Tips for Creating Emergency Lesson Plans


emergency lessons

Every year in September, teachers at my school are required to submit emergency lesson plans, which are to be used in case we are absent and unable to complete regular sub plans.  In 10 years, I have only used my emergency lesson plans once, but on that day, boy was I glad they were there!  Whether emergency lesson plans are a school requirement or if you are just making them for your own piece of mind, today I want to share a couple of tips for making the most out of emergency lesson plans.

1. Keep it simple. Remember that this emergency plan can be used at anytime during the school year so it is usually best not tie it to a particular unit so you don’t have to update it during the year.  I also think it is best to avoid a lesson that includes a lot of photocopying because you don’t want to waste paper if the lesson never gets used and it is not likely that an emergency sub will have time to copy on the morning of said emergency. Finally, remember that you will not be there to give lengthy explanations, so keep all directions clear for both sub and students.  It is also helpful if you include a seating chart and roster for attendance/notes.  Seating charts should be updated monthly, quarterly, or semesterly if they change.

2. Think about things you wish you had time for.  With all of the standards and areas of focus in our classes, we run out of time for some of the fun stuff.  This can be an opportunity to bring that in.

  • Poetry: You can give students the characteristics of a sonnet, haiku, villanelle, or other type of poetry along with a couple of examples and then ask students to write their own poetry following the models.
  • Articles from The New Yorker, Time, or other interesting source: You can make a class set, half set for partners, or have the sub read the article out loud to the class. Then leave a few thought provoking questions to be answered by students or groups.
  • A fun grammar, vocabulary, or frequently made mistakes activity: Remember that cute idea or handout that you pinned on Pinterest, but you never have time for?  Here’s the time!
  • A short story, poem, or informational text in your textbook that you don’t have time for usually.  Students can read the selection and answer the questions at the end individually or in pairs.  This is as simple as possible with no copies needed!

3. Consider meaningful test prep. I teach mostly juniors so SAT and ACT test prep is ever present in our minds. For other grades and situations, you can substitute other kinds of appropriate test prep.  I have tons of SAT/ACT multiple choice test practice booklets that show up in my school mail box every year and so I used to use those.  Now, we are moving to a one to one iPad school so I can make use of the SAT prep site  I also leave an SAT/ACT essay prompt and give students half the period to brainstorm ideas and half the period to write.

4. Know your sub pool.  Think about the people who are likely to sub for you in an emergency situation.  If you work for a large school or district, you probably don’t know the subs as well as I do in my small school situation.  You want the plans to be clear and easy to execute for any sub that opens your door.  Be careful of overusing technology or content specific instructions if your subs are not equipped with the necessary skills, passwords, or jargon.  In my case, one of my fellow teachers on his or her prep period will probably get roped into covering me.  Because I know how stressful that can be, I leave a little thank you note and a $5 Starbucks card in my emergency sub plan folder as a sign of good will.

5. Post prominently. If your emergency sub plans are in the third drawer in the fourth file cabinet, they are not likely to be utilized in a sticky situation so post them where the sub/admin will see them. You may also have a buddy teacher who can point them out if the sub is having trouble finding them.   I have mine behind my desk labeled in big, bold letters (see image above).

What questions, suggestions, or tips do you have for leaving emergency lesson plans? We’d love to hear from you!


How to Tell If You Are a Teacher Going Back to School:

Hey teachers!  We hope that you are having an awesome back to school season!  Here’s a fun little chart you can share with your teacher friends for a little back to school giggle. Don’t forget to check out the Secondary Solutions store for all of your teacher resource needs this year!

Back to school

What Every Teacher Should Know about Copyright Restrictions


As English teachers, we carefully craft writing assignments, rubrics, and lectures to teach students the merits of academic integrity and the pitfalls of plagiarism, but sometimes (hopefully unintentionally) we forget to take our own advice.  Breaking copyright laws can negatively impact educational publishers and land teachers in hot water. Today, I’d like to look at some of the issues around copyright in the classroom.  Please note: I am not a lawyer, and the best way to know for sure that you are appropriately using copyrighted materials is to:

  • Read and follow the copyright statement or terms of use (often published at the beginning or end of a resource).
  • When in doubt, ask the author or publisher for permission to use a resource.
  • Check out more at

Most of what we use in the classroom falls under copyright law and as teachers, we should be an example of respect to authors, creators, and publishers.  Classroom teachers are given certain leniencies under the fair use exception, which allows limited use of a copyrighted work without permission for purposes such as teaching, research, scholarship, criticism, parody and news reporting, but we are not immune to copyright restrictions and we MUST be mindful of how we use all kinds of copyrighted materials, including (but not limited to) published reading guides from Secondary Solutions and other educational resources. Unless they are sure that something has been published under Creative Commons or is currently in the public domain, teachers must legally respect the rights of the author, which include:

  • the right to copy (see exceptions below)
  • the right to create derivative works
  • the right to sell, lease, or rent copies of the work to the public
  • the right to perform the work publicly
  • the right to display the work publicly

I cannot speak for the permissions of every type of resource from every creator, but I can give you some direct insight into the terms of use for reading guides offered by Secondary Solutions.

What Teachers MAY Do With Copyrighted Materials Like Secondary Solutions Guides:

  • Teachers may photocopy materials for use in the classroom.
  • Teachers may post materials to closed or password protected websites.  The site must only be accessible to students currently enrolled in the course and not to the general public or other teachers.
  • Teachers may use the information to prepare lectures and classroom activities.

What Teachers MAY NOT Do with Copyrighted Materials  Like Secondary Solutions Guides:

  • Teachers may not post materials on an open website. This violates the author/publisher right to sole permission in displaying or performing the work publicly. Not only is this against the terms of use and detrimental to the business model of a publisher like Secondary Solutions, it also thwarts the efforts of other teachers who plan to use part of the resource as summative assessment.
  • Teachers may not distribute to other teachers.  Unless the teacher has purchased multi-user or bulk licensing directly from, he or she may not email the PDF or photocopy the book for other teachers’ use in the classroom.

A note about public domain: Public domain is not synonymous with “found on the internet”.  Images, articles, charts, and other resources published on the internet are not necessarily open for public distribution without permission. Teacher beware.

We’d love to hear your questions, comments, and concerns when it comes to copyright in the classroom!  Thank you for stopping by.

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