Leaving you students and classroom is hard. Whether it’s illness, a meeting, a training, or another reason a teacher will be absent, making sure your students are receiving a powerful day of instruction is the top priority.
While it may seem daunting to keep current information, a Substitute Teacher Notebook will help insure that the learning keeps on rolling. Don’t shy away from taking a little time to create this gem, sparkling with information that a guest teacher will thank you for.
Presentation and Organization: Lots of options are available for the notebook. It may seem intuitive that a three-ring binder is the obvious choice. A binder allows you to quickly and easily swap out pages when updating. The option of using tabbed dividers for each section makes it a more useful and quick source for key information. However, some teachers choose a file folder, others use a file envelope, while still others place their notebook in the Cloud and leave brief and specific directions on how to access it. Whatever format is chosen, keep the organization simple and obvious. Most substitute teachers had a limited amount of time to hunt for key information and absorb it.
Also, seriously consider typing your notes and saving them for easy modification year to year. Not everyone reads handwriting well, even though most teachers write beautifully. The other trick is to put the information sheets in page protectors. The pages won’t tear out and are protected if removed from the notebook temporarily.
The First Page:
- A quick reference page is a must! Include the following information:
- Your name
- List of material included in notebook
- Names of fellow teachers who can assist or answer questions
- Location of following items:
- Lesson Plans/Daily Schedule
- Gradebook, as appropriate
- Attendance Sheet, as appropriate
- Bus Lists, as appropriate
- Lesson Materials
- Thank-you for coming and teaching your classes
Both elementary and secondary teachers have a specific schedule they follow. Don’t assume the office will provide this to the guest teacher. Nor can you simply direct the substitute to look at the board or ask the students. That way spells disaster.
Elementary teachers can include a brief list of times and activities throughout the day. Quick descriptions of each activity are also welcome, but remember the time crunch for the teacher and don’t write an extensive description. The shorter the better as long as it’s complete. Consider having another teacher read your notes to check for clarity.
Secondary teachers should include the bell schedules. Include the daily schedule, and modified schedules such as assembly, early release, half day, and any other quirky schedules that might be used or put in place that day. One schedule per page is also helpful because each one can be taken out of the notebook and used throughout the day for quick reference.
2. Class Lists and Seating Chart:
These can frequently change and need updating. By making an electronic copy of both, the information can be updated quickly and easily. If the school district uses Skyward (student information management system), a print-out of current class lists and seating chart with student pictures is a snap. The trick here is when a student is added or dropped from the class roll, a good procedure is to do your updates at the end of the day and update the notebook. Another suggestion is to place the new class lists and seating charts in front of the previous version in the sheet protectors. This helps when a student is switched to another class or leaves after a few days. A fast removal of the new version back to the original saves time and reprinting.
3. Classroom Rules and Procedures:
Again, keep it simple and sleek!
List the Rules
Action to be taken for misbehavior – this can be as simple as writing down the name for follow-up when you return to specific step-by-step procedures. Also, consider asking for an explanation of the offense after the student’s name. It helps to know what happened before you address the problem.
Name of contact person and phone number or extension for extreme behavior such as fighting, open defiance, etc.
List your classroom procedures
These may include returning to locker for missing materials, loaning materials from teacher’s desk, sharpening pencils, getting out of seat, turning in assignments, daily entry task, etc.
Hallway and Bathroom Passes Procedures
Explain the Tardy Policy
Identify when a student is tardy and follow-up procedure.
4. Student Information:
Consider including the following information in this section.
Names of students who are honest and will be helpful. Consider limiting to three or four.
Names of students with medical concerns or other issues which includes details that the substitute needs to be aware of. I usually have the principal, counselor, and school nurse review this list to check on the accuracy of the information and to comply with confidentiality laws.
Names of students who require specific accommodations. Again, I ask the intervention specialist to look this information over for accuracy, suggestions such as excusing to another classroom for the day or period, and confidentiality.
5. Emergency Procedures:
Provide specific instructions on the first page on how to summon emergency help. Some schools require an initial code to dial out of the building.
Include a map for evacuation that highlights the route and final destination.
I also include a copy for each of the following instructions as given by the administration at the beginning of the year.
- Fire Drill Procedures
- Tsunami Procedures
- Earthquake Procedures
- Tornado or Hurricane Procedures
- Lockdown Procedures
6. Emergency Lesson Plans
Sometimes you aren’t able to write up specific daily lesson plans for an absence. Pre-written emergency plans serve as a backup when this happens.
When writing these lesson plans, keep the following in mind:
Make sure your students already have the necessary knowledge to complete the lesson. This would usually mean avoiding the introduction of new information.
End product or result is attainable in a class period.
Does not require specialized knowledge on the part of the guest teacher.
Is fun, but doesn’t require extra materials, student movement, and doesn’t create chaos or a mess that the substitute has to deal with at the end of the day or class period.
Consider including two or three different lessons so the teacher has a choice and can choose one that fits their teaching style.
7. List of Time Fillers
Lesson plans that would take you an entire period to complete are often finished early when taught by someone else. So create a list of activities that students can do to remain engaged and focused if a lesson is finished early.
Use your imagination and creativity to create a list that is appropriate for your specific teaching situation.
8. Follow-up/Reflection Form
Some substitutes leave great notes about the day. Others leave a skimpy comment that basically reads: “Day went well. Thanks for having me.” By including a form, a person can capture the key information about what happened during the absence.
Some of the information to ask for includes the following items:
- Substitute’s Name
- Students Absent and/or Tardy with arrival time
- Note about students who were helpful
- Note about students who were disruptive or uncooperative with an explanation
- Check-off list about class as a whole:
- Followed classroom rules
- Was courteous and helpful
- Used class/work time effectively
- Was talkative or/off task
- Check-off list about lesson plans as a whole:
- Were completed
- Were not completed
- Notes on subjects/assignments not completed
- Notes on overall experience as a substitute in my classroom
- Request for other details or comments about day that would help a future guest teacher.
Final thoughts – once this notebook is created, a monthly perusal should ensure accurate information and provide an opportunity to update any material. Being absent will not negatively impact students’ learning, and the teacher will return to a positive learning environment. Try it! The administration, fellow teachers, and substitute will thank you!
@DebWebb100, #WATeachLead, #ReadyWA
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