The Resouceful Teacher Blog

Sign in with Facebook

Emergency Lesson Plans, Lifesaving Tools for Teachers

Written by The Resourceful Teacher. Posted in Tips & Ideas

sub plans

Everyone gets those situations in life where an emergency has come up at the last minute, and you don't have the time (or sometimes the ability) to get a good lesson plan in to school for your students. Maybe you have a family emergency, a disrupted travel plan, or need a slight ‘mental health break’ and you just can’t get into school to leave detailed lessons. That is why it is essential to have an emergency lesson plan available and handy.

The emergency lesson plan should be able to be used at ANY point in the year. It doesn't have to fit in with what you're currently doing (nor should it - it is to be used when you cannot leave normal sub plans). The lesson should be related to your normal curriculum, but it could be a supplement or an enrichment activity.

Get a folder (or a three-ring binder), and label it appropriately on the outside cover. There are even folders you can purchase (some schools even make these available to teachers) labeled 'sub folder' or 'emergency plans'. Also make sure you have an appropriate spot for your emergency folder on or in your desk area.  And, of course, make sure it is easily accessible by a substitute teacher.

In my plans I always dedicate the first page to explain some of the dynamics of my classroom that he/she should be aware of.  For example: Johnny has asthma and keeps an inhaler in the office, or Jane needs consistent encouragement to follow classroom rules, or watch out, Carla’s a biter!

When it comes to the activities, I prefer timing them to 10 - 15 minute increments. This helps the sub have better control of your kids. Students have difficulties adjusting to changes in their routines, and these shorter increments help break up an already “off” day.

Keep the information organized and easily accessible for a sub. The sub won't know where you normally keep things, and they can't read your mind. Spell out exactly what you want done, where it can be found, and what you want done with it when they're finished.

I always make sure I have made enough copies of any worksheets and usually leave the answer keys. Many subs will actually even grade your assignments for you if you ask them to - less work for you to have to do when you get back – yay!


Language Arts: Include short writing activities involving students’ opinions. Thus they don't have to have 'background' information, and they can write from their own experiences. Parts of speech review can include mad-libs or easy, fun worksheets.

Math: Leave a calculator activity. These could even be puzzles or partner games. Or give review problems.  Have a math competition where student get to write their answers on the board.

Science: Copy a science article and have students read carefully and answer questions. Make speculations and use the scientific method. Or have students create the plans for a lab activity.

Reading: Leave students a copy of a short story or article, and questions to answer. You could even set up a 'test-taking' exercise, and discuss appropriate answers and strategies.

Social Studies: Map activities are great for emergency plans. You can even set up a one-day unit on any area/region of the world, including your own town or city.

These ideas could also be used for the substitute who whizzes through your normal lesson plans in half the day, and needs ideas that are better than, “Ok, just do your homework, kids.”

It is essential for you to have an emergency lesson plan available and handy. This will be just one less thing you have to think about while you’re out of work (working on your tan, probably).

To see more activity ideas, click here.
Add a comment

Learning Through Heroes

Written by The Resourceful Teacher. Posted in History

learning through heroes

Heroes inspire. Everyone wants to be associated with ordinary people who accomplish extraordinary feats. As educators, we should recognize the importance of using heroes to teach children and adolescents various subject matters ranging from values to science.

The use of heroes in the classroom is becoming more and more popular. However, careful thought should be put in the curriculum design if educators want to ensure the effectiveness of the method. Here are a few tips:

The instructor needs to find a suitable hero to use. There is not generic hero that can be used across all subject matter, although heroes by and large have universal attributes. For instance, it may be more appropriate to use Michael Jordan as a role model when teaching sports rather than using Oprah, obviously.

It is important we don’t take away the human element in heroes. They are not super humans, and it is important for children and young adults to understand this. They need to know that they can be their idols; they can be the heroes who always put things into perspective, who makes sound decisions based on careful reasoning, and who thinks of the greater good more than self-interest. The purpose of examining heroes is for students to be able to see the hero potential in each of them.

In 4th grade, we have the students choose a California hero.  They don’t necessarily have to have been born in California, but significantly added to California’s history in a rich way.  Students choose from a list of heroes I’ve provided for them.  Some of the names include John Sutter, James Marshall, Eliza Tibbets, and Walt Disney.

The students are required to write a research report about their hero, answering specific questions about their personal life and how they had a great impact on California’s history.  They also present their hero to the class using a 3-dimensional display, while dressing in clothing their hero would wear.

This assignment combines all the standards we want our students to learn from researching techniques, writing a 5 paragraph essay, and presentation skills.  It also adds the added bonus of researching a relevant hero.

To download my Hero Report Unit, click here.
Add a comment


Written by The Resourceful Teacher. Posted in Tips & Ideas


Looking for a way to break the monotony of your teaching day? Here’s a fun idea for getting a lot of work done in a short amount of time.

Before I continue, I want to add a little disclaimer about myself as a teacher.  I am not a give-out-a-worksheet-to-fill-time kind of teacher.  I will only have students complete a worksheet if it’s pertinent to their learning.  But there are days when the kids do have a lot of worksheets to complete.  This can take a lot time because you’re waiting around for kids to finish their work before moving to the next subject.  So here’s what I like to do.

In the morning I will teach the concepts the students will be working with, provide examples, then have the students set aside their worksheets for later.  For example, I’ll teach Math, English, and Spelling but the kids won’t do the independent practice until rotation time.  After that it’s time to set up for rotations.

My desks are configured in 6 groups of 4, so it is conducive to easy, collaborative learning (see photo).  At each group of desks, I set up a rotation activity.  The rotations (or groups of desks) are numbered 1-6.  Then I write the name of the activity on the board under the rotation number so that the kids know what they’re doing at each station.  For example, here’s what I might have at all 6 rotations.

  • Rotation 1 - Math Worksheet
  • Rotation 2 - Math Center with Clocks
  • Rotation 3 - English Worksheet
  • Rotation 4 - English Centers with Nouns & Pronouns
  • Rotation 5 - Finish Daily Journal & Check for Accuracy
  • Rotation 6 - Silent Read

The kids start at the rotation they are already sitting at.  Depending on the activities, I usually give about 10 - 12 minutes at each rotation.  I set a timer that has a bell.  When the bell rings, the students know to gather their items, stand up, push in their chair, and stand by their desk.  Then I dismiss them to the next rotation.  The activitythey're supposed to complete STAYS at the rotations, and the kids get up and move with their group.  So the students sitting at rotation 1 will move to rotation 2, rotation 2 moves to rotation 3, and so on until the students have rotated through all 6 stations.

I like to indicate on the board which rotations are group work, and which are independent. I also add where I want papers turned in when they are finished with the assignment. 

My job as the kids are working is to walk around the class and make sure everyone is on-task and answer any questions.  The kids love when we do rotations and they always say that it helps make the day go faster.

To read more tips and ideas, click here.

Add a comment

Organizing Missing Students' Work

Written by The Resourceful Teacher. Posted in Tips & Ideas

Here’s a quick tip for how to keep all those papers organized when a student is absent. When passing out worksheets,  keep all of their papers they’ve accumulated throughout the day on their desk.  Then at the end of the day, gather their missed work and staple it to a cover sheet.   Write everything the student missed while they were absent and include the date that it is due.  That way, you have an organized list of every item that was completed that day and it makes things much easier when it’s time to fill in those holes in your gradebook!

You can download the cover sheet I use in the teacher resources section or by clicking here:    Absent Work

Add a comment

Organizing Supplies

Written by The Resourceful Teacher. Posted in Tips & Ideas

Here’s a quick tip for organizing items your students use on a daily basis  My classroom configuration is set up so that my students are always sitting in groups.  I like to keep one red bucket (shown in the picture) at each group.   

Inside the buckets you will find highlighters, hand sanitizer, sticky notes, flashcards, extra pencils and erasers, and homeless pencils (sometimes they find their way back).  These are items we use pretty much every day.  It helps to keep them organized and by using these buckets kids can reach them easily without getting up and distracting other members of the class.

I found these buckets at a teacher’s store where they were a bit costly.  I’ve also seen them at the dollar store for about the same quality, but a lot more cost-effective.  

Add a comment

Student Learning Games

Written by The Resourceful Teacher. Posted in Learning Activities

I recently had my students create board games.  I gave them my list of Game Board Instructions (you can also download them on my site).  The students worked in groups to create a game about a subject we are currently studying.  I gave each group a different subject, and their job was to create a learning game involving concepts we're covering in class. 

 They were also responsible for coming up with detailed instructions, creating game pieces and game cards, and decorating their game board and box.

I purchased many of my materials from my favorite store, the Dollar store (see my blogs about the dollar store by clicking here and here.). Here's what I bought: small toys that were used as game pieces, pipe cleaner, googly eyes, and stickers for the kids who wanted to make their game pieces, dice, timers, spinners, white gift wrap boxes that the students used to store the game, and small cardboard jewelry boxes to hold the game pieces.

Here's an example of game pieces made with pipe cleaners and stickers.

Game Pieces Resourceful Teacher

These are some of the pieces I purchased from the Dollar Store.

Game Pieces Resourceful Teacher

One example of a game my students made was called "Fun-Cabulary."  They created a game where the players spin a spinner which tells them to either act out, draw, sculpt, or explain a vocab word.  Then they pick up a vocab card that has the word and definition on it, and the students have to guess the word.  

They had a great time with this activity and the kids love playing each other's games!  Here are some photographs of the kids' creations.

Game Boards Resourceful Teacher

Game Boards Resourceful Teacher

Game Boards Resourceful Teacher

Game Boards Resourceful Teacher

Add a comment