> For Things Teachers can do to Help a Sub, click here.

Substitute Teaching Tips and Tricks

ALWAYS have alternative things to do! Some teachers are out on an unplanned absence and leave you nothing!

I worked as a substitute teacher for over 10 years. It can be a rewarding experience, as well as a nightmare. What you do and how you handle situations can be the difference between life and death! All kidding aside, some of you know exactly what I'm talking about. The following contains things I have learned. Some will work for you, some won't. Take them for what they are worth--suggestions!

Get to school early. You will need to ask questions and get settled. This is especially true if it is the first time at a particular school.

Open your classroom door before school starts. Hope that some students come by. They can be a wealth of information, and may even help you get started. You will be amazed at how much they know and are willing to help you! Especially how the morning routine goes.

Make a seating chart. It is very cool for students to be called by name. Beleive it or not, sometimes I would get to school early and make one before school. How? By drawing a sketch of the room, and looking through each students desk for something with their name on it. It acually only takes about 15 minutes total time. Students are amazed you are calling them by name! Many times you get lucky and they have name tags on their desks!

Instead of a seating chart, bring about 40 strips of paper that are about 4 inches by 10 inches. Slicing a standard piece of paper down the middle vertically works. Put one piece on each desk before class or pass it out shortly after class begins. Have the students write their names in LARGE letters and keep on their desks all day. That way it is easy to see names! You can even do a "sponge" activity by having the kids color them.

Many classrooms put the chairs up on the desks before they go home. Some schools have stopped this due to safety reasons. But, again, if you get to school early, you should put each chair down. It only takes a minute. As soon as you hear 35 chairs come down at once, you will know what I mean. Plus, the students come in and can sit down! If they put them back up at the end of the day, remember to have them do it. Plus, if you have left your door open before school, ask for volunteers as they come by to say hi.

Note the troublemakers in the classroom. Keep them busy and feeling important by passing out papers and other small tasks that students love! If the class has monitors, you need to be creative in allowing these students to do tasks. Otherwise the students think you are not following the rules! :)

Get a map of the district. Find ways to each school to avoid traffic.

Find out where you can park without taking up a space that you shouldn't.

Find out where the teachers room, extra supplies, lunch room, copy machine, etc. Again, nothing beats getting to school early!

Find out where the class lines up before school, after lunch, and after recess. This is another reason to open your door before school and hope students stop by so you can ask them!!!! If you need to, ASK the teacher next door or find someone who knows! You will look pretty stupid going around looking for your class!

Do you need to walk the class anywhere? have you noticed how some classes look awful as they go anywhere? Here is a tip: Put the most unruly students in front, right next to you. Tell them they are the leaders. (sometimes you don't have this option as some teachers have a set line up) Walk backwards leading the class. AND...the most important part, DON'T walk fast or go all the way at once! Stop every 10 steps or so and let the stragglers catch up and calm down. Then restart and stop and go as before. When you get there, you will be the envy of the school! If you are walking them to recess and some have balls, DO NOT allow any student to carry them! As sure as I'm writing this, the balls will find themselves bouncing down the hallways. If you have too many to carry, you may opt to let the first person in line right by you carry one.

Speaking of walking, if you walk a class back to the classroom, it is a good idea to have them all line up at the classroom door and calm down before you let them in the room. If not, they really love coming in and making noise!

Do you notice a pattern here? The name of the game is as little chaos as possible! You want control and order! Less noise=Better day!

Meet the secretary, principal, next door teacher, etc. They can be a big help.

Check the teacher's box before or during the last recess. Many shools put papers that go home with students here. If you forget, send a student to the office or call to see if there are any.

Make sure you KNOW where the teacher's box is!

If you have 2nd grade or above, you may need to cut down on bathroom time. Remind them to GO during lunch and recess. If they ask, I would almost always say, "I will let you go in 2 minutes. Ask me then." Or some other line just to delay it. You would be amazed at how many kids "forget" to ask again. For 1st and younger, you need to almost always let them go. Or accidents will happen and you will be the one to blame!

Find out the school's and teacher's bathroom and pass rules.

Make sure you try and do all on the lesson plans. Sometimes it is impossible, but trust me, teachers hate subs not following directions. I knew many lousy subs that basically tossed the plans and went out on their own. Very very bad idea. Teachers know things happen. Don't be afraid to leave a note saying you tried real hard but did not get to everything.

Leave the room like (or better) than you found it. If this means spending time after school doing a little clean up, do it!

Speaking of clean up, if you wait until the end of the day for the kids to pick up the floor, you will have a lot of cleaning up to do. REMEMBER: Always have them pick up trash off the floor BEFORE going to each recess and lunch! Keep up on things! Plus, you don't want the principal (or someone else) walking in and seeing a mess. Very embarrassing! A good routine is to say to all students that their ticket to recess is a piece of trash off the floor.

And plan on other teachers, office staff, and principals barging in unannounced through out the day. If you show you are in control and the room is decent, you will score a lot of points!

Don't leave a list of names! Forget it. If students got out of hand, take it in stride. I can assure you the teacher will know who has been trouble. The last thing they need is a laundry list of students and their bad behaviour. Oh yeah...I guess I should say right off to leave some sort of a note. A note as happy as possible! No matter how bad the day went, I would write something like: "The day went pretty good. We followed your plans. I had no real problems." Don't look like a complainer. BUT.....if something bad happend, ie. student pushed or hurt so-and-so, that you have got to mention! Getting back to the first point here--teachers know who will cause you problems. No sense in rubbing it in.

Again, the name of the game is control!

Make or get a map of the school. I used to make a map and try and put teachers' namesand grades with the  classrooms. That way, if I am called to that school again, I know where I am going! Of course, if it is a multi-track school, you will need to change it after each term.

Find out how firedrills are handled. Find out IF there is a firedrill today! (see above for walking class) Same for disaster drills. Here in So Cal we do earthquake drills.

Find out how assemblies are handled. Put most unruly students next to you. Tell the class you will reward them with free time or something if they behave. (again, see walking class above) Here it pays to know names, especially if you need to call them out during the assembly! But keep your voice low.

NEVER EVER let any students go out the door early after school. You are asking for trouble. If you let a child go before the bell rings, and they don't go where they should, you will be blamed. In fact, I always reminded the students that if they are going home with mom, brother, etc. to make sure they wait for THAT person.

Find out if you have recess duty. Buy a whistle and bring it with you always. When I had recess duty, I always let the class out with me a minute or two early. This puts you on the playground when the bell rings. Find out rules and enforce them with tact. You don't want to cause a scene and create more chaos. Don't get kids in trouble for minor things. Talk to them and let them go. If you fill out a citation (or whatever the school calls them) be prepared for a little trouble. Anything major, send them to the office and let someone else take care of it.

Sponge activities

-Free drawing and coloring.

-Write the teacher a letter about how they are behaving and how they miss the teacher.


-Show and tell. Many students bring stuff or can tell news.

-Read a book to class--they love this. Even older ones!

-Silent reading.

-Students read outloud to a classmate sitting on various places around the classroom. Gets noisy, but works!

More Teacher Resources: TEACHERS INDEX.COM

* Privacy Policy