Most of the classrooms you substitute in will come equipped with a lesson plan for the day. Some teachers will even prepare ahead of time, giving you a class seating chart and extra activities for the kids to do in case you run out of materials for the regular lesson. However, sometimes you arrive at a classroom and the teacher's absence was not only completely unexpected, but it was completely unplanned for as well. This can spell out trouble for the substitute who isn't prepared. That's when it helps to have emergency lesson plans for substitutes at your disposal.
If you're totally in the dark about what the kids have been learning for the past few days, you can capture their attention, and do a bit of review, by starting a discussion about it. Encourage them to ask you questions, and even allow them to answer each other. They'll get excited about being able to help each other understand certain concepts and you'll love the great energy that creates.
As long as your class is well-behaved, why not allow one or more of the students to "guest" teach for a few minutes each? Kids learn surprisingly well from other kids, and if they're worried about getting called on to teach next, they'll pay close attention to what's being covered. They can talk about their take on the class's current subjects, which will be very interesting for you, and very educational for them.
An Arsenal of Activities
It always pays to prepare yourself with a selection of activities to occupy the class. Crossword puzzles and essay ideas are both good activities that will keep them busy while you plan your next move. You'll have time to review what the class has been going over recently. You might even find a lesson plan hidden away somewhere in the teacher's desk.
Creativity is always the key when you're a substitute teacher. However, being prepared to take on the challenge is what will set you apart as a great substitute that teachers will want to call on often when they have to be absent from school.