Tag Archives: Classroom

Your First Day as a Substitute Teacher

English: A special education teacher assists o...

After jumping through the hoops necessary to become a substitute teacher, some school boards put new subs through some sort of orientation and training. (Many offer no training at all.) However, those that do have training tend to prove to be woefully inadequate to prepare you for the job ahead. There is a very good chance that after the first day of subbing you will wish you had been better prepared. With that in mind, let’s look at your number one priority as a sub and what you can do to prepare for it.

We all remember what it was like when we had a substitute teacher in school; it was a license to play. The teacher would leave an assignment but we would do everything in out power to keep from doing any of the work. It was a license to play and we did all we could to take advantage of the situation. The bad news is, nothing has changed. Students still see substitutes as an opportunity to play, goof off and create as much mischief as possible. Therefore, the first thing you are likely to learn is that if you can’t manage your class noting will be learned.

In these days of high stakes testing, schools cannot afford to let a day slip by. Studies at Utah State have shown that during the years from kindergarten to high school graduation the average student is under the tutelage of a substitute for the equivalent of a year. That’s too much time for schools to let slip by. True, many teacher will do the minimum by giving you a movie to show the kids, but if you are able to prove that you can actually teach you will find you are in great demand in classrooms all over your county.

For these reasons, your first and most important duty is to learn how to manage your classroom and that typically means doing a little research before you get started. The first thing you need to know is what your school’s policy is dealing with disruptive kids in your classroom. Usually there is a graduated plan of some sort that starts with a verbal reprimand, then moving the student to another desk, then, if the behavior continues, sending them to a neighboring teachers classroom, and finally, referring them to the dean or behavioral resource teacher.

Long practice has taught me that it is wise to begin this process as early as possible, and not put them off as a last resort. Behavioral problems escalate quickly and are best handled by nipping them in the bud. If, by your actions, students get the impression that you are permissive and unlikely to take action and you will quickly have a problem too big to manage alone. Conversely, if your start out too strict, you can always loosen up as time goes on.

Remember, it is not your job to make friends with these students. Your job is to teach for a day and you can’t do that if you have behavior problems in the class. One of the things I have found interesting when I have an especially disruptive student, is that after I send them out of the room I will often hear someone say “Thank You” in a barely audible voice. Your students are expecting you to be in control and will respect you more if you handle these problems quickly and effectively.

One quick caveat to go with these instructions: never, never, ever discipline in anger. You should never allow yourself to get to the point where your anger builds, but rather you should exercise discipline long before your emotions are engaged. Trust me on this one; I have seen teachers and subs alike furiously yelling at students for their misbehaviors and there is simply no excuse for that. You will lose all the respect you have worked hard to earn from your students. What’s more, in overreacting you will often find that instead of just one or two troublemakers, you now have twenty who feel like you are out of control and do not deserve to be head of their class.

Teachers who can discipline coolly, with a minimum of drama, maintain learning environments that are both pleasant and professional. You will also find that in multi-day assignments, students you discipline one day will show no resentment the next, provided you handle things in a quiet and professional manner. There are no emotional wounds that need to be healed, only the faint recollection of a corrective behavior and the sense that it would be unwise on their part to misbehave again.


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Posted by on May 5, 2013 in Teaching as a Profession


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New Substitute Teacher Cheat Sheet

StateLibQld 1 113036 Cartoon of students recei...

After you have jumped through the necessary hoops to get certified as a substitute teachers (in my state that means a background check, college transcripts, fingerprinting and an all-too-brief orientation) you will be, according to the school board you are to be working with, prepared to fill in for a real teacher. Au contraire! If you are new to the teaching profession you are likely in for a shock. Unlike your own children, your students are likely to see your instructions as a rude interruption in their social calendars and will do all they can to resist you at every turn. Your pleas for compliance, your begging them to do this for their own good, will go completely unheeded and unappreciated. No matter how well meaning your intentions, you will be thrown a gauntlet you must accept.

In many ways, substitutes have it easy over the teachers they replace. They don’t have the endless meetings, the planning, the form filling, or the parent meetings. But in another way they are at a serious disadvantage. Every student knows that in a day, or at most a week, the sub will be gone and may never be seen or heard from again. For that reason they feel free to take advantage of the situation and do as they please. (Many of you will remember this from your own school days.) Maintaining classroom discipline can, therefore, become a monumental challenge. The only bright spot to this scenario is that if you can master classroom discipline as a sub, transitioning those skills to a full time position will be a breeze.

So what is a sub to do? Here are some simple strategies to help you get and maintain classroom discipline:

  • Know the discipline procedures for your school board: I hate giving out referrals but there are times when it is necessary. The other day I gave one to a young lady who had gone out of her way to earn it and sent her to the office with it. She was back ten minutes later as insolent as ever and nothing more was done. I suspected, and later confirmed, that she never made it to the office with the form; she trashed it. In discussing the incident with the guidance counselor I learned to important points: 1) never send the referral with the person who is being referred, and 2) send the referrals to the dean’s office not the front office. My mistake, I’ll know better nest time.
  • Get students on task as soon as possible: One of the teachers I worked for had an assignment on the board that she called a “bell ringer.” It was an assignment that could be completed in about five minutes that kept the students bust while I took role. I was amazed at how effective it was and made it a regular part of my routine. If the teacher doesn’t have a bell ringer, I bring one of my own. Truth is, one of the most important things you can do to maintain class discipline is to get students on task early and keep them there through the entire class.
  • Never lose your cool: I was standing outside a classroom the other day when I could hear a teacher down the hall yelling, “What is your name, young man?” again and again. The tone of his voice told me this teacher was exasperated and everyone in the hall knew it. I couldn’t see the teacher but a could see students that were not far from the scene. It was as if you could see them losing respect for this teacher. Never, never, never ever do this. You are the professional and if you can’t maintain discipline over yourself, you will never get it from your students. Promise yourself now that you will never raise your voice, and then keep that promise. Yes, there will be times when you need to get everyone’s attention and for those times I carry a secret weapon: a coach’s whistle. Kids come preprogrammed to respond to a whistle and a short blast nearly always does the trick.
  • Bring filler material: Most school boards require teachers to prepare lesson plans in advance, so you should have instructions when you arrive. However, the plans don’t always fit the time allotted. Look online and you will find hundreds, if not thousands, of sources of word searches, mazes, games, puzzles and more. Having a number of these handy, arranged by grade level and the amount of time required to complete them can go a long way toward making you look like a pro.
  • Whatever you do, don’t get discouraged: I was in a class the other day where the teacher had mounted a poster of a little boy holding a baseball bat and standing in a major league ball park. Beneath the photo were the words, “Remember, no matter how good someone is now, they were once a rookie, just like you.” Those words are as true for teachers and substitutes as they are for any other profession. It takes time to master your craft and until you do, there will be days that will test you to the core.

Posted by on April 24, 2013 in Teaching as a Profession


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Bill passes making administrators substitute teach

Administrators in the classroom? That’s a sight the folks in West Virginia will be seeing in the very near future. A recent bill passed the Senate requiring administrators to spend at least three days each year working as substitute teachers. Senator Larry Edgell, the bill’s sponsor, said he thought it was important for administrators to see the effects of their policy decisions played out in the classroom.

It’s hard not to applaud such thinking. The law of unintended consequences dictates that even the most well intentioned policies can have very negative, though unanticipated, consequences. These consequences are often compounded by the fact that policies, once enacted, are nearly impossible to revoke. We can all hope that putting administrators will heighten their sensitivity to the needs and challenges that teachers, and subs, face every day.

The irony here is that it is a state government that is imposing this requirement. They are often as guilty, if not more so, of putting things into policy with far reaching unintended consequences that are carved in stone so permanent that it takes an act of God to alter it. Still, that didn’t prevent them from passing the bill, 33-4 in favor.

See the original article here.

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Posted by on March 31, 2013 in Policy


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More technology for your classroom

(Reblogged from 21st Centurry Fluency Project)

“You want some great ed tech tools to use in your classroom? You got em’—50, to be exact! This article from Edudemic features an extensive list of some of the most awesome technological tools you can find for teaching and learning. There’s lots to explore here, so have fun!”


via Edudemic

Technology and education are pretty intertwined these days and nearly every teacher has a few favorite tech tools that make doing his or her job and connecting with students a little bit easier and more fun for all involved.

Yet as with anything related to technology, new tools are hitting the market constantly and older ones rising to prominence, broadening their scope, or just adding new features that make them better matches for education, which can make it hard to keep up with the newest and most useful tools even for the most tech-savvy teachers.

Here, we’ve compiled a list of some of the tech tools, including some that are becoming increasingly popular and widely used, that should be part of any teacher’s tech tool arsenal this year, whether for their own personal use or as educational aids in the classroom.

Social Learning

These tools use the power of social media to help students learn and teachers connect.

  1. EdmodoTeachers and students can take advantage of this great tech tool, as it offers a Facebook-like environment where classes can connect online.
  2. GrockitGet your students connected with each other in study sessions that take place on this great social site.
  3. EduBlogsEduBlogs offers a safe and secure place to set up blogs for yourself or your classroom.
  4. SkypeSkype can be a great tool for keeping in touch with other educators or even attending meetings online. Even cooler, it can help teachers to connect with other classrooms, even those in other countries.
  5. WikispacesShare lessons, media, and other materials online with your students, or let them collaborate to build their own educational wiki on Wikispaces.
  6. PinterestYou can pin just about any image you find interesting on this site, but many teachers are using it as a place to collect great lesson plans, projects, and inspirational materials.
  7. SchoologyThrough this social site, teachers can manage lessons, engage students, share content, and connect with other educators.
  8. QuoraWhile Quora is used for a wide range of purposes, it can be a great tool for educators. It can be used to connect with other professionals or to engage students in discussion after class.
  9. NingNing allows anyone to create a personalized social network, which can be great for both teachers and students alike.
  10. OpenStudy:Encourage your students to work together to learn class material by using a social study site like OpenStudy.
  11. ePalsOne of the coolest benefits of the Web is being able to connect with anyone, anywhere. ePals does just that, but focuses on students, helping them to learn languages and understand cultures different from their own.


These educational tools can help you to make lessons fun, interesting, and more effective.

  1. Khan AcademyMany teachers use this excellent collection of math, science, and finance lectures and quizzes to supplement their classroom materials.
  2. MangaHighMangaHigh offers teachers a wealth of resources for game-based learning in mathematics.
  3. FunBrainIf you’re looking for a great collection of educational games, look no further than FunBrain. On it, teachers can take advantage of fun tools for math and reading.
  4. EducreationsEducreations is an amazing online tool for the iPad that lets teachers (or students) create videos that teach a given topic. Perfect for studying or getting students to show off their knowledge.
  5. AnimotoAnimoto makes it simple to create video-based lessons or presentations for the classroom and to share them with students or anyone else.
  6. SocrativeAvailable for computers, mobile devices, and tablets, this student response system engages students through games and exercises on any device they have on hand. Even better, teachers can easily assess student progress and track grades.
  7. KnewtonAdaptive learning has been a hot topic in recent months, and with Knewton it’s something that any teacher can access and use. The site personalizes online learning content for each student according to his or her needs.
  8. KerpoofOn Kerpoof, students can get creative with their learning with games, interactive activities, drawing tools, and more that are both fun and educational.
  9. StudySyncWith a digital library, weekly writing practice, online writing and peer reviews, Common Core assignments, and multimedia lessons available, this site is a fully-featured tool for teaching and learning that can be a big help in the classroom.
  10. CarrotSticksOn this site, teachers can take advantage of a wide range of math learning games, giving students practice while they have fun.

Lesson Planning and Tools

Use these tech tools to pull together great lessons and design amazing and memorable student projects.

  1. Teachers Pay TeachersHave great lessons to share? Looking for something to add to your classes? On this site you can do both, selling your own class materials and buying high-quality resources from other teachers.
  2. PlanboardMake sure your lessons are organized and that your day runs smoothly with the help of this amazing online tool designed just for teachers.
  3. TimetoastTimetoast is a pretty cool for student projects, allowing them to build sleek, interactive timelines in minutes.
  4. CapzlesThere are so many different ways that Capzles can be used in the classroom, there’s bound to be an application that fits your needs. What does it do? Capzles makes it simple to gather media like photos, videos, documents, and even blog posts into one place, making it perfect for teaching, learning, or online projects.
  5. PreziWant to build presentations that will wow your students? Make use of this online tool that makes it simple to do all kinds of cool things with your lessons, even allowing collaboration between teachers.
  6. WordleCreate stunning word clouds using Wordle, a great complement to language lessons of any kind.
  7. QR CodesQR codes (or quick response codes) are showing up with greater frequency in education. If you’d like to get in on the trend, you’ll need a tool to create and manage the codes like Delivr and one to read codes, like any of those listed on this site.
  8. QuizletQuizlet makes it easy for teachers to create study tools for students, especially flashcards that can make memorizing important information a snap.
  9. MasteryConnectHow are your students performing with regard to state and common core standards? MasterConnect makes it simple to track and analyze both, as well as other elements of student performance.
  10. Google DocsThrough Google Docs, teachers can create and share documents, presentations, or spreadsheets with students and colleagues as well as give feedback on student-created projects.
  11. YouTubeNot all schools allow YouTube, but they are missing out as the site contains a wealth of great learning materials for the classroom. There’s even a special education-focused channel just for teachers and students.
  12. TED-EdTED isn’t just a great place to find inspiration anymore, the site also contains numerous videos that are organized by subject and can help you to teach everything from how pain relievers work to Shakespearean insults.
  13. Glogster:Glogster is a social site that lets users mash up music, photos, videos, and pretty much anything else you’d like. It’s a great way to create learning materials and a handy tool for creative student projects.
  14. CreazaWant to bring your student projects into the 21st century? Creaza can make that possible, offering tools to brainstorm, create cartoons, and edit audio and video.
  15. Mentor MobOn Mentor Mob, you or your students can create a learning playlist, which is essentially a collection of high-quality materials that can be used to study a specific concept.

Useful Tools

These tools can help you to stay connected, organized, and increase the ease of building multimedia lessons and learning tools.

  1. EvernoteCapture great ideas, photos, recordings, or just about anything else on your Evernote account, access it anywhere, and keep it organized. A must-have tool for lesson planning.
  2. TwitterThere are so many ways Twitter can be used in education. Teachers can connect with other educators, take part in chats, share their ideas, or even use it in the classroom to reach out to students.
  3. Google EducationGoogle offers a number of great edtech resources for teachers, including email and collaborative apps, videos, lesson plan search, professional development, and even educational grants.
  4. DropboxEasily store, share, and access any kind of data from anywhere with the easy-to-use and free Dropbox service.
  5. DiigoDiigo lets you treat the web like paper-based reading material, making it simple to highlight, bookmark, take notes, or even add sticky notes.
  6. Apple iPadOne of the most widely used, though expensive, tech tools being used in today’s classroom is the Apple iPad. With a host of educational apps being developed for the device, it’s become a favorite of teachers and students alike across the nation.
  7. AviaryAviary is a suite of tools that make it easy to edit images, effects, swatches, music, and audio or to create and modify screen captures.
  8. JingIf you’re teaching kids about tech or just about anything else, a great screenshot program is essential. Jing is one great option that allows teachers to take screenshots as images, record up to five minutes or videos then edit and share the results.
  9. PoppletYou and your students can use Popplet to brainstorm ideas, create mindmaps, share, and collaborate.
  10. Google EarthFrom geography projects to learning about geological processes, Google Earth can be an amazing and fast way to show students anywhere in the world.
  11. DonorsChooseNeed funding for a classroom project? You can get it through this site that hooks up needy teachers with willing donors.
  12. SlideShareWith SlideShare, you can upload your presentations, documents, and videos and share them with students and colleagues. Even better, you can take advantage of materials that other have uploaded as well.
  13. LiveBindersLike a real-life three ring binder, this tech tool allows you to collect and organize resources. Much better than a binder, however, the site also comes with tools to connect and collaborate and a virtual whiteboard.
  14. AudioBooThrough this tool, you can record and share audio for your students or anyone else.

Posted by on March 28, 2013 in Technology


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How to capitalize on classroom technology

(Re-blogged from Phoenix Forward magazine)

There are numerous ways to revolutionize your classroom with technology. And while the latest digital toys can be expensive, innovative teachers are finding ways to bring the information age into schools without breaking the piggy bank, says R. Lewis Cordell, an education program instructor at the University of Phoenix San Diego Campus  and a middle school teacher.

“I try to find technologies that I think accurately reflect today’s working world and will also engage my students,” Cordell says.

Here are five suggestions to leverage technology to engage students in your classroom:

Point 2 View projector

Point 2 View™ projector

This digital USB camera hooks up to a laptop or desktop computer and can project any image, like a piece of paper you’re writing on or a page in a book, onto a wall.

This is a much cheaper option than the popular Elmo® projectors, which many schools can’t afford, Cordell says. He uses his Point 2 View camera whenever he wants all of his students to look at the same worksheet without having to make copies, or when he’s writing a concept on a piece of paper that he wants to share.

Cost: $69

Google Docs program

Google Docs™ program

For schools that have access to computers, this no-cost word processing application allows students to create documents that are automatically saved “in the cloud,” so nothing is lost. Students can conveniently access their documents at home or from public computers in libraries, since their files are saved online.

“What’s amazing about Google Docs,” Cordell says, “is that the documents are shared online instantaneously. So while students are in the middle of working, I can go in and see exactly what a student is doing and whether they’re following instructions.”

Cost: $0

Celly social network

Celly® social network

Teachers can implement this mobile social media tool with kids using cellphones. “With Celly, you create a ‘closed network group’ for the whole class, so cellphone numbers remain private and anonymous,” Cordell says.

There are two ways Cordell likes to use the platform: “I can schedule automatic texts reminding students about homework, which works great,” he says, or he can use the network during class.

“By plugging my iPad® [tablet] into an LCD projector, I can have students pose questions to me via their cellphones that get projected onto the wall — like a Twitter® feed.”

Cost: $0

Acer Chromebook notebook

Acer Chromebook™ notebook

Less expensive than most regular computers, Chromebook devices allow students to access the Internet and create documents that are stored online.

Although Cordell only has one of these computers in his classroom right now, he looks forward to the day when he can have a complete set for his entire class. “I think something similar to Chromebooks is going to replace textbooks in the future,” he says.

Cost: $199

Classroom technology grants

Classroom technology grants

For teachers struggling with the cost of getting technology into schools, applying for a National Education Association (NEA) grant could be the answer, Cordell suggests. He plans to apply for an NEA grant this year so that he can provide more frequent Internet access to students.

The NEA has given $8.5 million to nearly 4,000 teachers who demonstrated how the money would positively impact learning, Cordell says. Educators can also check out eSchool News or Smart, which highlight other avenues for raising IT education dollars.

Cost: $0

Point 2 View is a trademark of IPEVO Inc.
Elmo is a registered trademark of Elmo Co.
Google Docs and Chromebook are trademarks of Google Inc.
Celly is a registered trademark of Celly Inc.
iPad is a registered trademark of Apple Inc.
Twitter is a registered trademark of Twitter Inc. in the U.S. and other countries.

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Posted by on March 28, 2013 in Technology


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A Truth About Classroom Management



I recently read an excerpt from a course on classroom management. My overall reaction to the course was that it was a bit thin on good advice, though they did make one significant point; your personal classroom management style is not likely to be a single system (and there are many different systems out there) but an amalgam of bits and pieces from several different systems. That sounds like very good advice to me.

I’ve had the chance to read a number of different systems including Love & Logic, SEDI, direct discipline and many more. I have approached each of these disciplines hoping that they had the complete answer, only to be disappointed in part. None of them works alone, in my opinion, but as each one fell short of expectations, I came away with pieces of a more complete system of my own.

There are several reasons why this is true. For one thing, what works with one age may not work with others. Over the last few months I have done a lot of work at the middle school level and do a pretty good job getting those students to do what I want. However, this last week I subbed for some 1st graders and found that the skills I used with 8th graders were not working with these younger students.

Another variable is the person using the skills. I am a man, and a fairly good sized man at that. I can stand at the front of a group of rowdy middle-schoolers with my hands behind my back and give them a stare that will quiet the room. (A technique that was powerless with 1st graders.) However, I’m guessing that such a technique would not be so effective if I wasn’t such an imposing figure physically.

Classroom management is THE biggest challenge substitute teachers face. Most of your students will assume that having a substitute is the same as a free pass to do whatever they like. We don’t have months, weeks or even days to establish a system, we have mere seconds to establish authority for the day. I have a host of tools I use, and I’ll give you a few here, but I strongly encourage you to develop your own.

Contrary to popular opinion, the attendance is not the most important thing for you to do first thing in the morning. Your first task must be to get the students on task working on something as soon as they enter the classroom. I typically ask a hard working student to help with attendance after the class starts. Trust me, busy students are much easier to maintain than those who give you a hard time with attendance.

Don’t be afraid to send someone out of the classroom in the first five minutes. I used to give a lot of warnings, but have come to the conclusion that this is counterproductive. Sending someone to another teacher’s room in the first few minutes for a clear violation of your policies sends a very strong message to the rest of the class: you are not to be trifled with.

Carry a coaches whistle. I subbed for a PE teacher one day and was surprised at how quickly kids responded to a whistle blast. I have worn one ever since. Now before you argue that a coaches whistle is far too loud to be used indoors, let me tell you how I use it. The kids, of course, know how loud it is, and as a result, I rarely have to do more than put the whistle to my lips and the class quiets down. In the rare cases when that doesn’t work, I give a very short blast; nowhere near enough to hurt anyone’s ears. This typically only happens with very young kids who haven’t had any experience with whistles yet.

I have also found that a stopwatch is one of my favorite tools. Tell students they have 30 minutes to write the answers to 20 questions on a worksheet and they will spend the first ten minutes talking to their neighbors and will have a hard time getting back on task as time runs low. However, if you tell them they have 90 seconds to get the first question answered and they are likely to see it as a challenge. It’s a tool that can be overused, but used moderately, it can be powerful and is especially useful for under-motivated students.

I’ll post some resources below, but let me encourage you to look at a LOT of different systems as you develop your personal classroom style. There may not be any one system that is perfect for you, but you will develop one that is if you just glean enough tools from the systems out there.


YouTube: When I first realized I needed major help with classroom management, YouTube is where I went first. I was surprised at the quality of the information I found there. Check out some of these videos and you’ll go back to school excited to try out some new techniques.

Edutopia: Open a free account and you will have access to a number of tools they make available. All for free.

STEDI: This is one of the first and best sources I found when I started looking for classroom management instruction. It’s not free, but everything they offer is top quality and worth every penny. Consider it highly recommended.

Udemy: Dr. Tracey Garret offers a course on classroom management for a modest fee on the Internet learning channel, Udemy.

Love and Logic: This system is great for putting much of the onus back onto the students, which I like, but I’m not sure it is all that useful when you have only minutes to establish control. Still, it’s great information and a really solid system that a lot of school boards are beginning to implement.

Harry K. Wong: The First Days of School should be required reading for anyone wanting to spend any time teaching. It is an industry standard with a very encouraging message. It is written by Harry K. Wong and you can get a preview of his philosophy in the interview found here.

There’s a ton more out there, but that should get you started. Trust me, you don’t have to wear yourself out and you can preserve your dignity and that of your students as well. Just make use of as many resources as possible and watch for learning opportunities everywhere. I’ll post more resources as I find them. Please let me know if you have a favorite that hasn’t been mentioned here.

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Posted by on March 25, 2013 in Uncategorized


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