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Best of Works 4 Me: Preparing for Substitute Educators

These teaching tips and strategies will help you prepare for productive days in your classroom when you can't be there.
Published: 06/19/2020

Works4Me is a free biweekly e-newsletter, showcasing practical classroom tips written by the readers themselves. For more than 10 years we have been gathering great ideas from the real experts, educators like you.

Here we present you some of the best substitute teacher-themed teaching tips we've gathered over the years.

Preparation is Key

Cards for Substitute Educators 
Ms. Newman uses index cards and labels to help substitutes with a variety of tasks: taking roll, tracking behavior, assigning groups, etc. Read about how using this simple stack of cards can make life easier for you, the sub, and your students.

Students Collaborate on Substitute Prep
Ms. Bergman uses a cooperative strategy to plan for her absences, working with students to create plan for her substitute. Students take responsibility for their own learning, and the substitute is prepped for an easier day.

Successful Substitute Procedures 
Ms. Baluch made life in the classroom easier for substitute educators by developing a rating system for the class and actually practicing it with her students before the substitute ever arrives.

Make It Easy

Pictures on Seating Charts
From annual school pictures, Mr. Pufpaff copies his students' pictures and inserts them in his seating chart. Read more about this great way to learn names that's also perfect for substitute teachers.

Substitute Box
Mr. Randall's hands-on program that he teaches is not always easy for a substitute to navigate. Find out what he keeps in his "Substitute Box" that works well for the class - and the sub - when he is out.

Substitutes and Student Names 
Being a substitute isn't made easier by not knowing the names of students. Read how this teacher prepares a way for the sub to learn students' names quickly, because saying the student's name gets respect quickly, too.

Keep Students on Their Best Behavior

Helping Substitutes Follow the Routine 
Stop worrying whether the substitute teacher will be able to keep your class in its routine when you are out. This tip helps the sub and the students stay on track.

Substitute Reward System 
When there's a substitute, students' behavior often goes awry. Here's a great tip from Ms. Snyder that helps the sub maintain class decorum while having fun doing it. Read more about "Toothy" and see if it can work for you.

Three Good Kids 
Mr. York has a great idea to get students to behave for the substitute. He asks the substitute to identify the best three behaved children, and when Mr. York returns, the class get "the reveal." This really motivates students to "compete" for that list!

Food for Thought

Lunch on Me 
When it comes to her substitute teachers, Ms. Playford pays it forward. This tip, also a kind-hearted gesture, really does work for her!

Snacks for Subs 
Some days, substitute teachers are called very early in the morning and have long drives ahead of them. Ms. Chambers shows her gratitude with this gesture.

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