We all know the feeling of scrambling last minute to pull together a review sheet for our class. It's definitely not what you want to be dealing with when you are feeling awful or are buckling your kid into the car to head to the E.R. or doctor's office.
Here are some tips for putting together your emergency substitute teacher kit for the upcoming school year.
A few things are obvious. You will want any student worksheets copied and prepped before the first day of school. You also know that introducing new content offers its own challenges on a sub day. Certain types of activities work best, and you will need to include other things you may not have thought of.
First, the lesson material
- Be sure that the content is either familiar, or flipped. If you are flipping, try a video that leads into future content, or an article for students to read that can be explored further when you return. Flipping with Kirch has some great student-created videos that you can pull from.
- If you choose to use familiar content, try to avoid a boring review worksheet. Students who are engaged are less trouble for a sub. Try an extension, a critical thinking challenge, or a writing or journaling task about a math concept. Try having your students produce something that extends or applies a concept they already know. Use project-based tasks or choice boards that can be done independently or quietly. Get your students up into the higher levels of Bloom's. Make a generic choice board that can fit any topic. This way you can just instruct students which chapter/idea to apply at the last minute. Include the following choices on your board -
- Create an infographic that displays the key concepts for the topic.
- Develop a graphic organizer or flowchart that represents the topic.
- Write a story for a younger student in which the characters explore the topic.
- Draft a comic strip that illustrates three key vocabulary terms or properties for the topic.
- Create a quiz that could be used to test a student thoroughly on the topic.
- Try choosing activities that are partially self-checking. You will not want a lot of work to grade when you return. My "Choose Your Own Journey" books are one of my favorites for this because they redirect students and include explanations.
What About the Structure?
Note: If you have not done it, recording audio is really easy. Search your computer for a "voice recorder" app, and just hit "record." When you are done with your message to your kids, just "save as" an audio file on your desktop, and you can insert it into your display page in word or power point similar to inserting an image.
Keep it really simple. Make a single slide with directions in both written and recorded audio format. Put that single file onto a flash drive. Then lay it out with the papers and a flash drive on your desk.:
Both of these are self-checking. The coloring one ends up in a pattern, so kids can see if they slipped up at the end. For the card sort, the sub hands out the numbered "answer cards" at the end, and the students verify that they put each card in the correct pocket.
This means that I have no grading to do when I come back!
I also like to use self-checking "GridWords" puzzles (Factoring ones for Algebra or Prime Factorization ones for middle school).
Other "Tools" to include in your Sub Kit
- Schedule (including daily rotations or special tweaks for certain days)
- Seating Chart
- Detention Slips - You can practically have them pre-written with student names! - but don't (ha ha)
- Emergency Procedures & Exit Plans for your room
- Phone Number to call the office
- Names of teachers who can help and their room numbers
- Student Medical / Allergy information
- List of students who are pulled out or have special accommodations
- Directions for operating the projector, video player or other technology
- Log-in information if your computer is locked
- Internet passcode for teachers in your school
Tips from the Experts
Kate says that "even though some teachers don't like to do this, I often personalize why I'm out. I've driven to school late at night to do this because I feel it makes a big difference in student behavior.
I usually also write "I'm counting on you to accomplish x, y, z." And it works wonders."
She doesn't like to leave work that requires grading because it's not the best reflection of student work anyway.
Read more teaching tips from Kate on her blog, Kate's Classroom Cafe.
When Kacie has a sub, she runs a competition between her classes to see who is the best in behavior, helping, and following directions.
She says, "I used to dread reading notes from my sub for fear that they misbehaved while I was away. This strategy works great for secondary students. Early in the school year, establish a routine for a sub-day class competition.
Establish a worthy and desirable reward that is appropriate for your students. When I am absent, I leave a note one the board such as, "Remember, students! Class competition is on!" At the end of the sub plans, leave a reminder for your sub to choose one class.
Leah has a different strategy for organizing sub plans. She has a whole "sub plans" file drawer.
For each unit that she teaches, she includes "things that are relevant to what students are learning but that we never have time to get around to. All of the assignments are self-explanatory."
She says, "If I know I'll be out, I can pull from there. If it's an emergency, I can leave a message telling them what to grab from the file cabinet."
Leah has a blog on teaching Social Studies and English. Check it out!
Andrea makes sure that her sub does not get confused. High school and middle school schedules are not as simple as they seem on paper.
Andrea says, "If you have a confusing schedule like A and B days or classes that rotate, try to be as clear as possible to minimize confusion."
She also includes a thank you note for the sub in her emergency sub kit!! (Very important!!)
See what else Andrea puts into her sub folder on her blog, Musings of a History Gal.
Dawn from Algebra Simplified started noticing that after having to take days out of the school building, she found herself "more refreshed, more student-centered, and more effective the remaining days."
She notes that she is a better teacher when she does take that day for professional development or a doctor appointment.
Dawn says, "Don’t be loath to leave. Has anyone ever commented that you are a different person after summer break? Teaching is a stressful job."
Check out Dawn's Pinterest boards for more great tips and resources.