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 number2.com. 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!