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Lesson Plan Ideas for Substitute Teachers: Descriptive Writing

Peanut Butter © by Dr Stephen Dann

Maybe you're new to substitute teaching, or maybe you've been doing it for years. Either way you've probably found yourself in the position of gazing out into twenty five bored or expectant faces, waiting for you to make your move. And the teacher hasn't left a lesson plan.

It’s a good idea to compile your own binder of interesting and engaging lesson plan ideas for when that happens. Here’s one to add to your files.

  • Grade Level: 6th to 10th Grade
  • Materials Needed: A loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, a knife and scissors
  • Expected Time: 45 to 60 minutes
Ask the students to write specific instructions on how to make a peanut butter sandwich, as if they were explaining this to a person who had no idea of how to accomplish this task. Allow about 10 minutes; longer if necessary.

Collect the papers from the class, and choose 3 or 4 to read out loud, following the instructions as written.

If the student has written, “Put the peanut butter on the bread”, take the whole, unopened jar of peanut butter and place it on the whole unopened loaf of bread.

If the student has written, “Take 2 slices of bread and spread one with peanut butter”, reach into the peanut butter jar with your hand, scoop out a wad of peanut butter and spread it on the bread.

When the instructions end with “Cut the sandwich in half”, use the scissors to do so.

There are many variations on this exercise; be sure to follow the instructions exactly as written, so the kids can see how easy it is to misinterpret communication we take for granted and the consequent need for clear and concise writing.

After discussion, have the students repeat the exercise with their new knowledge, and allow slightly longer for them to complete the exercise. In the remaining time, ask for volunteers to read their instructions out loud.

This is a memorable exercise for teaching the importance of accurate descriptive writing by showing instead of telling. And because the students are actively engaged, the class period will fly by, for you and your classroom.

For more lesson plan ideas and other resources for substitute teachers, please contact us.

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