Time-Money Balance is as Important as Work-Life Balance
I’ve rounded up some specific dilemmas you can probably relate to as examples of what I am talking about, as well as some clarity to help you!
These are just a few examples that have been on my mind, but share your own in the comments to help us all think through our big-picture decisions as well as tedious tasks each day. It can make all the difference!
DIY vs. Store Bought Letters for Bulletin Boards
It seems as though every single time I decide it’s time to change the bulletin board, I go through an internal battle between making my own set of fresh letters and buying a pack of premade poster letters at the teacher store.
When I first began my teaching career, those extra few dollars were important and I ended up taking the time to print and cut out individual colored letters. After some years, though, I’ve realized the extra time is more important to me.
I could spend an hour or so making what I need for the bulletin board, or I could spend that time doing something I love, like playing with my kids or creating new doodle notes.
I’ve got a super cute new little guy at home, but he is certainly high maintenance. Suddenly, it has all become clear why people say that having two kids is a whole different world than having one. The recent months have not been easy, and I’m finding myself constantly struggling to find time for anything other than what I lovingly call Joey-duty.
Check out these premade poster letters from Amazon (affiliate link) if you are in the same boat and just don’t have time for the little things anymore!
(I've also seen something similar at Target.)
Doodle Stickers: Glue stick vs. Sticker Sheet
Not only is your personal time important, but you want to maximize class time.
If you’re an avid doodle-note sticker user, I’m sure you have debated having your students spend time using a glue stick to attach the doodle note sticker versus buying a stack of sticker sheets.
You can either “waste” a few minutes of class time by having them glue their Doodle Note Stickers into their notebooks, or pop into a store and buy a big stack of sicker sheets, like these ones. With amazon prime, you can get them quickly in just a couple of minutes!
If you haven’t tried DIY Doodle Note Stickers yet, you need to check these out, and then download this free sample! These really do offer a cool alternative for student-led visual note taking.
Organizational Hacks vs. Messy Papers
Organizational Hacks are some of my favorite things in setting up my classroom! They make life so much easier; you can avoid the mess and chaos of too many papers. Although many awesome ideas are inexpensive, (Check out these ideas!), it all adds up. Most teachers fly through their room budget in no time!
I know we have a tendency to feel guilty when we spend way too much at the dollar spot, but you may want to consider weighing the pros and cons of how much time you’re saving vs. how much money you’re spending on classroom organization. It’s possible you can justify that by feeling that you have some TIME to show for that money. When you think of all the ways you can spend that time, what is really more valuable in the long run??
It’s all about using time AND money in tandem productively!!
Inexpensive vs. Expensive Planners
Some teachers are okay with a $5-10 planner from places like Target, or they go the digital route with using something like Google Calendar. This is totally fine!
However, some teachers need a nice, fancy planner to keep their sanity! If this sounds like you, it may be wise to splurge on an Erin Condren teacher planner. Consider it an investment to save you time in your busy schedule! This is my second year using an Erin Condren planner at home, and I am loving it!
TpT vs. Make yourself
Another dilemma: Do I spend time to develop my own creative printables, or quickly purchase one on Teachers Pay Teachers? This is tricky, because depending on your skill level and creativity level purchasing a printable can potentially save you a ton of time.
You’re in luck, though, because this dilemma has an ultimate solution!
Luckily, there’s a really awesome NEW solution for this over at Teachers Pay Teachers. You can request resources to be purchased by your school. Search TpT for great resources you need for your students (just as you always do!). But now when you find a resource you love, you can request to have it paid with school funds. Simply submit a resource request to your administrator who can review it, purchase it, and get it to you instantly. (It all happens right on TpT!)
Watch the video below to hear more about TpT for schools:
I really believe that schools and districts are missing out if they don’t take advantage. Have a chat with whoever controls the budget and/or curriculum purchasing. Here is my own story to illustrate:
I was teaching middle school math, and was selecting a workbook for the Geometry units. The assistant principal gave me a set of maybe 4 or 5 sample workbooks to look through. I was the only math teacher, so I was the person who would select the one that was best. They were all pretty similar in price, and to be honest, I did not love any of them. (This was probably 8 years ago or so!)
I chose one, and the school ordered one for each student. I don’t remember exactly how many kids I had that year, but it was somewhere around 135.
Now, I’d kick myself for allowing the school to spend all that money on consumable books! I can browse through TpT and find MUCH better options. There are plenty of resources that are more appropriate, far less boring, and more up-to-date. I would have infinitely more options for how to spend that money, and save a ton in the meantime.
Here is the breakdown in costs (just from my own experience - obviously this all can vary).
Did you look at those final numbers!??! If you just skimmed past, scroll back up and check it out --^
The difference is incredible.
The key factor here is the fact that you can purchase just ONE license of a resource (no matter how large) and print it for all of your students FOREVER.
That is a completely different ballgame than selecting a consumable workbook. The school funds can go so much farther.
I have learned that in the balance of time vs. money, digital downloads are where it’s at!
Here are links you can pass on to your administrator if you want to give it a try.
Balancing the Trade Off
It all comes down to a trade off! The key is balancing this trade off in regards to your own needs. No one can tell you the exact amount of time you should spend teaching, or the amount of money to save or spend on your students, because it is your personal choice.
If you have a family at home, it’s probably more important for you to spend some extra time with your children or spouse. You may realize your body needs some exercise, or your home could use some cleaning or sprucing up. You might need some “you-time” to spend alone or to socialize with friends. Whatever the trade off may be, you need to look at your life and determine what is important to you!
Personally, for me, after just having our little Joey, my top priority has suddenly shifted to exercise! With baby number two, I just can’t seem to win with this anymore. I have to set that time aside as my first to-do every day, and am slowly learning to cut time in other areas (sometimes by spending money).
However, on the flip side, when it comes to house cleaning, I just don’t have it in the financial budget at this point to spend on that. So I clean my own home, and in that case choose to save the money and spend my own time.
I think each person has to find their own balance by making each choice. We are always making cuts somewhere, so making an effort to consciously choose where those cuts are made can really help with the mental load.
I hope this post has put the time vs. money debate into perspective and has given you some clarity! No one has ever said teaching was easy! What are your thoughts and opinions on this dilemma? Please feel free to join the conversation in the comments below.
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Doodle Notes for the Paperless Classroom
Can’t Print Your Doodle Notes?
Even in a school that is not tech-based, there are days when problems arise and you just can’t make enough copies of doodle note sheets or other handouts for your students. Maybe you didn’t have a chance to run to the copier, you’ve reached your school’s printing limits, or your printer, once again, ran out of ink. We’ve all been there.
A great solution is using visual notes in a digital format. I’ve rounded up all of my tips and tricks to make doodle note-taking in a digital format as effective as possible!
(DocHub app used with visual note template as background)
Benefits of Visual Notes by Hand
First, a disclaimer: I strongly believe in doing notes by hand, on paper, whenever possible! (See this post on digital classroom vs. math by hand.)
But of course, there are times when digital lessons can be wonderful and practical. So the goal here is to do the best you can to maximize the brain benefits in any situation.
Visual notes in a digital format can give you a break from making copies, wasting paper, and using up expensive printer ink. Some days this format is more desirable, convenient, or just plain necessary for a successful class!
However, you should note there is a lot of research out there that shows notes are so much better when taken by hand, rather than digitally. Scientific American tells us that even though people generally type faster than write, more notes aren’t necessarily better.
In three separate studies that compare students taking notes by hand vs. students taking notes by laptop, they found those who wrote out their notes had a stronger conceptual understanding and were more successful in applying and integrating the material.
So, while there’s no doubt there are clear benefits to digital notes, keep in mind this format should be used in moderation. Students get the most benefits from taking notes by hand!
(Inkflow app used with background template from this set)
A friend of mine, Leah at leahcleary.com, provided an excellent post about how to make your worksheets work digitally. It’s actually much simpler than you may think! Here are the steps to get your doodle note sheets into a digital format.
You need to follow a few very simple steps:
Then, with their devices, students have easy access to the note pages (or worksheet). With DocHub, they can draw, write, highlight, and even insert text or images on their note sheet!
(Decimals doodle note set used with DocHub)
Student-created graphic notes
Another cool way to avoid printing or copying doodle pages is to let your students create their own graphic notes on an app on their device. The key is uploading a PDF of the doodle note backgrounds or templates for your students, that they can add to a note-taking app. There are many apps out there, and I have not played long with all of these yet, but here are a few to try:
This app allows you to use an interactive pen to markup any PDF, while still feeling natural through pressure. Change aspects of the pen quickly with the touch of a button on the pen sidebar.
Inkflow Visual Notebook
This free app provides a space for your students to upload images/graphics and create fantastic sketch notes with smooth writing tools.
A nice feature that I like about Inkflow is the ability to select an area and move it around. This can be so helpful in creating visual notes – Students can actually re-organize the page as they go, to improve the visual layout and flow! This helps overcome some of the challenges of student-created sketchnotes. One downside to this app is that you have to pay for colors :(
(Doodle note background template used with Inkflow app)
Although not free, this app is fairly inexpensive ($7.99) and provides the best platform for your students to create visual note pages! On this app students can annotate on PDFs, write on the app like real paper, search handwritten notes, and even convert handwriting to text.
This app is $5.99, and allows students to effortlessly create beautiful notes on their device. Your students can take unlimited visual notes with this app by handwriting notes and marking up PDFs.
Try adding templates as backgrounds to make the process easier.
Tips for using doodle notes
If you’re looking for some great tips to better implement doodle notes in your lessons, keep reading! Here are some excellent tips for implementation:
1. Show a Sample
To maximize the benefits of doodle notes, you should allow students to fully express their personality and creativity. That being said, students may need a little bit of guidance to help get them started, especially if you’ve just recently introduced doodle notes. The perfect way to guide them is showing a completed sample of the doodle notes sheet when you begin the lesson.
2. Keep Research in Mind
Be sure to keep the research in mind as you implement doodling in math class. Keep your focus on the brain benefits as you guide your students through these.
Of course, just by coloring or doodling, they will get some visual connections and will activate both sides of the brain, but to maximize the benefits, this should ideally occur while also getting verbal input.
Scientists learned that the act of coloring or doodling requires just enough focus to keep you from zoning out, but not enough to actually distract you. So, in order to maximize this, there should be focused, active teaching occurring during the doodle note lesson.
3. Limit Time
When it is time to cut off the lecture or the lesson, be sure to stop. Stop just as you would with regular notes. Move on. Students who want to add to it can do so later during free time or at home.
Do not add class time for just coloring. That is not the purpose. If students do want to color, embellish, add a million little doodle spirals, that's fine. But once the learning and teaching portion is over, the brain benefits start dwindling. Coloring the corners is not the valuable use of class time that completing the note sheet is.
Guide your class to doodle as they fill the page, during the moments that they are still listening and learning. Let them do fancy lettering of a vocabulary word to help it stick in their minds. Let them color ideas that go together using the same pattern. Show them how to focus in on the visual triggers that will stick in their brain.
To read more of my tips, visit How to use Doodle Notes in Math Class!
I am continually impressed by all of the teachers in Doodle Note Club! I am constantly hearing great ideas from other teachers about how they implement Doodle Notes. Here are a few of my favorites:
To read more about how other teachers are implementing doodle pages, go to In the Classroom!
To Read Next (on Your Visual Note-Taking Journey) -
I’ve been trying to collect my favorite ways to help them feel more prepared for tests through review that really makes the content stick. It turns out that doing a few quick problems in pairs just never quite did it.
Using Doodle Note DIY Stickers
It’s definitely time to focus in on only spending review time in ways that are effective based on how student brains actually process information! One of the best ways to review for tests is using doodle stickers. Students can really benefit from this easy-to-use memory-boosting tool. Kids can use doodle stickers to convert any page into a doodle note! They just cut out your pre-selected doodle stickers and stick on any sheet of paper.
Visual note-taking strategies have been shown to increase memory, help students focus, and build mental connections that stick. Interacting with the content in this way is a proven way to ensure the information will be retained!
Beforehand, think about which doodle stickers would work best for organizing the content covered, and select and print. Download and print this free sample of DIY Doodle Note Stickers or check out the DIY Doodle Note Stickers- Full Starter Pack.
At the start of class, group students in small study teams. Assign them a lesson or chapter to summarize. Offer them a variety of pre-printed doodle note sticker sheets, so they can choose the stickers that will best organize the content.
They will need to plan out the most ideal way to visually represent the lesson material to make a review/ study guide summarizing the group’s topic. The process of choosing, laying out, and planning their page helps them mentally organize the information.
Then, they'll build a graphic note page that can serve as a study guide, but will be a great review of material on the test in the process.
By embellishing, labeling, and interacting with the note sheet, they'll build mental connections and remember the information. The activation of both brain hemispheres and the processes behind Dual Coding Theory will offer them the best study experience!
Learn more about the way our brains connect visual and linguistic information to build long-term memory here.
In addition to a study guide, graphic note sheets can make awesome classroom posters! Students can create visual study guides (with their own sketchnotes, guided note templates, or doodle note stickers) in a larger size! They can then become a reference guide on the wall for all to see. Here’s an easy step-by-step to print a poster using your regular printer and paper.
This page was created using a template for visual notes.
There are so many other creative ways to use doodle stickers in your classroom. For more tips and ideas, check out Interactive Visual Notes.
Other Test Review Ideas
If using doodle stickers isn’t for you and your students or you just need a different, fresh idea, consider using these test review ideas!
Sticky Note Review
All you need are sticky notes and pre-made questions that are similar to the ones on the test! First, divide your class into small teams, and give each group some sticky notes and a sheet with the questions.
On the board, create large sections for each question, numbering them. Starting with the first question, give the groups a few minutes to solve the problem or answer the question. They must come to a consensus, and record their group’s answer on a sticky note; then, a group member will stick it on the board in the designated section.
Once all groups have stuck their answers on the board, discuss the results as a class. Did most groups find the right answer? Why or Why not? Continue with the following questions, and take note of any patterns you see and of student participation.
Bethany, from Teaching with Technology, shares 6 Tech-Based Review Activities to Try with Your Students. Most of them are super cool apps where you can easily input questions and answers to create a unique and engaging review game! Like Kahoot or Flippity.
You can find 3 Math Review Games to Get Students Moving at Maneuvering the Middle. I love all of the ideas, but my favorite is the Speed Dating game. You set up your classroom in rows of chairs facing each other. Expect plenty of awkwardness and laughter with this game!
Each student is assigned a problem, and is given time to become the “expert”, (This way they can help others when the time comes).
Students are paired up, and sit facing each other. They swap problems, show their work on whiteboards, and help each other if help is needed. When the timer goes off, one row gets up and moves a chair down for their next “date”!
Hopefully, some of these ideas will help make your test review time engaging and memorable for your students! What are your favorite review activities? We’d love for you to share in the comments below!
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