10 Helpful Classroom Tips for Substitute Teachers

Substitute teachers must be able to complete a classroom assignment with little notification and often, with little preparation. It helps to be highly flexible, adaptable, patient, and of course, organized, but it can also be helpful to have few tips and tricks available ahead of time. Here are ten tips to add to your substitute teacher toolkit:

Carry a Blank Seating Chart. A roll sheet or seating chart might be available in the classroom, but often, it’s not. Creating a seating chart at the beginning of class will help you throughout the day with classroom management and aid in successful rapport with the students as students will respond better to teachers who call them by name.

You’ll find a printable blank seating chart at http://www.montville.net/hilldale/Hilldale_LMC/templates/Seating.dot or http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/templates/TC012197821033.aspx

Know Where to Find Lesson Plans. In an emergency situation, a lesson plan from the teacher may not be available in the classroom. Some states require teachers to keep an emergency lesson plan on file in the office, always check there first. Next, check with fellow same-grade teachers to see if they have worksheets or activities for you to “borrow” for the day.

If the first two options do not pan out, look to the web for age/grade appropriate lesson plans. You’ll find great ideas at http://www.lessonplanspage.com/ or http://www.lessonplanz.com/ Search for other website ahead of time, jot them down and keep with you on substitute teaching assignments.

Be Aware of Your State Ethics Codes. If you haven’t been provided a copy of your state education ethics codes, check with the school’s main office or the district office to obtain a copy. As a substitute teacher, you must be extra-cautious about adhering to not only the school’s policies, but the state’s, as well.

Stay Where You are Assigned. It might seem like a fun idea to take the children outside for a quick nature walk or to the library to fill up study time, but the school may have policies you are violating and you could put the children at risk. Also, other classes may be scheduled for use of the library and you might be infringing on their time slot. If the lesson plan left by the teacher does not call for an outside walk, computer lab or library visit, then stay in the classroom.

Keep to Your Assigned Times. Follow the lesson plan and assigned times for the day. Do not keep students outside past their assigned recess time to fill up the day or take them to lunch early or late. The staff at the school will not appreciate your deviation from schedule and you may interfere with another classroom’s schedule.

Stay With the Lesson Plan. If the regular classroom teacher has left a comprehensive lesson plan for the day and the class finishes early, do not skip ahead to the next set of material. Take the additional time to review what has been learned or come up with a creative way to utilize the information in the lesson plan, such as an impromptu debate, question and answer session, or a discussion on a related topic. Also, use your lesson plan websites to find puzzles or coloring sheets (for younger children) that reinforce the concepts you taught for the day.

Respect The Classroom. Remember the classroom teacher you are subbing for has spent time, effort, and often their own money setting up the classroom and supplies. You may prefer a different arrangement of furniture or want to find a way to utilize the cool fluorescent paints you found in the desk drawer, but you may not be invited back to substitute teach again, if you do.

Rearranging furniture is acceptable if the assignment calls for a different structure, but be certain to have the furniture back in its original space by the end of the day.

Keep a Few Simple Rules for the Classroom. If you begin the day with a few simple rules for the students to follow and reinforce them throughout the day, you’ll have greater success at maintaining effective classroom management.

Scholastic has put together a classroom checklist that contains a helpful section on classroom rules: http://teacher.scholastic.com/professional/backtoschool/classmanagement.htm

Learn How To Break The Ice. If the day isn’t starting out well or you find yourself in a classroom full of unenthusiastic students, it may help to break the tension with an ice-breaker. Interject a fun activity or a few minutes of “getting to know you” time.

You’ll find a good list of ice-breaker ideas here http://www.education-world.com/a_lesson/lesson/lesson346.shtml

Keep Track of the Days You Teach. Start a spreadsheet or make notes on your pocket-book calendar of all the dates, times, classroom number, and teachers you substituted for. It’s also helpful for you to make note of any important things you might want to remember about the particular assignment for future reference. This way you will have a good record to match your payroll to in case you find a mistake in your paycheck, and you will have a great tool to help refresh your memory and help you prepare for future assignments should you get re-called to teach in the same classroom.