Today is the day! I am not Molly. I am Rachel from Sub Hub and am guest posting on Lessons with Laughter today in celebration of the Top Teachers’ Blog Swap and Hop. At the end of this post, you will find a list of incredible blogs also participating in the swap. As you can see from the name of my blog, I am a substitute teacher. No, it was not my life’s ambition to become a substitute teacher, but it is where life has landed me for the moment, so I am embracing the profession and making it the best I possibly can. On my blog I share tips, strategies, activities, and sub plans. Today, I will be sharing with you some tips for leaving sub plans that work.
I don’t care who you are, how healthy you are, or how good your intentions are. It happens to every teacher. There comes a time when you have to miss school for one reason or another. And you have to write the *cue dramatic music here* dreaded sub plans!
But why are they so dreaded? Well, my guess is that 1) You know your routine, methods, strategies, curriculum, etc. Someone else doesn’t. And 2) Many times you have no idea who that sub will be walking through the door. I am the first to admit that the substitute teaching profession needs major overhauling. There are quite a few unqualified, uncaring individuals who are subs. I have met some myself. Sometimes it can be like scene out of a horror movie. You just never know what state your room and students will be in when you return.
You need to write those dreaded sub plans so that they will be something meaningful for the students (preferably moving along your scope and sequence so as not to waste precious teaching time), while at the same time running interference to do damage control in case of an unqualified sub. As a sub for the last five years, I have seen a lot of sub plans. I have seen some things that work and plenty that don’t. I can tell you if I weren’t a certified teacher, those times that the plans didn’t work could have been disastrous. And let’s face it, a small number of subs are actually certified.
My best tip to writing sub plans that work? Make them FAB! What exactly are FAB plans? They are easy to FOLLOW. They are APPROPRIATE. They include BONUS activities to fill time.
Easy to FOLLOW. Remember, you have someone in your classroom who doesn’t know you, your routines, or your students. The more details you can give, and the more clearly written the instructions are, the better chance a sub has of successfully following those plans. And make sure all materials and supplies that a sub would need for the day are handy. I have a free Sub Prep Checklist to make sure you don’t forget anything.
APPROPRIATE. What does that mean? Well, of course, they must be at the correct level for your students. If you leave work that is too easy or too challenging, the students will most likely become a behavior problem for the sub. Also appropriate are lessons with a purpose. Know the objective for all lessons left, whether that objective is practicing a standard or curriculum requirement or just focusing on other skills such as critical thinking. That means to not leave just worksheet after worksheet of busy work. And finally, think about what would be practical for a sub to carry out. I would tend to avoid teaching new material, activities you know the students hate or struggle with, and group activities. In my experience, one type of lesson that works really well is a read-aloud followed by an activity practicing a reading or language arts skill. If you have a true emergency and don’t have time at all to write lesson plans, you can check out my free ones available for grades K-5.
Include BONUS Activities. I know it has happened to you. Lessons you thought were going to take hours, the students sped through in 30 minutes. When you are there, it’s no big deal. You just go on to the next thing. But a sub may not know what that next thing is. So make sure you leave a few bonus activities for those “just-in-case” times. Those can also be fun things that the students love. In that case, the sub can even use those as classroom management rewards.
While, no sub plans are completely foolproof, if you make them FAB, you will reduce the likelihood of chaos and destruction. And, yes, I am quite melodramatic. Ha!