How to Lesson Plan as a Substitute Teacher

If you’re a substitute teacher, you’re still a teacher, and teachers need lesson plans to make the day go smoothly.  A lesson plan is a game plan of how you’re going to use your classroom time.  Often, the classroom teacher that you’re substituting for will leave outstanding lesson plans for you to follow, in addition to, material for you to use.  Other times, you may go to a classroom as a substitute teacher and find nothing whatsoever in the means of classroom activities, directions, and lesson plans for the class.  The regular teacher may have had an unexpected emergency and was not able to adequately prepare for a substitute teacher, and other times, some regular teachers are just more prepared than others, and you just may not find much left for you to use to get through the class period, therefore, you always need to prepare yourself.

Lesson Plans are a much easier to get together if you substitute for a particular grade level, elementary or secondary, for example. Most of the time, that’s the case with substitute teachers.  The majority stick to the same grade levels and even campuses. So, if that’s the case with you, start collecting material that you can use in class, and even reuse in other classes.  You could start by choosing magazines clippings, newspaper articles etc.. involving current events.  Ideas as simple as these can help you and the class easily enjoy and learn something during the first ten or fifteen minutes of class. These activities are sometimes called bell ringers or warm-ups. You can have one small magazine article, of appropriate content, and print off a class set in the teachers workroom and have a “helper” pass out the copies to the class.  Write several questions on the board and ask the students to answer in complete sentences. You could even have this article cover an entertainment story such as a popular music star or a new age-appropriate movie that’s coming out; it needs to me something to catch their attention.  For example, if you pass out an article on the stock exchange and Wall Street as a bell ringer to a group of 6th graders, they’re probably not going to read the first two sentences! ; )… but if you hand them an interesting article on a new G rated animated movie that’s scheduled to be released, they will read every single word.

You can always have things in your “sub bag” to get you through a class, should you accept a substitute assignment where you’ve been left zero instructions by the regular teacher. If you divide the class time into sections of time, it’s easier to visualize what you’re going to need for the students to make it to the end of class time.  And remember, if all else fails, you always have the chalkboard or the whiteboard to handwrite some questions for the students to answer on current events.  It’s ok to be creative! If you’re substituting for a math class, for example, you can keep the class pace going after your bell-ringer handout by writing some math problems on the board and letting the students complete the work on notebook paper. For some, this approach might be old school (no pun intended!) but hey, it works, and it will get you and the class through the class period!

Another activity that is a winner, even in the upper grade levels, is what’s called handwriting practice. You can Google handwriting practice handouts of all lengths and subject matter, that not only help with handwriting but reinforce a lesson.  Believe it or not, the kids love these activities! In a world of smart phone text print, they love to brush up on and practice their personal handwriting skills, and it’s always good to stress that job applications and other applications require handwritten signatures among other types of handwritten statements.

As you’re waiting on the bell to ring for lunch or to end class for the next period or for the day, have activities on hand to keep the students busy and engaged if they’ve finished on their main class assignment. The busier they are, the less restless they’ll be and the less problems you’ll run into. If all you have is a word search, these activities are still very good for improving reading skills and vocabulary, and they’re also entertaining and give the students something to work on.

So just remember, always be on the lookout for little items you may come across in a magazine or a newspaper that you can use as a master copy for a class set. Keep in mind that the bargain and dollar stores usually have an isle that has word search books, puzzles and things along those lines.  All of these things can be gathered for your own personal collection of substitute lesson plan material to bring with you in case you need them!

Should you have any additional questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact us at SubSideKick; we would love to assist you with your substitute teaching career!

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