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Helping the Primary Relief-Substitute Teacher Succeed With Your Class

Following my retirement from full time teaching, I became a relief teacher working in primary schools. I found that many teachers failed to plan effectively for their classes when they were absent. This often made it difficult for the relief teacher to do a satisfactory job.

My reaction to that was threefold. Firstly, I would write a “thank you” at the bottom of a teacher’s planning when they left a workable plan for me. I would always explain what I was able to accomplish. Secondly, if something was unworkable, I would say so in my report and replace it with a suitable activity, one I had probably used in another class successfully. Thirdly, I would collect good lesson ideas given to me by the class teachers to use in these circumstances.

The experience of poor planning is the catalyst for what appears below. It is designed to give the primary teacher some practical ideas for lessons that come out of my experience as a relief teacher.

Lesson Ideas could include:

  • A book to read to the class
  • A period of U.S.S.R. – Uninterrupted Sustained Silent Reading
  • A Mathematics exercise
  • Period of writing practice
  • Time for a quiz (as a revision, perhaps). This could be a competitive one – girls v boys.
  • Simple hands-on activity
  • Worksheets, with instructions, that continue your teaching sequence. Include answers if appropriate.
  • A time out where the students do some physical activities outside the class room.
  • A buddy’s lesson. Here an older class works with a young class on an activity to help the young students develop while this activity helps the older students develop mentoring skills.
  • Completing assignment or group work can be suggested. However, you need to give the teacher full instructions about what the class is actually doing. Otherwise, I find, students waste much of the time. Knowing what is happening will allow the relief teacher the chance to offer help and keep the students on task.
  • If you give a computer lesson, make sure you leave detailed advice for the relief teacher as well as selecting user-friendly software. Otherwise, “Murphy’s law will raise its ugly head. My advice here is to be wary of leaving computer lessons.

Obviously, lesson ideas should be related, wherever possible, to your teaching program. That way, the students are more likely to treat the work left seriously.