Teachers have a lot on their plates and they deserve all of the hacks that this world has to offer. As such, we’ve gathered 40 of some Instagram users’ best tricks, tips and advice for life as a successful school instructor. And by the end you’ll surely be scratching your head wondering, “How did I live without that hack?”
A teacher named Terri had about six students in her third grade glass who never brought in their homework. So she introduced them to the game of Homeworkopoly. As part of the game, those who successfully submitted an assignment got to roll a dice and make their way around a board. “Since introducing this, the whole class has brought their homework in EVERY WEEK,” she shared via Instagram.
39. Encircled readers
Just before summer, students tend to get a little stir crazy. But second grade teacher Stefani Khan came up with a solution to her students’ boundless energy, which had started to impact their ability to sit quietly and read. As demonstrated by her photograph, kids sit inside the boundaries of a hula hoop to read. “Everyone gets a bubble!” as Khan explained. “Everyone gets their own well-defined personal space.”
38. Styrofoam puzzle cups
With just a trio of styrofoam cups, some markers and major creativity, speech language pathologist Julia came up with a brilliant hack. The stack of cups featured different letters or numbers which – when twisted into the right formation – became a complete word or correct math equation. It’s a great puzzle for younger pupils learning such topics.
37. Sticky marker saver
If there’s one thing every teacher knows, it’s that the majority of their markers won’t survive the school year. Students lose the caps or they fail to put them back on properly. And either way, they dry out. But not anymore with teacher Jessica Owens’ ingenious hack. Simply tape together a set of markers to keep all the caps in one place so they’re easy to relocate.
36. N-O-I-S-E to control noise
N-O-I-S-E. These crafty letters have had a big impact on teacher Amy Richardson’s students, who get louder when working in groups. She starts by placing all of the letters on the board. “As students get too loud, I remove a letter going backwards,” she explained on Instagram. “When they get to NO, no talking is allowed, which makes group work hard. It works like a charm.”
35. Name-and-date reminder station
It takes younger kids a while to get in the habit of writing names and dates on their assignments. And this can leave teachers with stacks of unidentified work. The highlighter station can fix that though, as it tasks students with brightly identifying where they have written their name and the date before handing something in. If the information’s not there, they’ll have to write and then highlight it.
34. Attendance self-check-in
Middle school math teacher Melissa Miller doesn’t take attendance. Instead, her students walk in and drag their magnet to the side of the board that says, “I’m here and ready to go!” On top of that added convenience, Miller has found that her students arrive on time for class. Once they check in, they can select their own chairs – so they rush to do so.
33. Dry erase desks
Some classroom desks have a hidden benefit – they can also serve as a dry erase board. So arm students with the markers and to wipe away their work and they’ll be well on their way to solving math problems or spelling new words. And they might just be happy do so. As teacher Kelley Acela Patterson shared with BuzzFeed, “The kids get a kick out of it.”
32. Two-for-one notebooks
Teacher Emily Dent needed to buy math journals for her students. And so she came up with a clever way to get more bang for her buck. She grabbed some notebooks and – with a circular saw – cut them in half to create perfectly sized notepads. The total cost was just $7 for notebooks for all 28 of her kids.
31. Tell time with Play-Doh
Even with so many digital clocks in the world today, it’s important that little ones learn to read traditional timepieces. And so this clever hack utilizes Play-Doh in multiple ways. Firstly, the modeling clay becomes the hour and minute hands of a clock, which kids can move around to create different times. Then, the Play-Doh container lids – marked with numbers 1 through 12 – act as the hour markers.
30. Handy string keeper
Working with yarn can improve young children’s fine motor skills. However, little hands unspooling rolls of string also means they’re likely to get tangled up. Enter the plastic cup with detachable lid and straw holder. This provides only one opening through which the string can emerge – thus making it easy to dispense and difficult to tangle.
29. Alphabet bottle board
One Instagram user came up with a brilliant way to pique her daughter’s interest in the alphabet. The clever mom cut the tops off of 26 plastic bottles, then adhered the bases to a board. Over each, she wrote a letter of the alphabet and did the same with each bottle cap. Then, she unscrewed them for her daughter to match and re-attach.
28. Sticker it all together
Desiree, a teacher based in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, found that her students had trouble reorganizing classroom supplies in their caddies after use. So, she used colored stickers to code where all of the items belonged. And if she or her students later uncovered a misplaced item, they could quickly put it away with its color group.
27. Whisper phones
What’s a teacher to do when students are learning to read? When they need to sound out words, but also need silence to concentrate. Enter the whisper phone, a tube that connects their mouths to their ears so that independent readers can quietly annunciate and understand new words. And the clever device makes even the quietest whisper audible.
26. Tidy tubs
With great creativity comes a great mess – at least when young artists are involved. Teachers Genesis and Whitney came up with a great idea to solve that problem that they called the Tidy Tub. As kids work, they throw scraps into the bin so that they don’t end up on the floor. And at the end of the project, one child recycles the Tidy Tub’s contents. Voilá!
25. Hand over the mic
As a teacher, the last thing you want to hear is complete silence when it’s time for students to participate. If you have trouble stoking the conversation, then reach for a microphone. You don’t even have to turn it on. Instead, declare that the person holding the mic has the floor – and the kids should be lining up to put in their two cents.
24. “I wish my teacher knew…”
Not all teacher hacks have to do with the traditional school subjects. Phoenix-based teacher Carina Wright shared her own little project that allowed her pupils to express their thoughts and feelings discreetly. Wright wrote on Instagram that Kevin Schwartz’s book, I Wish My Teacher Knew had inspired her creative addition to the classroom.
23. Spin the wheel, write the letter
Practicing handwriting can get a bit tedious for little kids, so one Australia-based teacher got creative. She picked up a spinnable wheel from Ikea and wrote every letter of the alphabet around its outer edge. Then, she let her students take a spin – and they practiced whatever letter they landed on.
22. Zip-tie shifting desks together
First grade teacher Lindsey Paull shared via Instagram that she had a pet peeve about her classroom. She disliked, “when the desks [were] completely moved two feet in the wrong direction and crooked.” Fortunately, Paull came up with a simple solution to keep groups of desks together and less mobile – zip-tying them together.
21. Counting practice puzzle
One Instagram user has come up with a challenging and fun way to help her kids learn to count. First, she assembled a foam floor puzzle. Then, she took a marker and numbered each piece. With that finished and the puzzle jumbled, her students could count from 1 to 120 to figure out which pieces fit together.
20. Sanitize student scissors
Cleaning scissors seems like a strange task, but it’s one that teachers have to take on every so often. Little kids spread germs like wildfire, after all. First grade instructor Samantha Moore smartly sanitized her set of scissors, first by submerging them in water for five minutes. Then, she popped them all into the dishwasher and they came out “like new,” as she wrote on Instagram.
19. A new kind of pod organizer
A plastic tub full of Play-Doh containers works for storage – but does it truly organize them? Thanks to this ingenious hack shared by Amanda Newsome on Instagram, you won’t have to worry about that question anymore. She reused a Keurig coffee pod holder to better see and easily organize her Play-Doh collection.
18. Noodle with school headphones
There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all set of headphones – at least in one Instagram user’s case. She found that her school’s set of listening devices slipped off of her kindergarteners’ heads and so she got creative. She discovered that foam pool noodles slipped right over the headphones, softly rested on her students’ heads and kept the earpieces in place.
17. Pom-pom eraser
Sure, you can buy a dry board eraser to go with your special set of markers. But how handy is it to have an eraser attached to each writing utensil? This little hack makes those easy-to-wipe-away pens even more practical. Just glue a pom-pom onto the end of each marker to give it an eraser top.
16. Compound word construction
Simply put, two smaller words join together to create a longer one known as a compound word. And one Instagram user has demonstrated her hack for hands-on practice with a concept that could otherwise confuse young learners. She marked Duplo blocks with different buildable words and her students snapped them together to create compound terms.
15. To-go watercolor tray
In this hack, a cardboard drinks tray keeps water cups stable as young artists dip their brushes into the water, then onto their colorful palettes, then onto their paper. And if the trays become too soggy or dirty in the artistic process, teachers don’t have to worry about cleaning them up. They can just recycle them.
14. Mark your markers (and other supplies)
Teachers give so much, but they don’t have to share everything. In fact, you probably have a drawer full of supplies that you don’t want to share with your class. If so, grab a roll of decorative tape and use it to denote what’s for your hands only. Otherwise, kids – and even other teachers – might think it’s okay to snag your supplies.
13. Scissor tree
Once again, a coffee-centric organizer proves it can come in handy in the classroom. This time, though, it’s a mug tree. This is usually designed to dangle coffee cups by their handles for easy storage and use. But teachers can use the same branches to hold and organize all of their student scissors.
12. The dish on equivalent fractions
Fractions can be a tough concept for kids to grasp, especially when it comes to equivalent ones. For example, one-quarter is exactly the same amount as two-eighths. To crystallize the concept, use paper plates and slice them into different-sized fractions. Then, have students rebuild circles with different pieces to see what equivalencies they find.
11. Bind(er) borders together
Bulletin boards get an extra dash of polish from borders placed around the outer edge. However, no matter how great these strips of paper may look, they become cumbersome when it’s time for storage. Fortunately, teacher Megan Siclare has solved the problem. She realized that, with a few binder clips and hooks, she could hang all of her borders without issue. Game changer.
10. Topple the tissue problem
A new tissue sometimes fails to emerge from the box after its predecessor has been pulled. And so young students may have trouble reaching inside the container and finding the next cotton sheet. Solve this problem by turning your tissue boxes upside down so they’re easy to reach and instantly reloaded.
9. Connect more than four
Connect Four already tests a person’s logic, but one Instagrammer has come up with a way to revamp the game for the classroom. First, she wrote consonants and vowels on the differently colored tokens. Then, her students used the lettered pieces to collaboratively or individually build words on the grid.
8. Don’t roll the dice
As much fun as a learning-based board game can be, some students take their dice-shaking to the extreme. So, rather than watching the cubes fly across your classroom, pop pairs of them into tiny plastic containers. Indeed, ‘container’ is the operative word here, since they’ll keep the dice safely contained during each shake.
7. Welcome to Starbucks mode
Soothing-yet-productive vibes don’t just belong in a coffee shop. And that’s why an Instagram user let Starbucks inspire her in-class teaching style. She allows her students to wear headphones, listen to music and sit wherever they want. The condition is that they continue to work independently – just as they would during a productive day at the cafe.
Subtraction can be tough to understand for a first-time learner. But what helps them grasp the concept is a visual – and this counting hack fits the bill. These beaded strands allow kids to physically subtract the designated amount and count the remainder, which makes it simple to solve a given equation.
5. Closet catch-all
Teachers don’t just have to organize their closets at home – they have to do the same at school, too. And in both places they can rely on a closet-door shoe organizer. At school, it’s clear that pockets give a home to every school supply that doesn’t quite fit on your desk, on a shelf or in a drawer.
4. Keep treats neat
On holidays or birthdays, your class might celebrate with a special treat. Of course, kids plus food always equals mess – so be prepared next time with this smart hack. Before serving, pop each piece of confection into a coffee filter that’ll catch falling crumbs as each child eats. This’ll save you from lots of cleaning up.
3. Travel pack their pencils
One Instagram user wanted her students to have more responsibility for their supplies. And she also wanted them to stop interrupting class to sharpen their pencils. So, she came up with this smart idea. First, she gives each of her students a toothbrush case full of pencils. Then she collects and sharpens them each Friday and replaces the writing utensils each month. So far, her plan has apparently worked wonders.
2. A place for a pencil
Not every desk comes with a groove where students can rest a pencil. But you can solve this problem by cutting straws in half and placing them where the pencil should go on the desk. Then, you can put a piece of tape over the straw to hold it all in place. And hopefully this hack will keep more pencils on the table.
1. Weigh down your calculator
Teachers’ supplies often end up in students’ hands and – in most cases – you’re okay with it. However, an expensive accessory like a calculator should stay in the classroom and so some teachers have come up with a way to keep it that way. They adhere their devices to bricks so that students who borrow them won’t accidentally pack them up.