We’ve all been there – you have to be out for a day, but its nerve-wracking. What to leave for a sub? How to make sure it goes smoothly? You don’t want to waste a day of class, and you don’t want to come back to chaos the next day.
Here are my suggestions (granted I have mostly taught secondary, but I think these suggestions would work even with upper elementary as well).
You can’t always guarantee who you will get as a sub, or how your students will react, so here are a few suggestions to minimize the stress.
Leave the directions directly for your students
Students are used to receiving direction from you. They are more likely to give a sub a hard time, or the have confusion. Give the directions to the kids. If you use a learning management system such as Google Classroom, Schoology, Edmodo etc this is very easy. they are already used to logging in, and can look for their work there.
If not, I have left the kids a very quick and simple set of directions of what they are to do for the class period, and what is to be handed in at the end of class. I sometimes leave the kids direction in the form of an official looking ‘memo’ with the assignment for the day, when it is due, and what to do if they have extra time. I photocopy either for each student (even a half sheet is plenty), either as a separate handout, or as a cover page with today’s work that explains their directions for the day.
This leaves the sub free to either tell students to login and read the directions, or the pass out directions, as well as take attendance, monitor behavior, and deal with questions and problems, rather than try to teach/lead a lesson that he or she may not be comfortable with. It also takes out the middle man. I don’t know about you, but I have heard some strange stories such as “the sub told us not to hand that in” or the “sub never passed that out, etc”
Leave the sub prepared
Make sure the sub is prepared to do the things that you really need him or her to do. Here are some tips:
- leave attendance rosters
- leave a class schedule
- leave a seating chart, if you use one
- leave directions and contact information for another teacher to ask in case of questions
- leave directions or a phone number to call for the main office/security in case of a problem
- clear directions of what work should be handed in
- leave some type of feedback form, this helps ensure that you will get feedback on how the day way. There are numerous free versions available by searching for substitute feedback form. Here is a good resource from the National Substitute Teachers Alliance.
Have a back up plan
My go to backup plan is either a news article summary or a vocabulary activity. I keep vocabulary lists, and a vocabulary menu of choice activities for students to practice key vocabulary. I also keep a bunch of news articles printed out, with a generic news article response template (I just use the first page). Even if you don’t keep articles, you may be able to get a few copies of the newspaper or of magazines from the school library. Again, there are numerous current events summaries available with a quick search, so I would recommend that you find one appropriate to your students.
These are assignments that students can do for extra credit or early finisher activities but they are also great for emergency sub plans, or if the technology isn’t working. Sometimes there is a sub who isn’t comfortable with the technology or has an issue getting kids logged in. These are a perfect temporary solution.