Substitute Plans

My context: 1:1 6th grade classroom. Every student has access to a device, Google Classroom account, and has been trained on how to use the technology.

With these plans, the substitute was essentially a babysitter. This is convenient because in the past, a day out of the classroom resulted in much less learning than a day when I was there. I wouldn't plan lessons that progress students through curriculum because I didn't know the substitute's teaching and management ability. 

On this example day shown below, I set up meaningful learning activities, even ran centers, without having to be there. This is made possible by the miracle that is Google Classroom. In Google Classroom, a teacher can create assignments, ask questions, distribute material, and collect work at preassigned times. For example, I had their history worksheet that I made in Google Docs push to their iPads at 12:00 with instructions on how to complete it. What the substitute saw was thirty kids that got a notification on their iPad, then got their history textbooks and started working in partners. 

Google Classroom also allows me to check for understanding and provide accountability for work completion remotely. Randomly throughout the day, I schedule checks for understanding and work completion. If I don't get a response from a student, I can message another student or two in Google Classroom, requesting that they prompt the student that thinks they have escaped my clutches to answer the question I've asked. It also allows me to immediately answer questions. One student on this day messaged me telling me she didn't understand how to complete the math work even after watching the video I made for the class. I tried to troubleshoot with her, but eventually messaged another student who understood it to go over and explain it to her. She was able to show the substitute my message and go help the student. Later on, I was able to see their work and write brief comments for my students. 

Google Classroom is revolutionary. Even with the teacher in the classroom, it changes how assignments and information are distributed and turned in. It changes how I check for understanding. The UI and ease of creating a question or assignment elevates this tool above other online polling and question-asking platforms. Something like Formative is a novel tool in the way it allows a student to draw an answer (especially useful in math) but I don't use it anymore because of how long it takes for the students to get into it, answer, and then for me to collect the data. I need fifteen seconds to ask a question and see the results in Google Classroom. Why this matters: instead of limiting a question to one student's answer and ruining the thinking for the rest of the class, instead of allowing kids to not engage with a question because they know someone else will answer it, I can engage everyone at once. It is beautiful and changes the classroom in a profound way. 

I don't collect or distribute paper anymore and no one is complaining. Im not getting lower quality work because everything is digital--its higher quality if anything. Plus, when these kids get into the professional space, they aren't going to be writing reports or communicating on pieces of paper. A digital classroom prepares them better for the real world. 

Sorry--this turned into a Google Classroom rave. This tool is amazing. Try it if you havent, even if you aren't 1:1. Here are the plans. One provision: I ran the Minecraft server for one of my centers from my computer during my PD. The first group had to join the server and I had to start a new server for each group. But again, due to the communication I was afforded in Google Classroom, the transitions were seamless. Here are the plans:


Thanks for taking over the class today. They are a very sweet and motivated group of students who respond well to firm and consistent boundaries and the highest expectations. They respond best to a quiet, fair, calm demeanor. They laugh a lot. Please be firm, but kind. Please trust these students. They won’t deceive you and are great at taking care of things.

Behavior Concerns/Consequences: I don't want the kids to feel shamed or embarrassed in front of their classmates. If you see a repeat negative behavior, try to be as private as possible. If you have to interact with a student more than twice because of behavior concerns, please make note of it. If a student’s behavior proves too much an obstacle to the class moving forward, please send them over to room 25 (next door) with a book. Please do this only as a last resort.

Attention: To casually get their attention, silently hold your hand in the air. Students should mirror you and give you their attention. To get their hard attention, I count down from a reasonable number (usually between 5 and 10) for them to be in their seats, quiet, with their eyes on me. If they do not give you their attention by zero, please put a tally mark under the date for every five seconds they do not give you their attention. This will come out of their recess tomorrow.

Walking anywhere: When leaving class, dismiss one table group at a time based on readiness, quietness, and cleanliness. They are to line up at the back of the classroom in their line order. Please do not allow them to leave or take them anywhere until they are completely quiet and in a straight line. Walking back from lunch or an assembly necessitates complete silence due to the proximity of classrooms.

Bathroom/water: Students meet these needs as they see fit. They do not need to ask permission. They may leave their seats to use the bathroom or drink water (outside as our indoor water fountain is broken) as long as they take the torch by the door as a pass, no one else is using the pass, and it is not during your instruction.

Document Camera: Press the power button on the red document camera. The blue light indicates it is on. With the remote, turn the t.v. on, then press “input” until it selects “PC.” That should be already selected.

TV/Apple TV: Selections can be made with the remote or the buttons on the right side of the TV screen. Make sure the TV is on, then press “Input” until you select “HDMI 1.” If you are mirroring an iPad or a computer, select the (Airplay) symbol, then select “Room 26.” The students also know how to do this.

iPad Use: If a student is not using their iPad responsibly (using it while you are talking, on YouTube while they are supposed to be using Dreambox, looking up pictures of kittens in space while supposed to be working on a slide presentation, etc.,), please ask for any justification, and if it isn’t a good reason, gently ask them to hand it over for the rest of the day, and make note of them for me. For the most part, I haven’t had any issues. They are pretty responsible with them, but I don’t know how they will respond with a substitute. The worst situation so far was a student changing his iPad wallpaper during a lesson a few weeks ago. I’ve only had to ask for student iPads four times so far. The key to the iPad cart is in the bamboo box on top of the teacher’s cart. During longer projects that require their iPads or independent math work, I allow them to listen to music on YouTube. Your choice, though.

Google Classroom: Students receive and submit work through Google Classroom. It is an app on their iPads. They receive notification of a new assignment with an audible ping. I have scheduled their assignments and instructions to be assigned at various points throughout the day. If at any point a student is unaware of what to do for an assignment, refer them to the instructions in Google Classroom. I will also remotely comment on student work, send them videos, or announcements, of which they will be notified at various times throughout the day.

The Gandalf: The student of the day who is responsible for…

  • Setting up breakfast

  • Counting who ate breakfast and writing it on the sheet above the sink

  • Packing up and returning leftovers to the hallway

  • Plugging iPads back in at the end of the day

8:20 If breakfast is not already in front of the classroom, please pick up breakfast in hallway perpendicular to the hallway in front of the office. It is in a blue catering bag and has a pink label on the front that says, “Fereday.” There may also be a black bag with the same label, depending on the menu that day. Please place the bag(s) on one of the black carts and take everything to class. If they are not there, a student or parent has taken it to class already. The Gandalf of the day will set up breakfast. Please ask for the Gandalf by name when you go to pick up the class first thing in the morning on the blacktop. Release them ahead of you to set it up.

8:30 School starts. They will be lined up on the far left of the blacktop. Please ensure they are in their line order.

  • Once they are lined up, lead them back to class. I normally shake their hands as a greeting as they enter. As they enter, they will grab breakfast and sit down.

  • During this time, they will be talking quietly and eating. Some students will start reading. They also are free to play chess on their iPads, which they can retrieve from the cart. They should not be eating and using an iPad at the same time.

  • Once you can see most students have finished eating, ask students to clean up their breakfast, then ask the Gandalf to take breakfast back.

  • Take attendance

  • Ask (students) to set up the computers in the back

  • Make sure every student has their iPad


8:45 Center Introduction

  • Please read off the centers on the board and where each table group starts (groups are named after philosophers)

  • At 8:45, they will receive an announcement on their iPads that consists of the instructions for each center. Chose four students, one to read the instructions for one center. Please make sure it is completely quiet before each student reads.

  • They are familiar with these centers

  • All centers are silent except for Catalina Field Guide and Farming. These centers may whisper. If it gets above a whisper in Farming, give them a warning. If it gets above a whisper again, send them back to their desks to read for the rest of that center. Be firm with this.

  • In Catalina Field Guide and (student's) Birthday Letters/Workshop, they may listen to music on their iPads.

  • At the end of a center, announce that it is time to rotate. They should move to their next center in under a minute.

  • The first group at Farming will have to add a new server address that I will upload to Google Classroom. I will be running the server from my computer remotely. I will be starting that group’s server at exactly the times I have written on the board. If for some reason it doesn’t work, allow them to create a world in single player. If you need any assistance, go to (students).

  • Centers rotate every 25 minutes. You have five minutes to play with that I have build into the last center.

Here is the text they will receive:

Centers Today
Farming: I will start the server from my meeting at the time that is listed on the board. I will share the server address in Google Classroom. If the server doesn't work, you can start your own world in Single Player mode. Your goal is to get 30 pieces of wheat. If you are waiting for it to grow or are done, you can build the coolest house you can. Whispering.

Catalina Field Guide: You need 10 more plant/animal slides by tomorrow (20 total with 1 title slide). Each slide needs the common name, the scientific name, three facts, and a picture. If you finish, it becomes workshop time (see menu on the board). Silent.

Read to Self: You are reading on the couch or with cushions. Silent.

(student's) Birthday Letters: Write
(student) a birthday letter. One you finish, it becomes workshop time (see Workshop Menu on board). Remember to submit your work to Google Classroom.

Workshop Menu
-CHIC Thank You Letter (Girls)
-Sumerian City Drawing
-"A Day in the Life of Sumer" Narrative
(student's) Birthday Letter
(student's) Birthday Letter
-Catalina Field Guide Slides

9:00 Center 1

9:25 Center 2

9:50 Center 3

10:15 Center 4

10:45 Recess

  • Dismiss them by tables to line up at the back. It is not necessary for them to line up in line order for going out to recess or lunch. When they are in a quiet, straight line, open the door and allow them to walk out.

  • Please pick them up on the blacktop at 11:00


11:00 Math

  • They may ask if they should set up their tables for math...tell them not today.

  • At 11:00 They will receive a math lesson video that they are to watch. Make sure all students have headphones and that they all watch it before they begin the math packet.

  • They will get instructions and the math packet on their iPads in Google Classroom at 11:05. They are to use their stylus and write the answers in the pdf (not in Google Docs)

  • They are to work silently

  • At 12, they submit whatever they finished.

  • If they finish early, they can play Dreambox


12:00 History

  • At 12 they will receive the History worksheet

  • They can find answers to the questions are on pages 120 to 124 in their history books

  • They can work quietly with partners, but if it gets too loud, please tell them to work individually.

  • They may move seats to work with partners.


12:25 Lunch

  • At 12:20, have students clean up and stack posters on the red shelf.

  • At 12:25, dismiss them to line up at the back of the classroom in line order.

  • Leave for the cafeteria. Do not leave until they are quiet and in line order. (student) will make a series of stops along the way to allow the line to catch up. Give him a little nod when you are ready to move on.

  • Please walk them all the way to the cafeteria doors. Lunch begins at 12:30.


1:15 Pick up from Lunch

  • Pick them up in the cafeteria, down the ramp from the auditorium.

  • Do not leave until they are quiet and in line order. (student) will make a series of stops along the way to allow the line to catch up. Give him a little nod when you are ready to move on.


1:20 Get Ready to Go

  • Have them complete the end of the day reflection in Google Classroom on their iPads

  • Dismiss tables to get their backpacks and clean up. iPads/headphones/keyboards need to be returned.

  • (student) needs to plug in the iPads after students place them in their respective slots.

  • At 1:30, dismiss tables to line up at the back, remind them to stack their chairs, then open the door and release them once the entire line is quiet.

1:30 Dismissal. Please make sure windows are locked, blinds closed, lights off, and iPads plugged in before you leave. Thank you for your service!


This day requires little substitute instruction. They are more of a facilitator and monitor of proceedings than they are a teacher. Google Classroom (and a thorough explanation on the board) takes care of the transitions at the appropriate times. Also, every kid has a way to find out what they should be doing at a given moment.