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Topic: Substitute teaching this year and need helpful hints..........

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Subject: Substitute teaching this year and need helpful hints..........
Date Posted: 9/26/2007 12:02 PM ET
Member Since: 9/10/2005
Posts: 23
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I am substitute teaching this year and need any advice, tricks, ideas, etc on how to get through to my classrooms. I substitute from K-12 and have quite a diverse population here. I need ideas on how to get the kids to take me seriously without being in the principals office every 5 minutes! Any advice is greatly appreciated!


Date Posted: 9/26/2007 5:29 PM ET
Member Since: 3/4/2007
Posts: 4,592
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I subbed for 3 years before finally getting my own classroom, so I know what you're up against.  First and foremost, show no fear.  Walk into the room with confidence and let them know that you're here to teach while their teacher is off ill/at a workshop/whatever.  Don't give them the kick butt and take down names attitude that some subs seem to feel necessary, just be matter of fact.  If you give them the impression that you expect nothing more than their best effort, most of them will respond in kind.  Don't let the sub games they all try to pull suck you in.  I found that a "very funny, now let's get back to work, shall we" goes a long way.  Don't whine.  I can't tell you how many subs I've heard begging the kids to please pay attention and saying things like "oh, come oh now, we have to get something done".  They'll eat you alive if you start that.  Don't ask them to do something, tell them to do it.   Get to work now, not get started on your work, ok?  Adding the ok at the end of the statement gives them the impression that there's a choice to be made.  Have a bag of tricks with you, some all-purpose educational games are always good.   Find some word games for each grade level that you can pull out and play.  For younger kids, find out what their spelling words and play Hangman, in a pinch.  Do math fact drills at the elementary level.  Kids always need practice with addition/subtraction, multiplication/division facts.  For older kids, promote a student-led discussion about the subject you're teaching that day if you need a time filler.  Elementary students will work for bribes, little things like stickers and candy (if it's allowed) work wonders.  Even 5th graders will go for cool stickers and all you have to do is reward someone at random out of the blue with a sticker for good behavior or being helpful or some such reason.  If it's cool enough, you'll find you'l have several students wanting to earn one and being willing to call others to task for acting out. 

When all else fails, carry a bug with you  ;-).................................................

I had a particular obnoxious group of second graders one year who just refused to listen.  As fate would have it, a roach crawled across the chalkboard, setting the kids off into cries of "a bug, a bug", interupting my lesson.  I looked at the small roach, flattened my hand and smashed it so it fell to the floor, dead, grabbed a baby wipe which the teacher used to clean the overhead projector, wiped my hands and went back to the lesson without a word about the roach.  You could have heard a pin drop after that and the rest of the day went quite well.  Served me well later on when that teacher retired a few months later and I was asked to finish the last six months of the year with that class.  LOL!


Date Posted: 9/28/2007 1:44 AM ET
Member Since: 5/6/2007
Posts: 208
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Sandy, please post a spew alert when you tell these things. I just spent 5 minutes cleaning diet coke off my screen! I can just picture the looks on their faces!




Date Posted: 9/28/2007 6:14 AM ET
Member Since: 3/4/2007
Posts: 4,592
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Noted Lorene. *g*

Usually people get grossed out when I tell that story.  The thing is, I'd spent 18 years in Florida with those enormous roaches that Floridians refer to as Palmetto bugs, so these little Ohio roaches don't faze me in the slightest.  LOL! 


Date Posted: 10/3/2007 2:27 PM ET
Member Since: 6/24/2007
Posts: 415
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My best advice is be tougher than you want to be in the beginning.  You can always be more lenient (sp) but will have a riot on your hands if you try to get more strict.  Don't threaten anything you will not follow through with.  Be tough and fair and you will be respected.  Good luck.  Everyday is an adventure as a sub!

Date Posted: 10/4/2007 11:41 PM ET
Member Since: 4/27/2007
Posts: 3,596
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Good luck!  Lol...actually, I am subbing for my second year now, and I love it - especially the middle schoolers, believe it or not.  I second playing games with spelling words and math facts - Sparkle and Around the World are popular here, feel free to PM me if you don't know them. 

I tried stickers once - but when the first graders snubbed them, I didn't use them again.  With older students, I will let them know at the beginning of class that if we are quiet, work hard the whole hour, and have extra time at the end, I will allow them a couple of minutes before the bell to talk quietly.  It works like a charm.

I also have the advantage of being in a small, rural school district where the vast majority of my students are decently behaved.  If I so much as mention leaving a name for their teacher because of bad behavior, they usually straighten up pretty quickly.  Especially since I have done so in the past, and they know I will do it and that the consequences of misbehaving for a sub are pretty severe  : )

I agree - be firm, but fair and reasonable.  Now that I know my students, I am pretty laid back as long as they stay on-task and behave as they should, and I have found that by being reasonable with them and showing my personality and sense of humor, they like me and therefore are happy to have me sub for them.  The teachers like it that we are productive and don't have constant problems.

I hope you have good experiences and lots of fun!

Last Edited on: 10/4/07 11:43 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 10/5/2007 2:55 PM ET
Member Since: 11/18/2006
Posts: 249
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I have two books I like to have on hand for the times when we are finished with our work but have time left over. The big difference with subbing is that you can't really move forward in the lesson plans... so invest in some books like: Kids' book of gross facts and feats or Funny You Should Ask.  They are quips and short stories that will get the kids...young and old to pay attention.

Also, I have found small pieces of candy VERY effective! I don't sugar them up but yet give them "positive reinforcement". I NEVER give candy to those who say "I was being good, where's my candy??" ONCE, I ran out of candy and had 6th graders begging for "imaginary" candy. I honestly pretended to throw a piece of candy to them and ANOTHER studeny pretended to steal it away from them!!!

One game they ask for when we have down time is QUIET BALL. I got a soft ball at the dollar store and I have rules that NEVER change. ABSOLUTELY NO TALKING, NO LAUGHING, NO HITTING THE CEILING, NO FAKE THROWS, NO OVERHAND THROWS.  Then I add extra rules and there get to be less and less students standing. They sit if they miss the ball or break a rule. Some odd rules I have done are: stand on one foot, throw and catch with your left hand, jump up and down, don't use your body to help catch.  You become their best friend when you add games into the mix.  This game only takes about 2 minutes each time. We can get three or four games in if they are focused.

I ususally say "Let's do what the teacher assigns us, look good if the principal walks in, and maybe we can play quiet ball for the last 5 minutes."

Last Edited on: 10/8/07 2:14 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 10/8/2007 12:50 PM ET
Member Since: 9/10/2005
Posts: 23
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Thank you all for your great stories and advice! I am going to try a few of these suggestions and see how it goes. Anyone else have any more ideas?


Date Posted: 10/18/2007 4:50 PM ET
Member Since: 10/2/2007
Posts: 2,243
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I subbed for five years before getting my own class. I then taught middle school for five years. Now I'm a "retired" SAHM.

I totally agree with "No Fear". Be firmer than you want when you first walk in. As you get to know the kids, you can loosen up later if you want.

When I subbed I always had a few of picture books in my bag that I was really comfortable reading aloud. (Mine were: Bootsie Barker Bites, The Red Rider, and The Three Little Wolves) When all else failed, I'd do "story time", even to the high schoolers. Believe it or not, it worked for me. I would do voices for the characters and everything. Sometimes I'd get a few kids who would initially try to play it off like they thought it was stupid, but I always had everyone by the end.

I was a regular sub at an inner-city middle school for one year. I worked there A LOT, simply because I was one of the few who would come back! By my third day, my "rep" as the story time teacher was set, and the kids requested it. None of the other teachers at the school could believe it. I even had kids asking to borrow the books so they could read them quietly at their desks. They were always handed back to me at the end of the period, in the same condition.

Angie -
Date Posted: 10/19/2007 8:31 PM ET
Member Since: 2/24/2007
Posts: 3,299
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P.S. Candy works even in college. I had a professor for a small education class bring in candy once every few weeks. There was much more participation in class on days she brought candy. (She tossed a piece out for answering a question.)

Date Posted: 10/21/2007 5:28 PM ET
Member Since: 3/4/2007
Posts: 4,592
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Candy works everywhere, especially chocolate. *g* 

Subject: I subbed also
Date Posted: 1/8/2008 7:49 PM ET
Member Since: 12/27/2007
Posts: 3
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I subbed K-8 for 2 years. I work in a small, rural district (only 3 schools). One advantage I had was that I knew many of the families outside of school, and run in to my students and their families outside of school. I had one 8th grader say 'If I don't behave, you will tell my mom right?"  I agree with other posters, bring little rewards and extra activities. One game I like for 3rd and up, is a short phrase (ex. Happy New Years) and have the students throught the day make as many words as they can (if they have finished work befor the time is done for that subject) using only the letters on the phrase, and only the amount of letters (ex. there are 2 a's in the phrase so they may make words that contain 2 a's, not 3). I tell them about the game and how to play if needed. I then tell the students I will give out 2 prizes, one for the most words, and one for the longest word. The students tend to stay quiet while doing this because they do not want to give away any of  their words. This allows the students who have not finished their work the quiet they need. They tend to have fun while helping their vocabulary and spelling skills. (the words must be spelled correctly to count) Many times I used the name of the chool I was subbing at for the phrase (ex. Wilsona Elementary School, or Almondale Middle School)

Subject: Subbing Tips
Date Posted: 1/20/2008 8:36 PM ET
Member Since: 9/10/2005
Posts: 23
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Thanks everyone for all the great suggestions!