A no prep writing activity for your 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders the day after a sub

A No Prep Writing Lesson for the Day After a Sub

A no prep writing activity for your 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders the day after a sub

Entering your 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade classroom the day after having a substitute is always a nerve wracking experience. Chances are, you've had some of these questions run through your head before you open your classroom door.

Did the sub leave a terrible note?  Did the sub leave any note?

Will my classroom be a mess? Is anything broken?

Did the sub follow my lesson plans, or get a little creative?  Did I leave enough work for the entire day?

The hardest part of having a sub is wondering what happened all day when you weren't there to supervise -  wondering if there were behavior problems or other issues that you should know about, but that the sub either didn't notice or didn't tell you about.

A Disastrous Experience with a Substitute

One time while teaching 3rd grade, I came back the day after a sub to chaos.  As soon as the first students walked in through the door that morning, they had stories to tell.  I had an angry parent show up halfway through the day wanting to know what had happened to her son.  My classroom was a mess.  And there was no note, and no easy way for me to contact the sub.

To sort all of this chaos out, I had each of my students write a note to me, telling me what had happened while I was gone.  This turned out to be very helpful.  It helped me sort the truth from the lies.

More importantly, it helped me determine that the angry parent had a right to be angry.   I had a huge behavior issue that needed to be addressed.

The Day After a Sub

These notes turned out to be so helpful that I began having my students write them to me every time I had a sub.  Over time, this process got refined and adapted.  Eventually, I began using it not only as a way to find out what happened while I was out, but also as a writing lesson.

By providing students with a paragraph frame for them to fill out, I could have my students practice specific writing skills while also figuring out if there were any problems while I was out that needed to be addressed.

Almost all of my students enjoyed this activity.  They were writing with a real life purpose, and they had important stuff to tell me!

I usually changed up my paragraph frames based on what writing or grammar skills I wanted students to practice, but an example is below!

            Yesterday was a _________ day because ___________________________.  While the sub was here yesterday, I ______________________ and ______________________.  I think you should know that _________________________________.  Next time we have a sub, I will _____________________________________________________________.

These paragraph frames are so easy to adapt.  If I wanted my students to practice writing out dates, then I would include that in the paragraph frame.  If I wanted them to practice indenting, then I would make sure to point out the indentation before they began writing.  If I wanted them to practice writing out dialogue, then I would be sure to include that in the paragraph frame.

I usually had my students keep their notes anonymous so that they could write out what they wanted without being worried about tattling on a friend.  This meant that I didn't take a grade or even get useful data on particular students, but it did give students a chance to write with a real purpose.

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