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Easy and Engaging Ideas you can Leave for a Sub

Keep a great substitute teacher coming back with these easy and engaging ideas you can leave for a sub.

A good substitute teacher is hard to find, so when you find a good one, you want to make sure you have all your systems in place to keep them coming back anytime you need them.

Easy and Engaging Ideas You can Leave for a Sub Pin (Image includes a teacher looking over a student's shoulder and pointing)

A great sub is like a magical unicorn, and you don’t want to scare them off. These days it seems like subs have their pick of jobs and can go anywhere they want, to any classroom they want, so why would they want to come to yours?

This is a great question to ask yourself as you begin preparing your lesson plans and sub-strategy.

Yes. I said strategy!

It takes a carefully considered strategy to get great subs in your classroom. From making sure they are on your ‘call first’ list (if you have one), to keeping your processes consistent, having great lessons planned out, training students on how to be helpful and behave appropriately for subs, and making sure your subs know how much they are appreciated.

Having a sub-conducive classroom is really about planning in advance, and making sure that both you and your students are prepared for days you may not be present.

Today, we are unveiling a series of strategies and ideas you can leave for a sub that will give both you and them some peace of mind.

Ideas you can leave for a sub that will have them wanting to come back to your class!

#1 | Collaboration Project

At the beginning of the year (or near the beginning), have students start a a long-term collaboration project like this one on creating a country. Then, you can always have students work on that project when you are going to be gone.

The nice thing about having a good collaboration project in the works is that students will already be familiar with the project, and the sub can spend their time supporting, or just meeting with the students to learn more about their projects. This is great for both the sub who gets to observe and the students who get to show off their plans.

#2 |  Close Reads

Using close reads, especially ones like these Close Reads with Mystery Pictures include high-interest texts with text-dependent questions to practice reviewing many ELA skills. Since the questions are text-dependent, the sub doesn’t have to know anything about the topic in advance-making this activity an easy one to lead students through.

When looking for ideas you can leave for a sub, you’ll want to consider fewer transitions if possible, and since these Close Reads with Mystery Pictures have multiple passages plus the mystery picture and writing practice, the students can stay on the activity without any major transitions for a long period of time.

Another thing to consider when coming up with ideas you can leave for a sub is having the same types of activities each time the sub comes.

If you have one of the Close Read bundles, you’ll be able to use a different Close Reads with Mystery Pictures activity almost every time a sub comes into your room. This activity repetition will make the sub feel more comfortable and prepared, and keep them coming back time and time again!

Easy and Engaging Ideas You Can Leave for a Sub Facebook Image with teacher kneeling down next to a students desk smiling at them as they work.

#3 | Digital Games

If you’re lucky enough to have subs that can use tech (which I know some of you are), then digital games are great to leave for a sub.

The value in digital games is the ease of set up. No prep! Just open and play.

One of the types of games we highly suggest are the Game Show Games because they can be played either as a full group or in small groups, which gives both you and your sub options.

#4 | Center Activities

This is one of those places where you’ll want your students to be able to help out or just be prepared because when you have multiple activities going at once, it’s best if the students already know how to use them.

We strongly suggest reviewing this post on student accountability during centers, and this post on tips for playing games in the classroom for some of our strategies and ideas for preparing students for exactly these kinds of moments. 

Some of the center activities that we like best for when a sub is visiting the room are these Digital Puzzles and these Digi-Games

The Digital Puzzles are great for an individual station and they can be quickly pulled up on any device. The Digi-Games follow a game board style of play, so they can be played with pairs or groups. Also, since there are so many different versions of each type of game, you can find ones that align with your topic for the day or spiral in topics that you’ve already covered.

#5 | Read-aloud 

Go ahead and keep your read-aloud time when you’re considering which ideas you can leave for a sub.

My students always loved read-aloud time no matter what and were engaged. Plus… it’s easy for a sub. 

Depending on what kind of reading your class is currently working on, you can have them working ahead in a novel, or you can leave a few picture book activities the sub can do with the students.

If you can, give the sub a heads-up on the book in advance, so they can take the time to read through it before go-time. If not, maybe leave them a note to read through it while the students are working on their close reads or on their group collaboration projects.

Don’t forget to leave questions, activities, or writing prompts to give the sub some structure and guidance.

#6 | Holiday of the Day Writing Prompts

We’ve said it once, but we’ll say it again for the people in the back… having good systems and structures in place before you NEED a sub, will make things a whole lot easier once you have a sub.

These Holiday of the Day Writing Prompts are something you can do with your students every day, and you can approach them in lots of different ways. Consider perusing this blog post to learn more about how you can approach the Holiday of the Day Writing Prompts.

If you already do the writing prompts every day, then it will be easy for your sub to jump in and do one with the students. You could even extend them and have students do some research and find out more about the holiday.

Let Your Students Help!

When you are thinking up ideas you can leave for a sub, make sure to consider what will make your sub feel comfortable. Consider limiting transitions, using longer projects and activities that students can work on individually or in groups, and use tech-based activities if it is something that your sub can manage as these types of activities usually require no prep. 

Also, spend some time prepping your students on how to act when a sub is around. Encourage them to make things easier on the sub and have certain students in charge of doing everyday classroom tasks so the sub doesn’t have to do them. (i.e. one student can take attendance while another one pulls up the Holiday of the Day on the classroom computer and another student hands out the corresponding handouts)

Or give your students a chance to practice setting up the computers and tech during centers, so that if you’re gone, they know where to go to access the games they need to play.

Although we often consider preparing for a sub to be the teacher’s role, having a good plan in place with students can also be incredibly valuable and give them a sense of preparedness and helpfulness that will serve both them and the sub well throughout the day.

Show Your Appreciation!

Lastly, being a sub is not easy and, for some, it can even be a bit stressful, so don’t forget to thank your sub. Send them a kind note or email, or leave them something on your desk as an extra token of your appreciation for them choosing to come help you out.

We all know that a classroom with a good substitute teacher is better than one without, so take just a couple minutes to let your sub know how much you appreciate them and their willingness to come back…and hopefully (fingers-crossed) they will!

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