Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pick Out Sticks

I have spent most of today preparing for a group of third graders whose class I will be stepping into on Friday. Since I am scheduled to be there through December, I need to treat this class as if it's my own. I made goodie bags filled with a pencil, bookmark, small notepad, and a note from me. I organized my supplies and created my system to keep up with grading. Something else I did, that would be good for long-term and short-term subs alike, is create a class set of craft sticks. I chose fat colorful sticks, but any sticks will do. The great thing is they are very inexpensive at any craft store, and they are small so they store in a sub bag of tricks easily.

All you do with these craft sticks is write numbers on them. Every teacher I have subbed for assigns each student a number, so you are creating a stick for every student in the class. Use as many sticks as there are students in a typical classroom. I created 24. I store my sticks in a pencil holder, but they can be kept in a can or even a baggie.

Use the sticks for anything from calling on students, to taking role, to choosing a line leader. It is always fair and keeps students listening since they never know when they might be called.

Another trick I use with these is to put them in the holder number side down. When I have chosen that stick, I put it back in number side up so I don't call on the same student frequently.

Many teachers I have seen have these in their classrooms already, but as a sub you never know if they will be there or you will able to find them. So it is an inexpensive, easy, and small-to-store thing for you to carry with you.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

First Set of Emergency Sub Plans Is Here!

 Sound familiar? You're a teacher and you are awakened by the sound of your own sick children. There's no going to school for them or you today. But do you have your sub plans ready? Or maybe you're a sub and you get the call to substitute at 5:30 a.m. You dutifully arrive at the school in plenty of time, and what do you find? No plans! Yikes! What to do? Never fear... Sub Hub is here!

This is the first in a series of emergency substitute plans available for free download. This set of plans is intended for first grade and has a zoo theme. It has a warm-up, reading/language arts lesson, social studies lesson, science lesson, and math lesson. Plus, it has a few additional ideas to fill any extra time or use in place of another lesson. Download the plans, keep them handy in your sub tub or bag of tricks. And never be stuck without lesson plans again.

First Grade Emergency Lesson Plans

Go check out the plans. Let me know what you think... good or bad.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Caught Being Good... Even When a Sub Is There

One thing I feel is extremely important in classroom management is positive reinforcement. Students know you will say things to them when they are not making good choices, but many are surprised when you point out the good ones too. Particularly the challenging behavior kiddos tend to respond very well to positive attention.

And many teachers and parents alike are especially pleased to hear that their student/child was good for a sub.

One thing I like to do is leave a "Caught Being Good" note for the teacher and the parent. This one I have created is like a receipt system. The larger section on the right goes home to the parent, and the smaller section on the left is for the teacher. And it's easy to fill out. I kept it simple, with only the student's name, date, and lines for what they did that was awesome.

Students, teachers, and parents will all be thrilled you took the time to notice the good.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tales from the Sub Side: Inquiring Minds Want to Know

This is one of my all-time favorite questions from a student and was asked in complete seriousness.

As we were lining up to go to recess one day, a very bright and gifted third grader asked me, "Mrs. Friedrich, does the stink of a fart follow you when you leave, or does it stay where you left it." 

Even better was my answer which explained that a fart was a gas and came out concentrated and then dissipated. He was quite satisfied with the answer. When he walked away, I exploded with laughter.

What's the funniest question you've ever been asked by a student?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Find Balance in Your Bag of Tricks

Every sub needs one, and I have struggled over the years with what to put in mine... a bag of tricks. I fluctuate between bringing everything (including the kitchen sink) to the minimalist approach. I still am not sure I have figured out the best way. I like to be prepared for any situation, but unfortunately the bottomless Mary Poppins bag doesn't really exist. And I don't want to give myself back problems from toting around that bag of tricks. But when I don't bring anything, I have been stuck really wishing I had materials. So, now I am trying the balanced approach.

I treat packing the bag of tricks like packing for a trip. I lay out everything I think might need on a table and then look over the pile. I do away with single-use or grade-specific items that have a low probability of use. I definitely keep open-ended items that are applicable for any grade level. I also keep things for my personal comfort. Being a sub is sometimes not easy, so anything you can do to make yourself more comfortable is necessary. Here are some items that made the cut to stay in my sub bag of tricks:
     • Water bottle
     • Small snacks like nuts, crackers, and granola bars
     • OTC meds like Tylenol, Rolaids, and Claritin
     • Hand sanitizer, lip balm, and hand lotion
     • Scrapbooking punches for classroom management
     • Sticky notes or index cards for classroom management or notes
     • Notebook
     • Clipboard
     • Pens (I love fun ones!)
     • List of activities that need no or little supplies
     • Class set of a graphic organizer or two
     • Loose-leaf notebook paper
     • At least one copy of the Daily Summary
     • Treasure bag. I use a large Ziplock baggie and fill it with small things for rewards.

Once I have my items, I decide on a bag to carry them in. Now, I have a bag obsession and probably own way too many. But I like to carry a colorful one that, of course, will fit everything I need to carry. My personal favorite right now is a purple snakeskin tote I got at Target.

Hopefully, this will keep me prepared and yet eliminate the need for a sherpa to tote my supplies. What are your sub bag of tricks must-haves?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Build Your Own Craft Table

OK, so I know this really has nothing to do with subbing, but I had to share (and show off) my handy skills. I built this table and spent only $60! I am using it in my house as a craft table for my children, but I can see how this or a modified design could have a place in a classroom to house work stations.

I have to start off by crediting my inspiration. This is what I found that gave me the idea, then I changed the design based on materials I already had and what I found on sale. Designer Craft Table for $150

My materials were four Closetmaid shelving systems I purchased at Target for about $15 a piece. I already had a piece of 24" x 48" mdf left over from a project my husband did. You can easily purchase that, particle board, or solid wood from a home improvement store. You can choose the size based on your purpose. The 24" width is a pretty good one since shelving units come in that size, but it is not a big deal if your top overhangs a bit. I also used some semi-gloss interior paint I already had, but you will need to purchase that if you don't have any.

My first step was to paint the tabletop. Then I assembled the four shelving units according to their directions, putting two on each side for the table "legs." The last step was to affix the tabletop to the shelves using screws. The height ended up being slightly taller than a regular chair, but perfect for a couple of shorter barstools. Just pay attention to the measurements as you are choosing your materials to make sure they suit your purpose.

Yes, mine did not turn out as fancy as my inspiration, but you can add as much "fancy" as you choose. And I just love how functional it is!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Give Students a Punch… No, Not THAT Kind!

Here is one of my classroom management secrets… a scrapbooking punch and notepaper. Sound crazy? It works. The supplies are small and fit in my sub bag of tricks easily. And it was inexpensive… I got my punches in a dollar bin at Michael’s Craft Store.

The whole system is so simple to use as well. Just hand out a piece of notepaper to each student. I have also used index cards and sticky notes, but any small piece of paper will work. The students keep them on their desk. If you’re going to be there more than one day, you might want to tape it down. Make sure the students put their name on it. I give them a minute to do it decoratively. Since the punches will only go around the outside, they have the whole inside to decorate.

Then when students are working well, listening well, are especially helpful, I go around and give them a punch… with the scrapbooking punch of course. I try not to announce, “Hey, if you do this, you’ll get a punch.” I try to reward quietly, and pretty soon others notice you rewarding and tend to change their behavior accordingly.

I also try to be generous with the punches early in the day to inspire even the challenging students that they are capable of earning them. Now, they do have to do something good for the punch… don’t give them out just because. But when everyone feels like they have chance to earn a reward, they all seem to try a little harder for you.

Then at the end of the day, I find out who has the most punches. Usually it will be a group of students, and I will do a number cut off. And then all students who got that number of punches, get to choose from my treasure bag. You can choose your reward… just make sure it is something the teacher would be OK with. Remember food is not OK, and limit free time rewards.

So get punching and watch the difference. I’d love to hear other stories of teachers who have used similar strategies.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

We Have a Winner!!!

Congratulations to Beverly H.! You are the winner of the Nifty Fifty Giveaway! Check your email so I can get the book winging its way to your house.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Nifty Fifty Giveaway to Celebrate 50+ Facebook Fans!

Yay! My first goal has been reached. Last night I hit (and then surpassed) 50 fans on the Sub Hub Facebook page. And so... drum roll please... it's time for the Nifty Fifty Giveaway! What I have to giveaway is this:

It is published by Creative Teaching Press, and it's what I used when I first got into substitute teaching. The book is an excellent source for forms, ideas, and tips... and it even comes with labels for binder dividers. It's everything you need to set up a useful binder to keep all your substitute materials in one convenient place. And it's a book worth $13.99.

You have until 8 p.m. CST Wednesday, August 17, 2011 to enter. The winner will chosen from a random number generator.

And thank you for liking and following Sub Hub!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Keep It Real

One of the sentiments I have heard echoed often by teachers is they want subs to be honest about how the day went. I think many subs may be afraid that if they report a bad day, they might not be hired again. But a teacher has to know what went on during the day. I guarantee the teacher will find out... from other teachers, specialists, even the students themselves... if things went awry. You are more likely to be hired back if you were honest than if you lied about having a fantastic day.

A must-have tool for every teacher and sub is a Daily Summary form. Yes, you can jot notes on a piece of paper or even the lesson plans themselves. But the best way to get all the pertinent information in one place is a Daily Summary Form. Here is one that I use:

Daily Summary

The sections of the form are fairly straightforward and open-ended. I did this on purpose. I hate forms that have very specific sections that don't fit what I have to say. And then there is not a place for the things I do need to say. Just remember, like I said earlier, be honest about any problems you had. And I always leave my contact information if the teacher has any questions.

So subs, feel free to download and use the form freely. And teachers, you are also welcome to download the form and leave it as part of your sub packet.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tales from the Sub Side: The Mind-Reading Sub

I wanted to share some crazy and funny stories that have happened to me over my years of subbing and thought Wednesday was a good day for that since I always need a little pick-me-up mid week. Enjoy the first posting of “Tales from the Sub Side.”

I arrived one morning outside the fifth grade classroom where I was going to be subbing to find one female student sitting in the hall where students wait before the bell rings. I smiled, said good morning, and went into the room to prepare for my day.

As I was going through the lesson plans, I could hear more students arriving in the hall. Then I hear, “We have a weird sub today! I mean weird! She smiles a lot!”

Chuckling to myself, there was no way I could let this one go. I slowly opened the door, poked my head, looked at the girl with a stern face, and said, “Weird sub, huh?” And shut the door. Then I listened for the reaction.

It was quiet for second, and then I hear, “Be careful what you think! This sub reads minds!”

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Dos and Don’ts Part 2: For Teachers

I know, teachers. You don’t like to plan for a sub. And you all have horror stories to share about subs. But, there are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind that will help keep those horror stories to a minimum.

DO            Write detailed lesson plans.
“The students know what to do.” I have read this in a lesson plan a time or two. I guarantee you, no matter how much your students know when you are there, they become clueless when a sub is there. I have even asked students to get out their Writer’s Workshop notebooks for a lesson, and they respond with, “What’s that?” It is quite the amazing phenomenon.

DON’T      Leave out anything special going on that day.
Assemblies, visitors, library, counselor, etc. Make sure all that is included in the lesson plans.

DO            Put out all materials and supplies.
The last thing I want to do as a sub is go rooting through your things to find the nurse passes. And you all know about the other natural occurring phenomenon when a sub is there: all the students need to go to the nurse. Other handy supplies to have available are sticky notes, attendance forms, seating charts, and any materials needed for the lessons.

DON’T      Include lessons that use a lot of manipulatives.
If you know the sub well, and the sub can handle that, then by all means go ahead. But, when an unfamiliar sub comes into an unfamiliar class, manipulatives tend to be misused even with the best classroom management.

DO            Let the sub know your classroom rules.
When a student says, “But our teacher lets us do that all the time,” I have no way of knowing that unless you have told me what you allow and don’t allow. Personally, I always lean to the side of no just to be safe, but many subs will believe the students.

DON’T      Forget dismissal procedures.
Dismissal is something I get acute anxiety over… because I feel it is incredibly important to get it right. There’s only one reason the office would page a sub after school. And that is to ask me where Sally is because her mother is here to pick her up. Yea, I put her on the bus per instructions. Everyday of subbing, I go back to the room at the end of the day to clean up and leave my notes and cringe when I hear the pager. Don’t forget to include your dismissal procedure and leave your dismissal clipboard out if you have one.

DO            Make sure to leave instructions for technology.
I consider myself pretty tech savvy, but every school (and sometimes classroom) work a little differently. Leave instructions for how to get announcements, movies, etc.

DON’T      Write lesson plans with a lot of busy work.
It is hard enough as a sub to get the students to do the work left by the teacher. And if that work isn’t meaningful, it is even that much harder. If you can get a good sub, they can do some teaching.

DO            Warn the sub about students to watch.
One of my most challenging sub days was in a kindergarten class. We were all sitting on the carpet singing the alphabet song when out of nowhere a boy screamed… not because he was upset; he was just a screamer. And he sat next to a sensitive little girl who cried every time he screamed. Now, this took me totally by surprise and was apparently a common occurrence because in the next couple of hours, every other kinder teacher poked their head in to make sure I was handling the screamer OK. It sure would have been nice to know that.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dos and Don’ts Part 1: For Subs

I would say there is a love/hate relationship between teachers and substitutes. Teachers love the good subs and hate the not-so-good ones. If you want to build work and reputation to be on the love side, here are some dos to follow. And on the contrary, avoid the following don’ts to stay off the hate side.

DO            Be on time.
It stresses the other teachers out if they bring their classes in, and one is left in the hall. Yes, sometimes things happen and you will be late. In that case, call the school and let them know so they can send someone to sit with the class or divide the class up until you get there.

DON’T      Feel like you are alone.
If you are having trouble with a student, or you don’t understand the lesson plans, ask. I have never found a teacher unwilling to help or answer a question.

DO            Follow the teacher’s lesson plans and instructions as closely as possible.
Again, things happen, but as much as you can, follow those lesson plans. The teachers spent time writing them, and made those decisions for a reason. I always leave detailed notes about how the lessons went, if we didn’t get to something, where I left the papers, etc. If there are instructions left about sending home notes or behavior folder, make sure you follow those as well.

DON’T      Use up all the supplies.
Teachers have a certain amount of pencils, eraser, paper, etc. After it’s gone, they buy more out of their own pocket. Don’t let the students con you into getting new pencils and erasers.

DO            Read the lesson plans all the way through first.
I learned this one the hard way. Sometimes crucial information is put in a general section at the end of the plans. Make sure to read it all the way through once first. Then you can go back and focus on the details of each lesson.

DON’T      Send students to the nurse whenever they ask.
This is a tricky one, because unless you have a medical background, it can be difficult to make the call. But be aware, students love to test subs by asking often. If they say they don’t feel good, I feel their head. If they don’t feel warm, I send them back to their seat. Using your best judgment is what is key here.

DO            Fill any extra time with useful activities.
It doesn’t happen very often, but occasionally I will get through all the lesson plans and still have some extra time. If it’s just a little bit of time at the end of the day, I may reward the class with some free time for completing all activities. Otherwise, my go-to filler activities are always creative writing or read alouds.

DON’T      Hand out candy or other food as a reward.
Aside from making the teacher look bad if they don’t do the same, school district regulations are more and more concerned with child obesity and allergies. You could very well be violating district policy by handing out food.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Follow the Girl Scout Motto and "Be Prepared"

It's not usually something you plan, but it will happen. You will need to miss school for one reason or another. And so many times it comes down to the afternoon or evening before and you think, "I forgot to do the sub plans!" Well, don't panic. Following the Girl Scouts' lead of being prepared makes for a better day for everyone involved.

Much of the information a sub would need can be gathered well ahead of time. Items like your general instructions of classroom rules, behavior issues, helpful students, health concerns, handy phone numbers, and instructions for using technology can all be written near the beginning of the year. I know many teachers have a standing sub folder, file, bin, or other container with this information. I would also suggest keeping nurse passes, attendance forms, and other necessary materials in that same spot.

Now, the only thing you need to worry about is the actual day you will be absent. Make sure those lesson plans are as detailed as possible. They should include you schedule, specials rotation, lunch choices, students leaving for pull-outs, etc. And please, please, please don't write, "The students know what to do." Something peculiar happens when a substitute enters the room, and no student "knows what to do." Finally, make sure all copies are made and materials needed for lessons are accessibly (preferably in the sub container I mentioned above).

I have created a handy checklist to download for free. Use it and always BE PREPARED.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Welcome to the Sub Hub!

I have been a substitute teacher for three years in one of the biggest school districts in Texas. During that time I have built a reputation as the sub teachers want in their classrooms. And I can think of no better compliment than that.

I did not start off wanting to be a substitute teacher, and it is not my end goal. But I have decided to embrace this profession and put my own stamp of improvement on it. I have seen a need out there for quality substitute teachers who allow learning to continue, not simply give the students a free day. My main goal with this blog is to offer tips, tricks, and techniques I have learned that help me be a better substitute with the hope that it can also help other subs out there.

And I hear all the time from teachers, "It's more work to plan for a sub than to just come to work." A secondary goal of this blog is to assist classroom teachers in making their day out of the classroom go as smoothly as possible. I hope to provide emergency lesson plans as well as suggestions to allow them to not miss a beat when they return.

Finally, I am a firm believer in not standing still, so this blog will evolve over time. I am certainly open to any and all suggestions.
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