I like to be prepared and know what I’m getting into, but substitute teaching takes that control out of my hands. When I recently returned to subbing, I decided to take back a little of the control by bringing my own subbing bag of tricks. Now if the sub plans are lacking — or nonexistent — I have plenty of backup activities and materials.
Basic School Supplies
Who would think finding a pencil in an elementary classroom would be difficult? I didn’t until I subbed in one first grade room. By the end of the day I bet half of the students came to me complaining that they didn’t have a pencil. I found a few stray pencils around the room but never found the goldmine. I also had to search high and low to find plain paper.
After that experience, I decided to bring a few of my own supplies. I always keep pencils, pens, paper and erasers in my bag. At the elementary level, you’ll also want a whistle in case you have recess duty. Please never borrow the teacher’s whistle. That’s gross for both of you! While you’re at it, throw in a few bandages in case you can’t quickly locate the first aid kit.
Favorite Children’s Books
Elementary classrooms are typically full of picture books, but I like to bring in my own favorites. I find when I pull a book from the classroom shelf the kids often complain they’ve already heard the story. There’s always a chance they’ve heard the books I bring along, but often it’s something new that they haven’t heard. One of my favorites that I always keep in my bag is “Grace for President” by Kelly S. DiPucchio.
What do you do when you get through the lessons too quickly? If you’re lucky, the teacher will leave filler activities for you, but never count on it. Having your own filler activities helps you keep the kids engaged all the time so you don’t deal with as many behavior problems.
Printed activity sheets are always an easy options. Crosswords, word searches, word games or math games are examples. This works best if you sub within a small grade range. If you sub at all grade levels, you’ll need several different printed sheets so you always have something age-appropriate.
I prefer simple activities that are easy to adapt for any age. I keep a storytelling bag with several different small objects inside. The kids pull three or four objects out of the bag and tell a story that incorporates those items in it.
Another simple activity that kids love is a number guessing name. Choose a number within a certain range. The kids take turns guessing the number. I tell them if they are too low or too high. This game encourages them to listen and use math skills to figure out the number.
I have note cards in my sub supply bag for a new activity to try. Each student gets two note cards. On one they write a “why” questions like “Why do lions roar?” On the other, they write a “because” statement. It doesn’t have to answer their own questions. Collect the cards in two separate piles. Read a why card followed by a because card to answer the question. I’m sure the combinations will turn out quite humorous!
Always Be Prepared
I feel better with my trusty substitute teaching supply bag by my side. I know even if the teacher doesn’t give me enough to do, I’ll always have a backup plan.