How to Be Lazy and Still Highly Effective

Ok, so that title…either it offended you or it drew you in so fast, that you were too quick to even feel that wave of shame. Either way, welcome.

It’s that time of year. You’re scraping one child from the ceiling while another scales the wall. Every other word out of you mouth is either “Stop…” or a “WHY” that isn’t even followed up by the rest of a question. Because at this point, when a child has scissors in his mouth days away from being an official fourth grader, “WHY” is sufficient. When one of your munchkins is making snow angels on the carpet during Read to Self “WHY” really gets your message across. When a little friend is loudly singing all the spelling words instead of just writing them in spelling stairs at Word Work, “WHY” is the correct response. Or maybe I’m just lazy.

For example, when you walk around the room and take pictures, and this is the collage you can make.



It’s okay though, I tell myself. We spend most of the year being the hardest working humans we can be for very little compensation for our time, and it’s exhausting. Gearing up for the school year months before it even begins, and then when it hits: meetings, kids, planning, meetings that interrupt planning, teaching, kids that interrupt teaching, bulletin boards, phone calls, emails, extra curriculums, weekend grading, 3am insomnia when the best lesson idea ever hits, more meetings. You get the idea. We’ve earned lazy.

It doesn’t mean we have to stop being effective though. Highly effective, even! We can still provide our kids with some pretty awesome stuff, but we don’t have to go home exhausted. Here’s the deal. For just about every situation in which you feel the need to be lazy, there’s a solution that won’t leave you totally wracked with guilt.

For When You Cannot Handle One More Argument at Read to Someone

All year long, I’ve given them the conflict resolution tools they need. We’ve talked about “I-messages” and better choices, and words that heal vs words that hurt, and “How can we tell someone we would like them to stop without yelling ‘shut up’?” and “Instead of throwing a pencil at your friend, what could you do when you notice you’re angry?” and “How about we compromise today?” At this point, my response to any and all arguments is “STOP”. Enter, lazy choice to avoid it all.

Technology. Oh the sweet, sweet joy of putting a child in front of a computer and handing them headphones. It’s like a pacifier, but better. Because we can still justify it all.

Oh, sweet silence.
Oh, sweet silence.

This group is on Tumble Books. My school has a subscription, which rocks. I let them explore books of their choice, with the rules that they must read one fiction and one nonfiction ABOVE their reading level. I explained that since the book is read to them, they can challenge themselves. The cool thing is, there are tons of genres, and the kids can pause, rewind, and start over as much as they need to. If I was feeling a little less lazy, I might assign something to them like a reading log. But lazy I was, this day, and no such log was assigned.

If you don’t have Tumble Books, you still have other options. For example, I got a one month trial to Get Epic, which is the same exact idea, although the selection seems much bigger. If you only have a month left in school, now is the time! Other sites that read books to kids include Story Online and Just Books Read Aloud. I’m sure there are more, but Google is your friend.

Anyway, I was actually SO tired of the arguing that I let them choose their own books. So it wasn’t really Read to Someone. On a less lazy day, I would make them choose a book together and discuss or complete some sort of log together or Roll and Retell activity.

Why You’re Still Highly Effective: The kids are engaging in reading complex texts of their choosing. If you assign a log, they’re practicing their reading and listening comprehension skills, along with writing! Boom! Done!


For When You Cannot Handle Giving Spelling Tests Anymore

I gave up on spelling. I did. Because I was tired of grading 35 spelling tests every Friday. I replaced it with grammar review and you should too. Why? Because we’ve already taught the skills, so it’s nothing brand new or stressful. (Aka: it requires little effort from all of us. Yay.) It’s reinforcing old skills and the novelty keeps them relatively quiet. Also, it gets rid of magazines that I’ve been hoarding. The downside is you lose 12 glue sticks a day somehow. I don’t get it. Do they EAT the glue sticks?

Bye bye, magazines I failed to properly use!
Bye bye, magazines I failed to properly use!

Idea is pretty basic. Hand blank pages stapled together. Each day, they hunt for pictures representing a different part of speech. We did three days of nouns (people, places, things….all different days!), adjectives, and verbs. They cut out the picture and label it. Done!

Why You’re Still Highly Effective: Reviewing old material, even if your intentions are laziness, is still good practice and has many benefits. Plus, they’re going beyond worksheets and they’re applying what they know. It’s win-win for everyone, especially their next teacher, who may have one less thing to review in the new school year.

For When You Cannot Handle Sitting at Teacher Time Any Longer

Like every other teacher, I’ve spent all year slaving away at this center. It’s when we’ve really fine tuned the hard stuff, worked on our fluency, searched for evidence like real life detectives, answered hard questions, and dug deep in all sorts of reading materials. Time to take a step back and let them soar. I provide the materials, support, facilitate, and then…walk away and keep everyone else on task at other centers.

Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 3.27.57 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 3.28.52 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 3.29.31 PM


The three pictures above capture what that “I’ve given you what you need, now work,” idea looks like for my kids. We were reading The One and Only Ivan, which I chose because it was easy enough to read on their own, but it had such deep meanings, that I would still be passionate enough about the text, to not leave them alone for long. Playing mind games with myself has benefits.

In the first picture, the kids are responding to a given event from that day’s readings. Doesn’t require me sitting there.

In the second picture, the kids are reading and coding an article that deals with an issue related to the main issue in the novel. Doesn’t require me sitting there.

In the third picture, the kids are partner reading. The plot diagram, pages to be read, and vocabulary words for that day are laid out for them, and are ready to be matched up by them when they are done. Doesn’t require me sitting there. 

Why You’re Still Highly Effective: The kids are reading and following a routine that, assuming you aren’t so lazy that you fail to plan for it, requires some sort of task or response. Obviously, you’re still monitoring and intervening if you notice you are needed, and you’re offering input here and there, but you aren’t married to that teacher seat. You’ve done that all year and they have the tools they need. You’re giving the kids control and responsibility, and that’s kind of really important.


For When You Cannot Handle Monitoring Read to Self Any Longer

Again, let’s enter technology. Here, the laptops are in use again. If your school uses a specific reading program (we use iReady for example), this is the perfect replacement for Read to Self on those days when it’s just not happening. Again though, if you don’t have this program, you could use any of the reading sites listed above.

All is calm, all is bright...
All is calm, all is bright…

Why You’re Still Highly Effective: What’s more effective than utilizing a program your school or district pays out the butt for with technology they paid for? Enough said.

For When You Cannot Handle Doing Centers/Daily 5 Any Longer

Ok, this happened on Friday. I’m not ashamed, because I did it right.

Watch the colorful lights dance across the board, children. Oh, the joy!
Watch the colorful lights dance across the board, children. Oh, the joy!

Sometimes it’s okay to show a video! It really is! This interestingly enough, requires a bit less laziness if you want to feel good about what you’re doing. I make the kids work for the video first. Here, the kids are engrossed in the episode of Liberty’s Kids where George Washington takes command of the Continental Army. We’ve been using Liberty’s Kids as a reward throughout the year, so we’ve learned quite a bit already about what lead up to the Revolutionary War. Obviously you’d have to start at the beginning if this is brand new for your kids.

First, we read an article that I typed up and divided into fourths. Then, we chunked it using a Four Square and took notes.



This is a strategy we’ve used before, but it’s also very simple to introduce. Simply go fourth by fourth, reading and taking notes on the important stuff. We talk about how this makes summarizing SO much easier and is a strategy they can use with any text at any time, to make their lives easier.

Ok, so that was an easy 30 minutes. Then we brought our Four Squares to the floor. Every time they saw something on the video that was also in their notes, they put a star or check mark. This helped them relate one activity to the next, but also gave them something to DO while watching. They enjoyed their video time, I enjoyed the peace and quiet, and felt good knowing they were still learning and keeping their brains active.

Why You’re Still Highly Effective: If you’re showing a video that is within one of the contents, then score one already. If they have background knowledge and it’s something you’ve been working on all year long, then that’s another plus. Including the article and a note-taking strategy beforehand is still easier for you then running centers, but it’s good stuff and far from the fluff we could be throwing at them.

Phew. So to recap: technology, new and engaging tactile activities, staying organized from the beginning and letting kids own their learning, and videos. Obviously I’m not advocating taking such a relaxed approach very often, but we all have had those days when we need a backup plan. If you play your cards right and have a legitimate plan, you’ve set yourself up for success in Lazy Town for those days when you

Speaking of lazy, I think I have a product that will suit those lazy needs.

Reading Log Preview

I’m giving away one set of these CCSS Aligned Meaningful Reading Logs that I just posted to TPT to the first one who comments and lets me know: What’s the absolute worst lazy teacher moment you’ve ever had?



4 thoughts on “How to Be Lazy and Still Highly Effective

  1. Worst Lazy Teacher moment: I clicked the button on our reading website that reads the text to the children instead of just reading the text to the children during whole group instruction!!!! I just stood there next to the SmartBoard shameless! Still effective!

  2. I love your classroom ideas! where did you get all those workout/stability balls from? Does your school provide them or did you need to buy them yourself?

    • Thank you for your kind words! The yoga balls were given to me by my principal. Apparently he came up with the idea on his own, ordered a ton, and then nobody aside from me, wanted a class set. LOL So there are a bunch still sitting there, and now I’m just trying to get him to agree to take back some and give me a bunch of the same color…because I have issues.

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