Tips to make preparing for a sub easier in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade classrooms

Tips and Tricks To Make Preparing for a Sub Easy

Tips to make preparing for a sub easier in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade classrooms

You wake up sick, and your first thought is, "Ugh. Now I have to make sub plans." And your second thought is, "My kids aren't going to behave. The sub is going to leave me a terrible note."

Preparing for a substitute can be a laborious task - use the tips below to help you plan ahead so that emergency sub plans are a breeze and your 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade students are on their best behavior.

Tips for Making Emergency Sub Plans Easier on You

When emergencies pop up...or when you desperately need a mental health day, creating sub plans is the LAST thing you want to be doing. Creating at least 3 days of emergency substitute plans can feel like a hassle, but future you will thank present you. Below, find tips that will make creating emergency sub plans as easy as possible.

1. Use These Free Reusable Sub Plans

These free emergency sub plans can be used over and over again with any fiction book. Simply print out 3 days worth of copies and choose a different fiction book to go along with each day.

If you want to mix it up just a little bit, you could include the nonfiction book version of these substitute plans as well.

2. Save Worksheets and Activities That You Don't End Up Using

Whenever you have leftover activities or worksheets that you didn't have class time for, put them aside for sub days. Not only is this easy, but it has the added bonus of allowing students to review skills they should already be familiar with instead of introducing something new.

3. Have Some Easy, No Prep Time Filler Ideas For Substitutes Ready To Go

Find some no prep time fillers that you can include in your sub plans. You could include a list of some more interactive time fillers for your sub, like these activity ideas, or you could leave something like these no prep time fillers for substitutes.

Helping Students Behave With Their Substitute

Students often behave differently with substitutes than with regular classroom teachers. Set your students as well as your substitute teacher up for success with the tips below.

1. Have Students Start the Morning Off Reflecting on Their Behavior

As a morning work activity on days students have a sub, have students write about what their behavior should look like with a sub. This is easy to adapt based on your students' needs.

You could have students create a list of expected behaviors, or give students a sentence starter like "Today, I can follow instructions by...". If your students have been struggling with a specific procedure, have them write about it (or possibly use one of these no prep procedure rewrites).

Or, try out the Venn Diagram in these no prep substitute activities.  It has students compare and contrast a normal school day to a day with a sub.

If you don't want to mess with your students' normal morning routine, then you could have students do this during your writing block.

2. Provide the Sub With a Short List of Classroom Management Strategies That Work With Your Students

Don't spend too much time on this - just think about quick ways you could help a substitute get the attention of your classroom and make a quick list. This could include things like:

  • the attention-getter your students are used to
  • calming videos/brain breaks
  • turning off the lights
  • a favorite read-aloud

More experienced substitutes will have their own tricks, but newer substitutes will appreciate any classroom management tips you offer.

3. Leave an Over-Abundance of Activities

The easiest way to keep students from misbehaving is to keep them busy! Make sure you have left your sub plenty of activities to complete. Having activities like these No Prep Time Fillers for Substitutes ready to go can be a lifesaver.

Let the sub know which activities are "mandatory" and which activities are "just-in-case" so that the sub is not overwhelmed with all of the work you have left for students.

4. Leave Instigators With A Coworker

If you have a student who tends to take advantage of substitutes and create chaos, consider partnering with one of your coworkers. On days you need a sub, have the instigator spend the day with your coworker's class instead of your class. You could return the favor on days they need a sub.

Of course, this only works if your administration and coworkers are willing.

5. Have Students Report Back About Classroom Behaviors

One way to do this is to choose a "secret student" to report back about how the day went - and tell the rest of your class that a student will be reporting back. This helps students better understand that they will be held accountable for their behavior.

Alternatively, let all of your students be a "secret student." One of the activities in this No Prep Substitute Packet is a letter-writing activity where students share what happened with the sub with their teacher.

This writing idea for the day after a substitute is also helpful in figuring out what student behavior was actually like with the substitute.

6. Reward Good Behavior

Ideally, students would not need to be essentially bribed to behave. But sometimes sub days can bring out the worst in students.

Rewarding students works best if you are very clear about what students need to do in order to receive the reward. "Be on your best behavior" is simply too vague. Set clear expectations, and then be clear about the reward.

And the reward doesn't have to be anything fancy - 30 minutes of free time, an extra recess, lunch with the teacher - all of the tried and true rewards that do not cost money make good reward options.

Tips to Make Life Easier for Your Sub

Being a substitute teacher is not easy. A sub has to walk into a classroom with already established routines and expectations that are unknown to the sub. A sub has to manage a classful of students they do not know - students that are usually not on their best behavior.

Subs are an invaluable part of the education process; without substitutes, taking a day off as a teacher would be even more stressful. Making life easier for subs helps keep them around.

1. Tell Subs Who They Can Turn to For Help

Knowing that you have someone to turn to for help goes a long way. Make sure you leave the names of a few helpful coworkers the sub can go to if they have a question or need help. Leaving the names of some trustworthy students can also make life a little easier for a sub.

2. Make Sure Students Know That The Sub Does Not Have To Do Things Exactly Like The Teacher

Students are used to their classroom running a certain way. When a sub comes in and changes things up, some students flip out. Make sure your students know that subs can and will do things differently. Students should not be telling the subs what to do - they should be following the directions of the sub.

3. Provide Options

Leave both a fun activity and a structured activity with your sub, and let them choose based on how the day is going. This allows subs some flexibility and control. Experienced substitutes will appreciate an opportunity to do something besides busy work, while less experienced substitutes might appreciate activities that lend themselves to easier classroom management.

4. Consider Leaving the Sub Some Goodies

Leaving a goodie bag for the substitute will always be appreciated. But creating sub plans is difficult and time-consuming enough - do not add to your stress level. But doing something as simple as leaving a candy bar can make a hard day a little bit brighter. If you're trying to cultivate a culture of kindness in your classroom, it starts with you!

Never Stress Over Sub Plans Again!

Use these no prep sub plans over and over again with ANY fiction book.

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