Substitute Teaching Activities

As substitute educators, we’ve all faced the same situation: The call has been made that your services are needed, yet when you get there, the full-time teacher you’re subbing for has left nothing – no plans, no roll book, no worksheets, nothing. Now what do we do?

Not to worry – if you’re in a school with internet access, as most of us are, you’re in luck. The first step to take is to make sure the students have something to preoccupy them. No matter if the subject is math, English, social studies, science, or something else, it’s quick and easy enough to get free printable resources that will allow you to maintain your sanity and your paycheck.

One such resource is, a veritable storehouse of emergency assignments and activities for any grade and any subject. Simply highlight the subject area that you are substitute-teaching, then select from any one of many activities to keep those kiddos occupied. The resources there are good for any situation when time is empty. After all, empty time equals poorly-behaved students, and they can become a recipe for disaster.

Another handy spot for student work is located at the Discovery channel’s education website, as the network has an entire section devoted to puzzles, games, and general “busy work.” Professionals will tell us that extraneous exercises like alphabetizing vocabulary words lacks relevance, but if the original teacher had been concerned with such matters, then he or she would have left you adequate plans in the first place. Harsh words, but true.

In addition to using these two resources, you can simply run a Google search with the terms “free worksheets” or something similar. Once there, print out as many copies as you need for the classes you will be covering, or simply borrow the ideas from the assignments, and paraphrase them on the whiteboard. Let the students do the rest: copying the questions, terms, answers, or any other information that may be contained in the exercise.

By having a technological back-up plan in place before setting foot into a classroom, it is assured that the substitute will have a successful experience, even if the regular teacher was poorly organized. With any luck, a good sub will never have to use these hints. Hopefully, filling in for others will not become a tribulation, but even if it does, be sure to follow that time-tested Boy Scout motto: Be prepared.