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Supply Survival Tips: No Lesson Plans

05/08/13

Sarah is an Australian-trained Primary and Secondary teacher working as a supply teacher in London schools through Protocol Education.

Sometimes the advice "take work in case nothing is set" seems a bit vague when faced with a class of students you know nothing about! Sarah reveals how she get through it and provides us with some practical tips.

Getting through a supply day when no plans have been set!
 
When you're the full time teacher of ONE class you get to know each student's strengths and weaknesses and the very first day you met them becomes a distant memory. When you have to leave a suitable lesson for them in your absence you have to think back to when your students abilities were relatively unknown to you to provide an accurate plan for the teacher covering.
 
When you walk into a new classroom all you see is 30+ eager faces staring back at you... waiting.  Nothing is more frustrating than hearing the words 'there is no plan'. A supply teacher's worst nightmare. The advice 'take work with you' just doesn't help. You cannot prepare for a class you have never met. 
 
HOWEVER there are a few things that WILL help you:
  • Fiction books are your friend. Kids, no matter what age, love to have a story read to them. It also opens up a world of literacy work that can be done. You could work on their creative sides and get them to write an alternate ending. Focus on adverbs, adjectives and verbs, list them and find alternative words that could be used. The could re-write the story using more adjectives.
  • You can work on their art skills by getting them to draw the main scene of the story and write key words next to objects (great for EAL) and you can provide questions about the text for students to answer. You can even explore the history and geography content, with research tasks.
  • There are many concepts of maths that you can explore but because you don't know the students I would suggest a survey of the class produced in a tally frequency chart that can then be turned in to a graph. You can use different types of graphs depending on the age: bar, line, pie etc.  Good surveys to include are: travel mode to school, favourite flavour of ice-cream or eye-colour!
  • History and geography can be more difficult without knowing the topic the students are learning and being able collecting resources beforehand but my suggestion is using computers if possible or finding library books
  • PE is always fun but its good to incorporate different skills like balancing, ball-skills, team work and coordination. My favourites are tunnel ball and leader ball!
  • Science is also tricky, but I suggest exploration-based activities. You could always take the students outside to find leaves or rocks and ask them to write a leaf or rock diary entry on how they came to exist.
  • TA's can be invaluable. They know the class and their abilities  - so always turn to them to ask questions.

I find that when there is no plan, my plan changes throughout the day as I get to know the students abilities. I generally find that the most helpful people will be the students themselves. Even nursery classes know the routine and what they should be doing at certain times.

All schools are different and the best you can hope for is a good day during which you are happy, the students are happy, quality learning took place and that when their class teacher returns they don't turn to the books and say dismissively  'oh that was just the work they did with supply'...

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