More tips on building a sub kit

teacheratdeskI recommend that substitute teachers  bring their own materials and activities.  A sub kit comes in handy, especially for those days when the teacher did not leave lesson plans.

I got the sub kit idea from Kid-Kits in The Baby-Sitters Club.  Club president Kristy invented Kid-Kits.  Her logic was that kids love to play with novel toys and activities.  The toys don’t have to be new, just new to the kid.  The baby-sitters stocked their Kid-Kits with old board games, art supplies, books, etc.  Click here to see the contents of the girls’ Kid-Kits at the official Baby-sitters Club site.

Here are my suggestions for building a substitute teacher’s Kid-Kit.

Class set of printable puzzles, etc.  You can copy these for each new job, or put masters in page protectors and bring dry-erase markers.  You can buy markers at dollar stores.  Another option: use crayons. Tissues will wipe crayon marks off page protectors.

Mazes: (I like the ones at KrazyDad.)  Use easy or medium mazes.  The hard ones are too hard.

Word searches:  a quick Google search for printable word searches will yield many results.  Just make sure that your word search prints on one page.  Some of them put the words on one page and the jumble of letters on another. has good puzzles that print all on one page.

Logic puzzles: don’t break these out unless you are prepared to teach a lesson on how to do them.  A great source:

Squishy ball: bring a ball for Silent Ball, an all-time-favorite classroom game.  Basically, it’s a silent game of catch.  Many kids make it an elimination game.  If you miss a catch or make a really bad throw, you’re out.  You’re also out if you talk.  Kids LOVE this game!

Storybooks and picture books:

Bring a collection of fun stories for kids.  You can check them out of the local library or buy some at used bookstores or library sales.  Another option is to visit the school library before school and ask for a book.

Another good option is a chapter book that is really a collection of short stories  You can read a chapter or two to each class.  Ir you return to a class, they will be excited to hear more chapters.  Here are some kids’ favorites:

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren and all the sequels

Paddington books by Michael Bond and all the sequels

The Stories Julian Tells and Ann Cameron’s other books about Julian

A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books by Peggy Parish

The Complete Adventures of Curious George by H. A. Rey

Good luck at your sub job!  Click here for my first post on building a sub kit.

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Posted in Classroom Management,First Year Teachers,Substitutes,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jul 28, 2014


Tips for substitute teachers: easy activities and lessons

The Three Musketeers

If you substitute teach long enough, you will wind up subbing for a teacher who didn’t leave lesson plans.  Suddenly you will have to plan a full day of lessons and activities.  A more common problem is that the teacher’s lesson plan didn’t take long enough, and you have to fill an extra hour or two.  Here are some time-tested activities that elementary students love.  All of them are easy for substitutes to pull together.

My best advice to subs: when all else fails, read a story.   Even naughty classes will usually sit still for a story.  Grab one off the shelves or call to the office, librarian or a neighboring teacher for an age-appropriate picture book.

After you read the story, tie in an activity.

  • Illustrate your favorite part in the story
  • Write a paragraph about your favorite part and illustrate it
  • Create a “written retelling” or summary of the story
  • Write a new ending or a twist on the story
  • Do some sort of writing/drawing activity that pops into your mind while you are reading

Create comic strips: kids love to create comic strips. All you need is a piece of paper for each student.  Plain white copy paper is best, but notebook paper will do in a pinch.  Teach students to divide the paper in eighths by folding it in half, then half again, then once more.  If you’re feeling ambitious, teach the kids that this is two to the third power or show them how ¼ is half of a half, and 1/8 is half of ¼.  Your call on whether this is a good idea.

Comic strips can be an open-ended project, or they can tie into the curriculum.  Comic strips work well with social studies and science lessons.

Write & draw: My students love to do design-and-write lessons.  Kids will enjoy designing their own castle, tree house, club house, etc. and writing about its special features.

Good luck!  After you’ve done all these activities, read another story to those kids!

Other ClassAntics posts on substitute teaching:

How to build emergency sub plans

Benefits of being a substitute teacher

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Posted in Substitutes,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jul 14, 2014


Tips for substitute teachers: find allies ASAP

tablesSubstitute teachers are often thrown into the classroom after receiving little or no training.  Therefore, it’s up to the sub to pull things together.  I highly recommend that you enlist allies as soon as possible.

When you check into the school, greet the secretaries and other grown-ups in the office.  Most likely it will be teachers and instructional aides.  Tell them which teacher you are subbing for.  If they offer help, take it.

Once you get to the classroom, find the lesson plans as quickly as you can.  If you can’t find them, talk to neighboring teachers.  They can help you search.  If this doesn’t yield fruit, contact the front office.

If it’s close to start time, don’t read the lesson plan all the way through.  Just glance at the warnings, allergy notices, etc, and first hour or so.  Then go make friends!

Your time is far better spent talking to neighboring teachers.  The next door neighbors and across-the-hall teachers can explain little things at any point during the day.  They are a good first line of defense against unruly children or unexpected problems.

Accept the help of anyone who offers to check on you.  Remember that teachers and administrators know that children are sometimes naughty for substitute teachers.  Don’t feel like they will think less of you if you ask for help.  In most districts, there are not enough substitutes to go around, so they want you to do well.  Turn the tables: tell students that they will be receiving random inspections throughout the day.

You might find allies among your students, but be careful.  That first child who offers you lots of advice is quite possibly the class snitch.  This child will not do much to help your relationship with the other students.  I recommend getting some advice from quiet-but-not-busybody children, and trying to enlist the cooperation of students who seem like they could get squirrely.  Often if you can direct that energy into something positive, the child will be quite helpful.

Good luck!  When subbing for elementary school, if all else fails, read them a story…or two…or three…

Other ClassAntics posts on substitute teaching:

How to build emergency sub plans

Benefits of being a substitute teacher


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Posted in Substitutes,Tips for Parents,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jun 2, 2014


How to Build a Sub Kit

I got the idea for Sub Kits from The Baby-sitters Club.  The girls created Kid-Kits containing board games, art supplies, books, toys—whatever they thought might interest their charges.  The items in the Kid-Kits did not have to be new, they just had to be new to the kids.

The girls only brought the Kid-Kits on some of their jobs.  This kept the kids on their toes and kept the baby-sitters from having to lug around those boxes all the time.  After all, if you have an after school job with the Papadakis kids across town by Kristy’s mansion, you might not have time to run home and grab your Kid-Kit.

Click here to see the contents of the girls’ Kid-Kits at the official Baby-sitters Club site.

I developed quite a sub kit during my subbing days.  I had a class set of Archie comics that I had found at a used book sale for a quarter apiece.  I had about a dozen Choose Your Own Adventure books from the 80s, also from used book sales.  I rounded that out with simple worksheets I found or made.  One of the most popular was make-your-own comics.  I could keep a whole class quiet with that activity for at least an hour.

Subs, consider making your own sub kit.  Teachers, consider setting aside some supplies, fun worksheets, read aloud picture books, games—whatever, just make them only for sub days.

Here are some ideas:

  • Picture books that make a great read-aloud regardless of the season (our all-time favorite is The Dumb Bunnies’ Easter)
  • Instructions for the sub to ask students to write a summary of the story, write a new ending, write a letter ot the character—whatever seems appropriate.  If necessary, soak up time by letting students illustrate their work
  • Fun worksheets from follow-directions books or I’m Through! What Can I Do?
  • A bingo game (multiplication bingo, president bingo, etc)
  • Word searches, mazes, crossword puzzles, Sudoku—any sort of puzzle
  • Art supplies for a simple project (leave behind a bio of a famous artist and let the kids imitate the style, have kids illustrate paragraphs or sentences, whatever)
  • Movies—for example, Balto is in our reading book.  I tell the kids that I am putting the Balto movie in emergency sub plans.  Some day during the year, I will be out with no notice to the kids, and they can watch Balto.

Have fun with your sub kits!

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Posted in Classroom Management,First Year Teachers,Substitutes,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Nov 22, 2013


Emergency Sub Plans

When you are too sick to teach, you are also too sick to drag yourself to school before dawn to create lesson plans, make copies, and organize for the day. Create Emergency Sub Plans so you don’t find yourself in this predicament.

Early in the school year, I restock my Emergency Sub Plans. I add worksheets, simple games, and packets that students can do if I am unexpectedly absent. The supply is large: it fills a crate-a-file. The selection is wide: I stock lessons in each of the major subjects, plus fun packets.

I supply the Emergency Sub Plans with lessons that students can complete at any time during the school year–nothing too difficult, whether it’s used in September or May.  For math, I leave review worksheets with puzzles to solve or pictures to color after you do the math. For reading comprehension, I use fun worksheets with interesting passages and questions. For writing, I tend to leave draw-and-write activities that keep kids engaged with minimal help from the teacher. A favorite is to design a tree house, then write about it.

I also created Super Seatwork packets for my Emergency Sub Plans. These packets consolidate worksheets for the 3 R’s (reading, ’riting, and ’rithmetic) with fun worksheets involving dot-to-dot, hidden picture, puzzles of all sorts, mazes, and anything else I can find. The Super Seatwork packets are easy to grab if no sub is available and your class is split to spend the day with other teachers in the grade level.

Your Emergency Sub Plans can have more than just seatwork. I tuck fun read-alouds in the file so subs can read a story I know students haven’t heard. I have a separate place for simple games; I find them in file folder games books or books of reproducible board games.

You can leave a note for your sub to let the kids do special activities if it seems appropriate and they are behaving:

Educational board games

Free reading time (let the kids sit on the floor if they are being really good!)

Extra recess (a great way to make it through the last 20-30 minutes of the day)

Extra computer lab time (some schools have free space teachers can reserve: your sub could check before school, during special, or at lunch)

Spelling bee (leave a list or tell your sub where to find one)

Whatever else you can dream up!

IMPORTANT: don’t forget an ADMIN FILE in your Emergency Sub plans! Always have current copies of your class list, daily schedule, students who are pulled for special instruction, and especially allergies or physical conditions the sub needs to know about.

You might want to make notes in your lesson plan book to check the Emergency Sub Plans every few weeks or so.

IMPORTANT: make sure other teachers in your hall or grade level know where you keep your emergency sub plans. When you call for a sub the night before or day of your absence, send an email to the school secretary, copied to your grade level team, with instructions on your sub plans and notes for the day. Someone can print this and give it to the sub.

I hope Emergency Sub Plans help you as much as they have helped me.

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Posted in Classroom Management,Classroom setup,Substitutes,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Nov 16, 2012


How to Help Your Substitute Teacher

Substitute teachers can have a rough job, but there are ways to make their lives better.  At the same time you help your sub, you help your students have a better learning environment during their beloved teacher’s (your) absence.

A current class roster:  As the year progresses, most teachers don’t think about their class rosters – they know every student without a list.  But subs don’t know your class, and if there’s an inaccurate roster in your sub files, the very first moments of the day can go badly.

Star students:  Leave a note that suggests which students your sub can call upon to get a good lesson going.  It shouldn’t be the same student for everything.  Name a few math whizzes, a couple of students who read aloud well…you get the idea.  That way, subs can call on students with confidence and the class will learn more.  Or at least learn the right things!

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Posted in Substitutes,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Mar 23, 2011