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Substitute Teacher Ideas: Too Much Time, and Not Enough to Do

One of the best ways to maintain proper classroom control and keep your students both attentive and learning is to keep them occupied! One of a substitute teacher's worst nightmares is running out of things for students to do before the end of the school day. Today we would like to suggest three substitute teacher ideas for keeping any class occupied AND learning until the last bell of the day sounds.

  • Read aloud from a text-book or from age appropriate narrative literature found in the classroom. Students tend to more easily absorb what is read to them by a fluent reader. Listening to their fellow classmates with varying reading abilities can be cumbersome and distracting, so we recommend reading to them yourself. If you choose to read from a text-book, encourage them to follow along in their texts by giving them an action or sound effect to perform. For example, students may "oink" like a pig at the end of sentences with periods, and make monkey sounds when a sentence ends with an exclamation point.
  • Ask questions about topics covered during the day. Crumble up a piece of notebook paper and set the class trash can on top of the teacher desk or podium at the front of the room. Give students who answer questions correctly the opportunity to attempt to throw their paper in the trash can without leaving their seat.
  • Most teachers who run out of material to teach, do so at the end of the day, when students are tired, blood sugar levels are running low, and attention spans have checked out for the day. This is a great time to incorporate art. Come armed with a few brand new boxes of crayons, pastels, and/or perfectly sharpened colored pencils. Younger children who are tired of coloring sheets may find new inspiration when given over-sized pages or a roll of butcher paper on which to doodle. Check out the available printables of famous masterpieces for your older students! Who wouldn't love doing an original interpretation of Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night or Grant Wood's American Gothic? If you know you will be back in that classroom again the following day, challenge your students to discover one thing about the art or artist, and tell it to you the following day in exchange for an incentive of your choice.

Have you ever been in a position where you ran out of material before the end of the school day? What great ideas do you have for keeping kids learning AND keeping their attention? We would love to hear about them!

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photo credit: School Supplies - (license)
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