Some Easy Ways to Simplify Your Teaching Life (Part 1)

Are you tired?

Do you feel like you’re working harder than your students?

This is Part 1 of 2 of some ways that you can take back your time and work smarter, not harder. Let’s jump in!

1) Don’t grade everything.

(Note: I know this is not always possible – a lot of schools require you to have a certain number of grades entered per week.)

Early in my career I was convinced that I needed to provide endless opportunities for students to earn grades…but all it left me with was a mountain of grading that was a constant source of stress.

I’ve crunched the numbers – in the vaaaaast majority of cases, the “extra opportunities” didn’t lead to better grades for my students. 

Their grades were the same whether I formally graded 20 things or 5 things. 

If you have some time, make a copy of your grades from last year and see how final grades would have shaken out if you’d graded way fewer things. You might be surprised!

Where I live we are actually instructed not to grade homework because it’s a student’s practice work. They should be allowed and encouraged to practice before a big performance!

When this policy was put into place, the main pushback from teachers was that students wouldn’t do homework if it’s not graded. This is definitely a valid concern, and you might need to shift your teaching a bit. 

Can you build in more opportunities for work in class? Have you considered a flipped classroom? Are you doing regular retrieval practice? These are all strategies that might help students to anchor the content.

Plus, you can still always keep track of whether or not homework was completed and have conversations with students and parents when necessary.

2) Have students grade their own work, if possible.

Did you read that correctly? Their own work. NOT a classmate’s work.

Because this is not only about saving you time, but it’s also about providing immediate feedback and allowing students to recognize and reflect on their own mistakes.

This has been a serious game-changer for me as a teacher.

Read about my strategy in depth here.

3) Don’t feel like every lesson needs to be teacher-led.

I know that we love our slideshows, but have students take charge sometimes!

If you have textbooks available, one of the easiest ways to do this is to assign a small group a section of a textbook and have them summarize the content on to a poster (give them Mr. Sketch smelly markers for a true thrill!).

Be sure to have them include some relevant diagrams or images. After making sure the posters include the necessary info, tape them up and have students do a gallery walk to fill in a graphic organizer. BOOMlesson done!

I tend to do this when a lesson is about groups of things (ex: the 6 kingdoms, functional groups, macromolecules, types of solids, evidence of evolution etc.)

A blurry image of students' functional groups posters.

A blurry image of students’ functional groups posters.

Click here for 4 more ways to simplify your teaching with Part 2!

Scientifically yours,


Interested in other helpful Teaching ideas? Check out:

6 Science Activities to Leave With a Sub That Are NOT “Busywork”

5 Easy Ongoing Science Activities to Engage Students All Year

Low-Pressure Icebreakers for the Science Classroom

High Quality Movies for the Science Classroom

A Surprisingly Simple Way to Deal with Cell Phones in the Classroom

7 Super Helpful Tips for New Science Teachers

Classroom Management Series #3: Tips for Reacting in the Moment

Classroom Management Series #2: Tips for Building Relationships

Classroom Management Series #1: Tips for Creating Systems 

The #1 Things Teachers Wish They Learned in Teachers College

How to Guarantee that Your Students Will Remember What They Learn

The Proven Blueprint to Using Movies in the Science Classroom

Using YouTube for a Low-Prep Bellringer

My Favorite Way to Start the Science School Year

My Classroom Must-Haves

My #1 Grading Hack