How to prepare for a Substitute Teacher
As you know, preparing a plan and materials for a Sub typically takes longer than writing a plan for yourself, or at least it feels that way when you are under the weather. For those of you old enough to remember, in the words of Ricky Ricardo, “you got some splainin to do” in order to adequately prepare a Sub.
In this blog I will provide you with some tips on how to be better prepared without a lot of extra work for the inevitable day you need a Sub.
Include a Subsection in your Day Plan
In all my day plans, I include a permanent section specifically for a Sub with useful information. For example, I include the names of students that have health issues, students who you will need to keep an eye on and students that are helpful. Lastly, I refer them to a separate information sheet that I keep at the front of my day plan binder that has other classroom and school information they may need.
In addition, I include in all my day plans my out-of-classroom duties and prep period times with the name of the teacher the students will be with.
Maintain the Regular Classroom Routine
I find that my students behave better for a Sub when their normal routine is maintained to the greatest degree possible. This means a little more “splainin” about the classroom routine in the day plan but it’s worth the extra effort when you get a glowing letter from your Sub instead of “your class was horrible!”
For example, if you have a routine that your students follow as they enter the room, include this on your day plans as well as the end of day routine if you have one.
Keep it Simple
My approach to leaving work for various subjects is to keep it simple, particularly for a short duration absence. I don’t usually leave what I would normally teach that day, simply because it’s difficult to continue with the lessons when you come back because you don’t know for sure what was taught during your absence, how much your students comprehended and how much teacher support was given. I find it easier to continue with your regular lessons when you get back.
Of course, if you are away for more than a day or two, the Sub will have to continue with your regular lessons. I always have a week of plans prepared and simply place my Sub plan on top of these plans in my plan binder. This way, if my absence extends beyond one or two days, my regular plans are available.
I have the teacher perform my version of the Daily 5 routine. (See my blog My Guide to Daily 5). The students are familiar with what they do at the centres they are assigned because we do this every day, so there shouldn’t be any difficulties and their normal routine is followed.
On the plans that I have prepared for the Sub, typically the day or night before, I leave the names of the groups and which centres they are at. The only centre which needs explaining will be guided reading (see my blog My Guide to Guided Reading), which can still be part of your everyday plans. Beside each guided reading group, write the name of the book they are reading and where the bin is located with the book and questions to review with them.
The rest of the language block becomes a little more complicated. If I have already taught a lesson and the students are simply continuing their writing, then the Sub can finish this activity. For example, if the students are working on recounts or a narrative, the students can continue working on their writing. If I am scheduled to be starting something new, I will usually wait to teach the new lesson upon my return.
I have created a Grammar and Writing Rules Bundle that I print for each student and use throughout the entire school year. I leave instructions for the Sub to review specific pages in the booklet and pages that the students will work on. It’s easy for the Sub to follow and easy for me to leave!
Other Language ideas
Leave a picture book that the Sub could read aloud and then have the students complete an activity for one of the reading strategies that you have already taught. For example, write a prediction for what the book will be about, or stop reading part way through and have them write a prediction or draw a picture about what they visualize. When the book is finished, have them write a recount about the story.
I’m always reading a novel to the students as a read aloud, so I leave this as the last activity for the language block and explain that this can be done if time permits.
Math can be difficult to leave for a Sub. I tend to not leave a new lesson and I don’t leave a test because you cannot be sure how much help students have been given. I do leave additional practice worksheets or group activities that relate to the lesson that was taught the last day I was present.
For other subjects like science and social studies, I will leave the work from the day before if the students hadn’t fully completed it. Otherwise, I will give them something completely different like a simple art activity like colouring pages if there is a holiday close to the time I will be away or give them multiple copies of the same picture and ask the students to colour it differently to correspond to different moods or warm and cool colours.
In Case of Emergency
There are also those times that you wake up early that morning and are not well enough to go to work or an emergency comes up and you are not at school to complete a lesson plan. I always keep an Emergency Sub Plan folder in which I place a day plan with sheets of work that do not relate to what I’m actually teaching at the time but that will work well for one day if needed in an emergency.
You can still include the morning routines and references to information pages, but the rest of the day will be activities that can be completed at any time of the year. If you are interested in the Emergency Sub Plans I keep in my classroom, see my TpT unit, Substitute Teacher Plans.
For a Free Editable outline for Sub Plans and information pages, please visit Sub (Substitute Teacher) Day Plan and Information Sheet Outlines – Editable.
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Happy teaching and stay healthy.