Miranda sweeps in and saves the day to remind us of 6 weapons that will help you on those supply teaching days when no lesson plans are left or can't be found!
Top resources are a sturdy weapon against the blank page, the unusable whiteboard, the missing laptop and the shrugged shoulder. All possibilities when you walk into that empty classroom, possibly at five to nine on a rainy (Argh…wet playtime.) mid-week morning. So here’s my list of my top six emergency resources, for use at last minute, a short notice and in the case of technical failure.
1. Mopping up and finishing off - by Friday or even Thursday afternoon, there’s plenty of mopping up to do, so your best resource is to talk to the teaching assistant about work that needs finishing. This is a great way to make friends, as it can be stressful for a TA whose line manager has been off ill all week; and who has seen a series of supply teachers come and go with one off lessons, accumulating on bits of paper.
2. Knowing your curriculum - I really don’t regret that I spent an entire hungover Sunday last Summer hols, reading the new primary curriculum from cover to cover – albeit in bed with coffee on one side and my little boy glued to Cbeebies on the other. My copy of the primary curriculum’s (do I sound like a swot?) expectations for Maths and Literacy comes with me on supply. I have simple games, such as ‘round the world’ and ‘if this is my answer, what’s my question’ and I apply them to an area of Maths or Literacy of French, which is age and stage appropriate. The children enjoy it almost as much as ‘heads down, thumbs up.’ I also do some grammar games with different year groups. For example, with Year 3, I get an apple out of my lunch and put it on a chair. The children take turns to approach and ‘steal’ the apple in a certain way (stealthily, slyly, confidently etc) while the rest of the class guess the adverb. Up-level your boots with that one!
3.Other staff members - TAs will know where the children are up to; weak areas of their maths and Literacy. The areas of learning that the teacher is particularly hot on. Once you find out what they are, then you will build up a ton of brownie points with school for focussing on raising progress in these areas.
4.A suitcase with curios - At the risk of sounding like an eccentric who drives around with a car full of junk (who moi?), I have an antique looking suitcase with weird things in it from charity shops. A giant tortoise shell (it was dead already folks…)
5.Whiteboard pens - And A3. You can’t always leave a classroom to get paper. Sometimes there is no teaching assistant about and everyone is furious busy. I take my own A3 paper with me just in case. Again, I keep it in my over-cluttered mad person’s office of a car. You can use this for story mountain planning, a ‘brain dump’ before initiating some research into a topic (find out what they are learning about in topic, then choose a small element of it and encourage research. I’ve spent a great hour with Year 2 finding out about clothes during Samuel Pepys time. This prompted lots of discussion about social inequality; how and why fashions might have changed; what his own penchant for clothes tells you about the character of old Pepysie.
6.Verbal comprehension - I love this resource best of all. Basically, I have various stories to fit with topics in Literacy, which I have re-written slightly myself for my purposes. Eg) the myth of Icarus, Arachne and the Spider, Rumpelstiltskin, etc. I read them out – usually with a few props to liven it up. Then I put the children in mixed ability teams (let them choose a team-name) and create a quiz, where questions relate to the text in ways that are appropriate for stage and year group. I will ask Year 4 to explain the moment of greatest tension in the story and offer five points to the team who best express themselves. I ask Year 3 to create a similie to describe Icarus and Daedalus in flight for three points. I might ask Year 5 to justify the reason a character has behaved in a certain way in the story. It’s surprising how willing children are to engage in higher-level thinking if you make it fun, competitive and highly verbal! Be prepared to dock points for making too much noise. You can easily go from here to a curriculum-appropriate focus.