Ideas for Substitute Teachers With No Lesson Plans

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From time to time, substitute teachers will go to a classroom and find that there is no lesson plan waiting for them. When you as a substitute are familiar with the subject at hand, you can typically use the textbook as a basis for a lesson about the topic currently being taught. However, an issue arises when you know little about the class's subject. It can be even worse when you have no textbook available for review.

Therefore, it is best to come prepared for the worst with activities and ideas of things to do with students. Obviously, it is always best to relate any work that you give to the subject if you can, but if not it is still important to keep students busy. The worst thing to do is to just let them talk, as this can often lead to either disruption within the class or even worse noise levels that disturb neighboring teachers.

Following is a list of ideas that you can use to help in this type of situation. Some of these require more preparation than others. Obviously, you will need to use your best judgment about which will work with a particular class of students. It is also best to be prepared with a few of these just in case one is not working as well as you think it should. You can also get student input on which they would like to do.

Lesson Ideas for Substitute Teachers

  • Play a Trivia Game - Bring trivial pursuit questions and set the class up into teams. Have them take turns answering questions while keeping score.
  • Teach Some Words and Phrases in a Foreign Language - If you can, pick a language not typically taught in school like Mandarin or Russian. Then teach students a few words and phrases that they might need to now if traveling overseas.
  • Teach Students the Deaf Alphabet - Getting kids to learn first the letters and then the words to a simple song can be rewarding and fun.
  • Draw Picture or Write a Story About a Prop - Bring in a prop and have students either draw a picture of it or write a story or poem about it. Then give out 'awards' for best in the class, most original, funniest, etc. before the end of the class.
  • View Optical Illusions - Print out a number of optical illusions or put them on transparencies and project them on a screen. Have students spend some time trying to work out what they are looking at. This is a high-interest activity that can spur interesting discussions.
  • Play a Game of Hypotheticals - Pose hypothetical questions to students and have them come up with answers and solutions. These are best if they serve a purpose and instruct while still being fun. For example, you might include questions about first aid or dangerous situations to help students think through the best course of action in these situations.
  • Perform Magic - Learn a few magic tricks. You can always use these as time fillers or simple rewards at the end of a class.
  • Have Students Complete Crossword and/or Word Search Puzzles - Keep a stack of crossword and word search puzzles ready to hand out for students to complete.
  • Play Hangman - This requires little preparation. However, it is best done with a group that is enthusiastic to play. Otherwise, you might get a group of talkers who disrupt the game.
  • Have a Paper Airplane Contest - Have students make paper airplanes and then test them to see who goes the farthest and also who goes the fastest.
  • Play 20 Questions - Tell the students whether you are thinking of a person, place or thing. Give them clues after every five questions. It can also be fun to keep score while you play. You get a point if you stump them and they get a point if they guess the right answer.
  • Teach Students How to Juggle - If you have the talent for it and are willing to spend some money, you can get a number of beginner juggling sets and teach students the basics of juggling.
  • Play Pictionary on the Chalkboard - Use Pictionary cards and have two teams in your class take turns trying to guess what their teammate is drawing on the board.
  • Have Students Write Mission Statements and Goals for Themselves - Teach students all about personal mission statements and goal setting exercises. Then guide them as they create their own.
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    Your Citation
    Kelly, Melissa. "Ideas for Substitute Teachers With No Lesson Plans." ThoughtCo, Feb. 21, 2017, Kelly, Melissa. (2017, February 21). Ideas for Substitute Teachers With No Lesson Plans. Retrieved from Kelly, Melissa. "Ideas for Substitute Teachers With No Lesson Plans." ThoughtCo. (accessed January 23, 2018).