Category Archives: Uncategorized

Sub Procedures

Classroom ProceduresAs I study the challenges that substitute teachers face, I have come to the conclusion that one of the things that make subbing difficult is the breakdown of procedures in the classroom. Let me explain.

Each teacher is allowed to make their own classroom rules and procedures. Some things may be suggested by the school’s administration, but each teacher needs flexibility in deciding what procedures will help them be most effective. Does this mean school should establish procedures school wide so there is consistency from class to class. No, this would be a huge hindrance to the regular teacher.

Some classrooms, particularly at the Elementary School level, have procedures posted on the wall. I always try to follow those procedures to the letter, if at all possible. However, these lists are seldom exhaustive.I have also been in classrooms where the regular teacher has done a fabulous job of creating a notebook full of detailed information on how to handle each and every procedural process. I am always thankful for that kind of information. However, unless you are teaching in a class for an extended period (that is, more than one day) you are unlikely to get the chance to review and learn all such procedures.

What then is a sub to do? My suggestion is to put together a short presentation informing students of what your procedural expectations are for the day. You should be able to do this in five minutes or less so you don’t cut into class time any more than is absolutely necessary. You are also going to have to be very flexible in which procedures you use in each particular situation and how you explain them. For instance, seniors taking a test would require very little instruction where grade school students would likely require a great deal more.

I have a short Power Point presentation I often (though not always) show to my classes. In it we quickly review bathroom procedures, fire and lock-down drill procedures and more. There is a bit a humor in it and the students generally enjoy watching it. I’ve actually had students who have seen it in another class ask me to show it in classes where it wasn’t needed.

Making your procedures slightly outrageous will help make them more memorable. For instance. have students who want to use the bathroom carry with them a large and silly looking hall pass. Ask students who come late to class sing a few bars of their favorite song… You get the picture.

Adopting new procedures for a day or a few days is no great challenge for your students, yet it helps maintain your professionalism and authority in the classroom. You are also far less likely to hear the complaint, “But our teacher let’s us do this…” Many times such statements are bogus, which makes it all that much more important to establish your own procedures while you are teaching. Your response can be as simple as, “I’m sorry, but Mrs. X is not here today so we will be following my procedures. You are welcome to take it up with him/her when they return.”

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Posted by on August 10, 2013 in Uncategorized


Wintertime Preschool Activities

Preschool is a fantastic introduction for children.  The valuable lessons that they learn are all conducted in a fun manner that helps to make education fun.  In the wintertime it is often more difficult to have educational outdoor activities and as all kinds, they can get quite rambunctious inside.  Here are some wintertime preschool activities that kids always love.

Maple Candy

This is a very easy recipe that is a lot of fun for kids and very easy for them to manage at their coordination level.  Preschool activities such as this introduce them to basic cooking, science and just an overall fun for making things.

1) Find clean snow and pack it into a flat wide container such as a deep baking dish or large casserole dish.

2) Have the children draw designs in the snow or write their name or letters they have learned

3) Adults – boil 100% pure maple syrup over medium high heat until it reaches 235°F.

4) Drizzle the syrup into the designs the children drew into the snow.  If you are confident that they have the coordination, you can allow them to pour their own designs.  Arm them with an oven mitt and pour the warmed syrup into a plastic measuring cup.  Guide their hand as they pour the syrup into the snow.

5) Let it cool for a few minutes and enjoy!

Colored Ice Candles

Fire and Ice are a cool combination, no matter what age you are.  These ice candles are fun preschool activities that are very fast and simple and have a picture perfect result.

1) Fill a bucket about ⅔ of the way of ice cold water.

2) Have your preschool child mix in a few drops of food coloring, they can mix and match colors to create their own shade.

3) Place a smaller container such as a soup tin in the middle of the bucket of water, add rocks to keep it from floating (but not touching the bottom)

4) Rest a string across the top of the ice cream pail and use clothespins to pull it tight and hold it to the pail and also to the soup tin.  This will keep the tin from floating to the edges of the pail.  Be sure that the clothespin is not touching the colored water.

5) Allow the creation to freeze outside overnight.

6) The next day remove the ice from the pail (you may have to run hot water over the outside to loosen it)

7) Fill the soup tin with warm water to loosen it and then remove it from the inside of the ice creation.

8) Place a candle inside your new ice candle holder and light it. Voila! Fire and Ice in a beautiful homemade sculpture

Fancy Snow Angels

Not all preschool activities need to be conducted indoors.  When the sun is shining, it is always great to get outside, no matter what the season.  Snow angels are a great way to enjoy the outdoors while creating your own little masterpiece. Children will need to fully dressed from head to toe in snow gear in order to stay warm during this activity.

1) Help your preschooler lay down face up in a fresh and clean area of snow.

2) Have them slide their arms and legs up and down to create “wings” and a “robe”

3) Help pick them up out of their “angel” without damaging it

4) They can now decorate their snow angel with colored paint, twigs, and other craft supplies.  Colored water in spray cans works really well for this activity.

Winter Treasure Hunt

Preschool activities that end with a reward are always intriguing and fun.  This activity will get kids up and moving with a great end to the game. It also helps encourage their thought process as well as decision making skills.

1) Place packages of hot chocolate mix, marshmallows, stir sticks, apple cider and other yummy drink mix parts into small baggies.  Make sure they are waterproof, if not then consider using small tupperware containers.

2) Hide these packages outside in the snow in various areas of a yard

3) Make a treasure map giving hints to where the “treasure’ is

4) After enough treasure is found, create warm drinks for your “pirates” and enjoy the rest of the day.  Remind them that the more they find, the better their drinks will taste.

This article was written by Regina Pflieger, a work-from-home mom who discovered that online preschool programs include both indoor and outdoor preschool activities for kids and parents.

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Posted by on June 27, 2013 in Uncategorized


Yours for FREE this weekend: The Substitute Teacher’s Toolkit!

teachers.v01 For a limited time (this weekend, from Friday, June 7 to Sunday, June 9) my new book, The Substitute Teacher’s Toolkit, will be offered for free for anyone who wants to download it. Make no mistake, you will be doing me a huge favor if you take advantage of this offer; so download away and tell all your friends. This is a case where ‘the more’ really is ‘the merrier.’



Posted by on June 6, 2013 in Uncategorized


Parenting: Keeping Your Child Healthy And Motivated During Exams


Image by scui3asteveo

Finals in high school are can be incredibly stressful for your teenager – not only can they majorly affect your child’s grade, but they could play a role in your daughter or son’s college acceptance.

While there are plenty of study tips and tricks for students online (creating acronyms is a good one) there aren’t many tips being given to parents during this pressing time. Getting good grades is a great motivation for your child, but they also need your encouragement, so if you’re a parent to a stressed out teenager, here are five tips for you to aid your child and keep them healthy during this nerve-racking time.

1) Location, Location, Location

Besides being a very clichéd real estate term, this is also a fundamental thing to remember when preparing to study. Help your child choose the right place to settle down and get to work. Avoid areas of the house with the most traffic and don’t even let them think about plonking down in front of the TV.

2) Making Nutritional Choices

I recall when I was a student; my favourite study breaks always seemed to involve a trip to the kitchen, where I’d usually stare blankly into the fridge and subsequently select the easiest to eat (and usually most junk- like) food we had.

Snacking is a staple part of studying, just be sure your child is munching on the right snacks. Avoid the pop tarts, the chocolate bars, and the ice cream and instead fill your kitchen with nuts, fruit, vegetables and some dip.  Also, be sure they’re drinking plenty of water.

3) Planning for Success 

Sit down with your child and figure out how much time they need to dedicate to studying, and which subjects they need to allocate more time for. Some questions to ask your kids: which exam is up first? Which exam do they expect to do well on, and which needs more attention and focus? Set up a schedule that includes breaks and early bed times – sleep is another fundamental key to success.

4) Work Your Body and Your Mind

Use study breaks to get their body moving. Instead of giving them 10 or 15 minutes on Facebook, ask them to go for a walk with you. A brisk walk will re-energize their minds and fresh air is always helpful. Getting good grades is a great motivation in education for your child but they need breaks too!

5) Learning the Material 

If your children study best on their own, then by all means let them be, but most teens can greatly benefit from you getting involved in their studying. If they have notes or flashcards use those to quiz them on the subject matter. If not, try having them teach you the subject, especially the parts they’re shaky on. A teacher once told me; you don’t really understand something when you think you do, you only truly understand something when you can teach it to someone else.

Don’t hesitate to ask your child if they need help beyond what you can offer and if they do, consider contacting their teacher and ask if they could suggest a fellow student or tutor that could help your child out.

Are there any tips you’ve learned from personal experience for helping your child through exam season?

Featured images:

The mom of a beautiful baby boy, Louise Blake enjoys spending her free time writing blog posts about parenting for companies such as Carrot Rewards.


Posted by on June 5, 2013 in Education, Uncategorized


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Cornell Note Taking System – Simple But Effective

cornell_diagThis weekend I had the chance to see my nephew, Jason, who graduates from high school in a few weeks and then immediately heads for college in a special summer program. In the course of our conversation we talked about some of the differences between high school and college and the different skills you need to develop for the larger work load. I asked him if he had ever heard of the Cornell Note Taking system; something I only learned about a few years ago but wish I had known about it while I was in college. It was not a surprise to me that he had never heard of it.

The system is fairly simple and can be used with regular notebook paper, though I will show you a link below that will allow you to print your own paper specifically for this purpose. On the top of the page is a place for your name, the subject and the date. At the bottom is a space for summary notes and particularly important features. In between are lines for writing notes, those this part of the page is divided by a vertical line about a thrid of the way over from the left hand side.

The idea is to write your notes in the larger part of the main section. Like all notes they should be somewhat crytpic, catching only the high points and significant details. The difference comes after the notes are taken. As soon after the lecture as possible, you should review your notes, writing questions in the smaller section just to the left of your main notes that are answered by the details in the notes themselves. This is your first review and again, as has been said before, it is important to try to do this as soon after you make the notes as possible.

For future review, you take a blank piece of paper and cover the main note section. Then you look at the questions you have written on the left and see if you can answer them, pulling the paper aside briefly to see if you are correct. You now have a very easy to use system for self study and practice testing to see what areas still need attention. Simple and very effective.

I have been able to purchase legal pads at the local office supply house that are already set up as I have described. Their are also online source for purchasing pre-printed pads, though they tend to be pricey. ( However, there is also a program online where you can print custom sheets, with features like putting your name and class at the top of the sheet and determining the spacing of the lines. ( I like to use pre-drilled paper so that the pages can be put into notebooks once they are written and organized by topic.

To me, this is one of those ultra simple systems that just works. My wife is a university professor and she says that a lot of her students like to bring their laptops to class and take notes on their keyboards. That is something I would have like when I was in school, though there is a lot of evidence that handwriting notes helps you remember better. Handwriting notes and typing them engage very different parts of the brain. As a result, one is simply much better at helping you get the information into your long-term memory. Of course, typed notes are better than no notes, but side by side, the handwritten notes will outperform those that are typed.

My wife, a university professor, complained the other day that many of her students are asking for her Power Point presentations ahead of time. They want to have the presentations up on their screens as the lecture is given so that they can type notes into the appropriate section. That works fine for some classes where teachers are willing to post these presentations, but many, like my wife, are not. Some of the students are not happy that she is unwilling to share her presentations, but she has good reasons for choosing not to and is not going ot change her mind.

However, why should a students note-taking be contingent on the teacher does? Does it not make sense to have a system that allows you to make notes regardless of what your teacher supplies?

That is exactly what the Cornell System does; it supplies you with a very handy tool that can be used anywhere you have paper and pen. As I have said, this is a tool I wish I had when I was in college, and that in spite of the fact that I thought I was an exceptionally good note taker.

Take a note from my page, Jason, and do a great job!

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Posted by on May 13, 2013 in Uncategorized


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A Great New Program For Studying; Both For You And Your Students


If you are anything like me, you are always on the lookout for handy study aids that might help you or your students. Recently, in preparation for a major teaching exam, I found a program that was incredibly helpful called Study Blue. Essentially Study Blue is a replacement for the old 3×5 cards we used to use in college, where you write a word or question on one side of the card, then put the answer on the flip side; in an electronic format.

Why is this better than the old paper system? Once you have assembled your notes in this format you can push the information to your laptop, tablet, ereader or smart phone. That way whenever you have a few minutes, regardless of your location, you can access this electronic cards and spend a few minutes studying. Since we all know that repetition is the key to getting things into our longterm memory, this is a great advantage.

You can enter the information one at a time, card by card, but I found it easier to enter the information into spreadsheet format, a column for questions, another for answers, then upload the entire file to Study Blue. The program knows to separate the information into individual cards for you.

studyblue-flashcards-app-0You will also find, especially with word definitions, that many words have already been entered by other students. When this happens, the program suggests the information already entered in a side panel that you can click on if you like, or proceed with your own definition. There are also times when you will find someone else has already created a set of cards for the subject you are studying. In those cases, you can either study their material or incorporate it into yours. (Some teachers have actually preloaded study notes for their classes!)

Once you have your notes set up you can study each note a card at a time. The program shows you the front of the card while you try to remember what should be on the back. When you flip it over to see if your answer is correct, the program will ask you if you have this information mastered. This accomplishes two things; those things you feel you know well are taken out of the rotation allowing you to concentrate on the things you don’t know well, and the program keeps a running total of the cards you have mastered so it can give you a percentage number for how close you are to mastering all of the information.

It’s simple, I know, but the best ideas often are. I used it to great effect to pass my teaching exam and I recommend it to other teachers and students as well. How nice it was this morning to tell a colleague who will be taking the same test that that can access all of my notes at StudyBlue.

Since the program is free to use, it is well worth your time to check it out to see if it is something you would like to use or recommend yourself. (There is a paid version, but all of the features I have mentioned above are available in the free version.) Who knows, you may find that, like me, you are preparing study notes for your students in the future.

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Posted by on May 10, 2013 in Uncategorized


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3 Things You Think Are “Cool” That Actually Make Middle School Kids Hate You

Hardly a day goes by that I am not called “the coolest sub in the school” by someone, yet that has never been my goal. As a matter of fact, I’m not sure I am not bothered a bit by that moniker. It’s fine being “cool” but only if you are meeting the needs of your students and the expecations of the teachers you are temporarily replacing. In the article below, author Catherine Killingsworth tells us three things we can do that may seem cool, but will ultimately cause us to lose respect. That is certainly a price too high to pay for coolness.

That Writing Lady

We all want to be cool. Often, even when we are the most experienced, knowledgeable, and confident person in the room (as we often are–though not always–in middle school classrooms) we still want our kids to like us. This is why we often do three very stupid things in the hopes of making ourselves more appealing to our kids:

1. Being sarcastic. We all have vague memories of a high school teacher who was sort of bitter and sarcastic, and we remember thinking he was entertaining.  He reminded us of that cool teacher from TV, right? So if we’re sarcastic in class, that makes us cool, right?

Wrong–especially with kids under the age of 14. If think back further, we remember that,while it was sometimes  funny when teachers made fun of historical figures, we never liked listening to jokes we didn’t understand, and we REALLY didn’t like feeling stupid or…

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Posted by on April 24, 2013 in Uncategorized