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February 2, 2011 Emergency Sub Plans By Brent Vasicek
Grades 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    Scar sings it in The Lion King and Boy Scouts repeat it ad nauseam. What is this magical phrase that I am referring to? Be prepared! Being prepared with meaningful sub plans can keep your classroom community on a forward-moving track when your personal life throws you a curve ball.


    Photo courtesy of Renjith Krishnan.


    Some teachers plan lessons and run copies weeks or months in advance. As prepared and organized as I like to be, I do not do this. Yes, I make a curriculum map budgeting the time for each topic throughout the year. Yes, I have a plan in my head. However, my lesson plans are living documents that change daily depending on the needs of the students. Planning the details too far in advance is actually a waste of time for me as I end up replanning several times.

    Every Sunday I reflect upon the week and decide what sort of fine-tuning needs to happen with the class. This means that I don't finalize my Monday lesson plans until Sunday evening.  PROBLEM: What would happen if I were unable to make it in Monday morning? SOLUTION: The emergency lesson plans.

    I create an emergency lesson plan folder that is filled with meaningful lessons that require virtually no preparation. This allows me to deal with my emergency without the added stress of planning a full day of lessons that a substitute could facilitate. Below are my grab-'n'-go lessons.

    Fiction Reading: I pick a story from our reading anthology that I know we will not be reading during the school year. The sub can read this with the students as they practice making predictions and look for examples of cause and effect. Approximate time: 40–50 minutes

    Scholastic News 2 Nonfiction Reading: I usually reserve one copy of our classroom newsmagazine (Scholastic News or Time for Kids). The students can continue making predictions and finding examples of cause and effect using their highlighters. Approximate time: 40–50 minutes

    Writing: I have the substitute give the students the prompt, "Go through the writing process and write a short essay comparing and contrasting today with a normal day in the classroom, or compare and contrast two objects of your choice." Approximate time: 60–75 minutes

    Grammar: I have several copies of Mad Libs to review students on their parts of speech. Approximate time: 30 minutes

    Math: Create a bingo game by having the students draw a 5 x 5 grid on a blank sheet of paper. Fill the boxes with the numbers 1–50. The substitute will make up problems and put them on the front board one at a time. The students calculate the answer and see if they have the number on their bingo sheet.  Depending on how late in the year it is, math problems may be simple [ex: 17 + 12] or more complex [ex: 3 + (10 - 5) x 3]. The students may play for extra credit points, extra free time, or small prizes from the prize box. Approximate time: 40–50 minutes

    Social Studies/Science: The substitute will review the reference sections in the back of the social studies or science book. After a 15 minute review, the students may study the sections in small groups while the substitute prepares a list of questions for a scavenger hunt competition. Example: Who can tell me the name of Michigan's governor in 1980? On which page could you find a political map of the USA?  What is the latitude and longitude of Washington, D.C.? Using the reference section, the students quickly find the answer and raise their hands. Approximate time: 40–50 minutes

    Computer Lab: If an absence should occur on a computer lab day, I have a computer lab tab on that the students use. All the directions they need are online. Approximate time: 45–60 minutes

    Filler: Even though there is more than enough stuff to do, I realize some substitutes might whip through it quickly. As a filler they can play hangman in small groups with words from the word wall. To win the game and be the one to choose the next word, they not only have to guess the word correctly, but also give the definition. Approximate time: 30 minutes

    Other items that I include in my emergency folder include:

    • A map of the school.
    • A weekly schedule.
    • A class list and/or seating chart.
    • Names of teachers or students that are reliable and can answer questions.
    • Important disaster information such as where to go when there is a fire, tornado, or intruder.
    • Important child-specific information, such as which students have allergies or special needs.
    • General classroom policies and rules (turn-in-trays, bathroom passes, areas of the room that students are permitted to use). 

    What minimal-preparation, meaningful activities do you plan for your students in your absence?

    2I2 Trademark 2010 Vasicek Be prepared,



    2i2 is a trademark of Mr. Vasicek's classroom that means living to your potential by doing your best and doing it with Integrity.




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