Most of the time, it is just easier to come to work than to prepare for a sub. After my annual bout with strep throat one year, I got laryngitis. Could not make one sound come out of the voice box. It was the craziest thing because I remember as a kid, I would sometimes pretend I had laryngitis. I would even hope to get it. (I would hope for braces and glasses, too. Was I just a weird kid, or did everybody do that?)
Anyway, I checked with my doctor to make sure I was no longer contagious and decided I had missed enough school and would just battle the day with no voice. It was that or prepare for a sub, and I chose that. Surprisingly, my class was the best behaved they had been all year! I greeted them with a note on chart paper in the morning explaining the situation. I ‘spoke’ to them by writing on the board. I carried a white board and markers with me. They were supportive and unusually quiet that day, and we had a productive, relatively normal day.
Now, you can’t always be lucky and get laryngitis! Sometimes, you do have to prepare for a sub. Here are some helpful hints and ideas.
Make the day as typical as possible—if you have a good routine, students can and will follow it even when you’re not there. Here is a condensed version of my typical sub plans:
- Reading—students just do their rotations as normal, and don’t meet with me (independent reading, research, computer, etc…). Leave a short activity from the textbook, a workbook page or two, and you’re good.
- Math—review lesson from the book (Third graders always need extra practice subtracting across zeroes or rounding). Often students benefit from having a new person explain it to them. Then, students work on math centers or projects, whatever we are working on at the time. They know exactly what they should be doing, so it’s easy.
- Science and Social Studies—usually we’re working on some kind of research or project, so I ask the sub to give them time to work on that. If not, a textbook lesson, workbook pages. Easy.
- Writing—It’s usually too complicated to explain where we are in writing, so I often have them write me a letter and leave critical thinking activities with the sub.
- Any extra time—AR Reading Time, read aloud, critical thinking activities.
Have important information readily available:
- Class list
- Daily schedule
- PE schedule
- Behavior plan
- Reliable students
- Helpful nearby teacher
- Students who get pulled out for one reason or another
- Students who take medications
- Where to find materials
Sub Tub—I got this idea online. I think someone sells them somewhere on the world wide web. I just kept a container where I would put the important information from above. In the sub tub, I would put in any worksheet or activity that we didn’t get to in previous lessons. This way, if students need extra activities, there are sets of review activities to use. I also leave a few critical thinking pages. Our principal asked us to keep a emergency sub plans, so I kept those here along with a class set of work packets in case my class had to be split. Having this ready was one less thing I had to do if I did have to be out.
Here is one of my favorite critical thinking activities. You can use this a million ways. Have students make a list of alliterative animals (happy hedgehog) using an adjective and a noun. Have students use an atlas to find cities from A-Z. Practice scanning in the science textbook to find vocabulary words from A-Z. You get the picture. For the sake of full disclosure, I never actually made copies of this; I just had students write A-Z on their paper. But I know teachers, and I know we like printables, so here you go.Click here to download for FREE!
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And I’m also joining for the first time with Elementary Matters and a Sub Tub Linky Party. Check it out for more ideas when you have to have a sub.