In the lesson before Parents Evening, ask your students to write out the answers to the following questions:

  • I find the following things easy in class:
  • I like the following things most difficult in class:
  • My most recent test mark was:
  • I would have liked my most recent test mark to have been:

This allows you to discuss your students own personal thoughts and goals. This helps parents understand their own student’s aims and expectation. It also gives you something super-personalised to say about each student.

Saving Time in The School Day

25. Mindspace

I’m not a naturally relaxed person! I work late into the night (once the kids are in bed) and I get completely immersed in what I’m doing. I find it really difficult to switch off.

One of my friends suggested that I download the Headspace app onto my iPhone and try it out.

headspace_app_logo

Headspace is a guided meditation and mindfulness app and I was initially sceptical.

Here’s why…

  1. I didn’t know how I would find a spare 10 minutes in the day to sit still and listen to it.
  2. I wasn’t sure how mediation would really help.

Well, I am delighted to have been proved wrong.


It’s great. You start off with a “take ten” free trial – ten sessions of guided mediation for free. 

They are only ten minutes long and I soon found myself looking forward to them. I did it early in the morning (ooo-er!) before the kids woke me up at 7am. My husband even started joining in (ooooo-er!).

You then sign up to a monthly subscription. I wish I’d just signed up to the monthly subscription from the beginning because it gets so much better!

headspace-app-download

Subscribers can have access to themed “packs” which focus on certain attributes or challenges within your life.

Teachers would find the performance packs particularly useful. They include 10-30 sessions along the themes of creativity, focus, happiness and balance.

Don’t worry – I can hear you saying – how does the Headspace app save me time??? It simply helps you focus, prioritise and calm down. It’s a great little app.

Download the App and get your FREE TRIAL here

26. Sharp Exit

It’s the end of the school day and you want to leave work.

How many times have you been stopped by a well-meaning student who wants to ask about the science trip. What about a colleague in the staff room who wants to discuss the proposed internal exams next week?

Here’s my advice:

Choose the most practical and direct route between your place of work and your means of transport. Don’t feel obliged to say ‘goodnight’ to everyone – at least one person will want your opinion on something.

27. Your Most Urgent Appointment

Prioritise leaving work as though it is then most urgent appointment of the day. Set an appointment every day to leave work. Create an alert on your iPhone or computer if you have to. Literally stand up and leave!

Here’s how I set my alarm us on the iPhone.

iphonealarm

State Schools in Edinburgh are brilliant because they all finish at lunchtime on a Friday – hence my earlier departure.

Make it a reasonable time. If you are not restricted by school pick-ups of your own children, then 5pm is a reasonable time to set your departure time. If you need to leave earlier every day for other reasons, then commit to arriving earlier.

Honestly…. I have left staff meetings in the middle of an “important discussion” at 5pm on the dot. It hasn’t happened very often and nobody seemed to mind. I didn’t miss any important information either.

Many teachers might worry about what others think of their commitment to the job, but I don’t see this as an issue. If you are a devoted teacher, who teaches great lessons and gives full commitment within reasonable working hours – there cannot be any come back.

28. The Early Bird

If you’re anything like me, you work better to a pressurised deadline!

I very rarely plan lessons or mark work at the end of the day. If I know that I have the luxury of time, then I’ll be more relaxed about chatting to colleagues, checking my phone, checking emails etc. However, If I know that I have one hour to plan three lessons – then I just get on and do it. I close my door, turn off my phone (or at least turn it to silent!) and plan like mad!

The best time to do this is in the morning.

Download these Tips Here!

29. Use Student’s Notes

“Scan or photocopy a student’s notes each lesson so that if another student has missed the lesson then I can email it to them or make a copy for them – their task is then to read through it and annotate it.”Paul Thomas
Newhall School

FINAL BEST TIP!
Let Guzled Help

“Since I launched Guzled in May 2015, I’ve made it my mission to ensure helpful resources are accessible to all physics teachers; making their lives a whole lot easier.”Sally Weatherly
(Guzled Founder)

sallyweatherlybw

I am a physics teacher and I love most of what my job entails: building relationship with students and colleagues, sharing my knowledge with others and helping students achieve their potential.

We can all afford to make our lives a little easier. We don’t have to make bespoke worksheets or powerpoints for every class. Departments don’t even really need to build their own scheme of work from scratch. Let’s not reinvent the wheel every time.

The trouble is that most conscientious teachers will do this. In my career, I’ve spent many summer holidays updating our schemes of work with bespoke resources. It was exhausting and time-consuming.

This is why Guzled began.

I believe that teachers can cut their planning and marking in time in half by simply using a high quality resource bank, but none really existed. So I built one, from scratch.

I founded Guzled with the aim of helping physics teachers of all levels, whether Guzled resources are a starting point for a lesson plan or a complete scheme of work for the whole department. Even if it just allows you to go home a bit earlier and see the kids before bedtime or meet friends in a pub for a drink.

This guide shows you how to save time. Guzled can help you by providing your with all the teaching resources you need.

You can afford to give yourself a break and trust us. We’re here to help.



Do you have any Time-Saving Tips?
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About the Author

Sally

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Sally is the Guzled founder and, more importantly, a part-time physics teacher at Mary Erskine School in Edinburgh. She led a large and vibrant department for 7 years, after training to teach in London. She is a Trustee for Dynamic Earth, an IoP Teacher Network Co-ordinator, a Practical Advisor for AQA and guest lecturer for Stirling University.