Last Minute Call and No Lesson Plan Waiting — Books for Substitute Teachers

The phone rings early in the morning, and you get the call to substitute for the day. It’s late, so you just have time to grab your substitute emergency kit and head for the school. When you arrive, you discover that there are no lesson plans waiting for you. What can you pull out of your kit to work magic for the day? Books are the perfect answer; you can easily adapt even the simplest picture book to any grade level with a little ingenuity. These books for substitute teachers work well for last-minute calls.

More Phonics: 112 Read-Aloud Poems

Author: Babs Bell Hajdusiewicz

This awesome collection of poems comes with ready-made activities, so you can skim the plans quickly while you finish your coffee, or you can create your own tasks. For short classes, make it simple by reading a poem or two and letting the students draw their own illustrations. Adapt the early elementary book for middle school or high school by encouraging them to write and illustrate poems in the same style as those you read. Bind the pages into a book to share with lower grades.

If You’re Trying to Teach Kids How to Write, You’ve Gotta Have This Book!

Author: Marjorie Frank

Frank has collected an amazing selection of story starters and other writing activities that stretch students’ imaginations and let them experience the fun of writing things outside practice essays for standardized tests. Get to know the students when you choose activities like the one that asks writers to trace the outline of their hands and, on the inside, write all the things they can do with their hands.

Jonathan James and the Whatif Monster

Author: Michelle Nelson-Schmidt

Not matter the age of the reader, this charming book packs a powerful message without overpowering. After reading how Jonathan stands up to the whatif monster’s planting doubts, ask students to write their own “what ifs” and the counter message they can throw back at the monster. Let them illustrate the ideas to make mini posters they can hang to remind them that they don’t need to give in to the monster.

A Tale of Two Beasts

Author: Fiona Roberton

Share a quick lesson on point of view with this delightful tale told from the perspective of a young girl and a raccoon. Talk about how every story has two (or more) sides and let students share examples of when they saw something differently than someone else in the same situation, or have them use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast how each participant experienced their interaction.

Cinderella Stories

Read two or three versions of the Cinderella story and have students compare them. Younger children can draw pictures to show how the stories are the same and how they are different, while older students can use a diagram to organize the similarities and difference before writing a compare/contrast composition. Some examples include The Egyptian Cinderella, by Shirley Climo; Sootface: An Ojibwas Cinderella Story, by Robert D. San Souci; The Turkey Girl: A Zuni Cinderella Story, by Penny Pollock; and Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters, by John Steptoe. Go classic with Tattercoats: An Old English Tale, by Flora Annie Steel, or try for silly with Prince Cinders, by Babette Cole.

Coloring Books

Any coloring book gives you options for keeping students occupied, but take it up a notch with pattern books such as Art Deco Patterns to Color, by Sam Taplin; Mexican Patterns to Color and Celtic Patterns to Color, by Struan Reid; or The Mandala Coloring Book, by Jim Gogarty. Encourage students to create their own patterns inspired by the pages of the coloring books. A pattern-search can even be paired with a geometry lesson!

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