Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Preparing to Substitute

Whenever I substitute for a class, I come with a prepared bag of tricks, even if the teacher has left a detailed plan. You never know when something can go awry (see last week's post here about just such an incident), and you'll be left with minutes or hours of extra time.

It's not enough to have just one emergency lesson plan. The personality of the class and the time you may have to fill can vary greatly. That sure-fire game you always use might stir up an already out-of-control class. A quiet, introverted class may need something a little more engaging than those vocabulary worksheets. A variety of activities that take varying lengths of time is just the ticket to be sure you can adjust to any situation.

I like to bring photocopied reading passages for English classes, along with a variety of activities to go along with it so I can fill any amount of time. Along with the reading passage, I bring quick and easy vocabulary work, reading comprehension questions, short answers, and a writing prompt. I can mix and match according to the time available.

I also bring a grammar game (see my post here for my tried-and-true activity), and a quiz and worksheets to go along with it.

I never plan an activity that requires media equipment. I've had too many times where something wasn't working right. Stalling to try and fix equipment is the perfect opportunity for students to get bored and restless.

I'm not above a few prizes and bribes in my bag as well. Sometimes a piece of candy for students who are on task and working quietly can be a great motivator. Competing for a Sharpie or highlighter can keep students engaged in a game.

Writing a list of assignments on the board, such as short writing prompts or vocabulary work can also keep early finishers from becoming restless.

Whatever happens, smile and have confidence, knowing you are well prepared.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Subbing - The First Ten Minutes

I substituted for a class last week, and the situation was the stuff of nightmares. The regular teacher had planned for them to watch a movie that would take up the whole class period. I came prepared with grading to do from my own class, since I was basically not much more than a token supervisor. This was going to be easy. And then the video equipment didn't work. Two hours yawned before me, and the students stared, wondering what I was going to do, and hoping they would be able to run amok.

The most important thing to do in this situation is to not hesitate. I've found when I immediately take command, act confident, and do not let on that there is no plan, potential chaos is averted. Of course, pre-planning and material preparation is vital. I would never walk into a subbing situation without a plan in case everything falls apart. (See next week's blog for ideas on preparation).

With the knowledge that I have a plan ready to go, I can focus on the first impression I am making rather than scrambling for something to do. I do not make a big deal out of what they were supposed to do, or what has gone wrong, but act like plan B is all part of the plan.

The first thing I do in these situations (and unfortunately, there have been plenty) is take roll, calling out names and making eye contact and smiling at each person. It's important that students don't feel invisible or unaccountable in a sub situation. This also helps begin the class with a friendly, but structured and down-to-business atmosphere. I also jot down a seating chart if one is not available so I can refer back to their names during the class.

If I know they are working on a big project, I ask directed questions about what it is and what problems or questions they might have. Sometimes I can pick a spur-of-the-moment lesson that is applicable to what they are doing. I have learned, however, to never let them complain about an assignment or the teacher, because that's a rabbit hole you should never go down.

There is a delicate balance between keeping control and being so strict that the students want to act out. When I started teaching and was nervous about walking this line, I erred on the side of too nice and lenient (because if they like you, they won't behavior badly, right? Wrong!). Now I make an effort to be friendly, but stricter than I am with my own students to stay on task so things don't get off track. A quick transition into an engaging, busy activity is the best strategy.

Subbing, especially when plans derail, is never easy, but by coming prepared, and leaping into confident action in the first ten minutes can make all the difference.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Revising Paragraphs in Essays - Lesson Plan

My students generally write paragraphs that contain topic sentences and evidence to support their points. What they are missing sometimes is their analysis, commentary, or support for the evidence. The more common problem, though, is redundant and "fluff" sentences because the are trying to fill space, or make a point via unnecessary repetition. Of course this adds no substance, and makes the paragraph laborious to read.

The method contained in this lesson plan will have students analyze each sentence in their paragraphs to make sure they have purpose. They can easily recognize the fluff and redundancies. It will also help them understand when they are missing important elements. Click on the photo above to get to the product.

Here's to better paragraphs!