5 Resources to Help Substitute Teachers

5 Resources to Help Substitute Teachers
The Editorial Team February 6, 2013

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Even the best substitute teachers may find they need substitute teaching help from time to time. Especially when they are new to sub teaching. Facing a classroom full of unfamiliar kids every day can be a real challenge. Until teachers get to know each age group and begin to see the same kids over and over again, engaging the attention and commanding the respect of children can be very daunting.

Because even experienced substitute teachers can sometimes find themselves lost when a regular teacher has not left enough to do for the day, read on for ideas that help teachers out of jams, keep kids entertained and easily control classroom environments.

Substitute Teacher Online Training

One of the best ways to avoid a mess in someone else’s classroom is to prepare for the daily trials and tribulations of being a sub. Some subs are actually teachers who have gotten their degrees but cannot find a job, and this experience makes their job a little easier.

However, substitutes are often people who don’t have degrees or who have never been in charge of a classroom for an extended period of time before. If this is the case, education like the kind offered by the Substitute Teaching Institute can help. Their online training package includes a handbook, an 8-10 hour training course, and many other resources that help prepare subs for the rigors of filling in.


Once substitute teachers become comfortable with the idea of running someone else’s classroom for a morning, a day, a week or an even more extended period of time, it is time to fill their toolkit. One of the easiest ways to deal with a dull moment or a restless classroom is to institute a game.

Kids of all ages love games, be they excitable Kindergartners or jaded high school seniors. Luckily, many of the classics are the same no matter what the age, so once you learn the basics you’ll have plenty of spur-of-the-moment entertainment planned for all grades. Reliable favorites for both kids and teachers include Bingo, Hangman, Memory and Heads Up 7-Up.

Classroom Management Strategies

Becoming an effective classroom manager is one of a substitute teacher’s most reliable tools. Once the sub can keep a class entertained and well-behaved throughout the day without resorting to raised voices, threats or any other type of escalated situation, the job will become much more pleasant. Admittedly, this can be much trickier with unfamiliar children, but the National Education Association’s classroom management expert might be able to help.

Filler Lessons

Like games, filler lessons can help a sub cover the awkward moment that might result from realizing that a regular classroom teacher has left lesson plans that don’t cover the whole school day. In this situation, subs can’t always get away with instituting games, as kids grow bored with them eventually and subs have to account for their time later on.

Filler lessons, however, can provide a handy stopgap measure when trying to while away the rest of the day. Though these can incorporate some game-like qualities, such lessons should be small, easily customizable and relate to the subjects students are currently studying. Good lessons can include word puzzles, flash cards, Twenty Questions, and other entertaining pedagogical approaches that contain real learning material.

The Library

The library is a great resource for subs. Those who want to make absolutely certain they won’t run out of things to do would be well served to stop there in the morning. That way they can pick up a few books that could be used to fill in leftover minutes between lessons, before lunch or as they’re waiting for the bell to ring at the end of the day.

Believe it or not, a substitute teacher can contribute just as much to a student’s learning as that student’s regular classroom teacher. Subbing is tough because kids tend to test boundaries more with new people, and because even grown-ups are less comfortable with children they don’t know. Nevertheless, with a full toolkit, a sub can arm themselves against any eventuality for a fun, fulfilling, and never-dull career.

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