I have never been an occasional teacher. It's kind of my ultimate nightmare... the nerves all teachers get before the first day of school - EVERY - SINGLE - DAY! I doubt I could do it, and kudos to those of you who do!

Little boy looking surprised - Caption reads "What makes a great French sub plan?'"

I have some ideas about what a good substitute lesson plan is compared to something that will make the day go horribly wrong. Some things, I learned from experience the hard way, and other things are just my gut feeling.

Right in the middle of a project, where the students understand exactly what is expected of them, and they have all the tools necessary to do their work is the perfect time to be away, if you ask me. Of course, illness, injury and family emergencies never happen at just those moments. Today was one of those "not quite right" moments for me, and I thought that the items in my "Emergency Supply Plans" folder would be just fine, but alas... apparently I have an unhappy substitute teacher.

I'd love to hear from those of you who have been a supply teacher in an FSL classroom. What are the best types of lessons for the teacher to leave behind, in YOUR opinion?

teacher sick in bed with a thermometer

(P.S. I do intend to follow up this post in a couple of weeks with some suggestions of my own.... and you can now read that post by clicking here, if you like!)


  1. Hello! I stumbled upon your site while google-searching for French flashcards, and I saw your post and that nobody had responded. I've been a supply teacher and a classroom teacher for four years now, and I thought I'd offer my two cents.

    Supply teachers appreciate work that is straightforward (the kids will understand fairly easily what is being asked of them) but that is not just babysitting previous work (which is boring for the teacher and difficult to police). I appreciate things like homophone worksheets, dictées, stories to read to the kids with worksheets to complete afterward, straightforward but complicated art projects (will take a lot of time to set up/clean up but the kids will enjoy doing it and will stay on task). I hate "watch this video and ask them questions, then play numbers bingo with them".

    Something like "they are all at various stages of these four different assignments, have them work on their choice of the four" is only good if the class is independent and self-motivated, because we don't want to be chasing after 10 different children in rotation to get to work on whatever it is they should be doing. However, if your class IS that kind of group, this can be fantastic to leave for a supply teacher. The best work to leave is work that HAS to be completed by the end of the lesson, so that we can hold recesses over the kids' heads. If it's "get as much done as you can" then the kids can be lazy and it's much harder to catch it and to help them be productive with their time.

    We also appreciate lots of back-up options (plans b through f are nice). If you think an activity will take 1 hour, assume that it might be done in 30 minutes and leave at least two other things that the kids can do if they're done quickly. There's nothing worse than when the kids realize we are making things up, or that the work they are doing is not set by their own teacher.

    Finally, leave details of your behaviour plans, especially for any children who are on individual behaviour plans. Explain your sticker chart/traffic light system/table points and exactly what the consequences are for behaviours. It helps primary/junior aged children if they know that the supply teacher knows their routine, and any smart supply teacher will remind the kids of the expectations at the start of the day, and then enforce them as closely to the way the classroom teacher would as possible.

    In addition, request detailed notes from the teacher on behaviour (list three best, any offenders) and then follow-up, to create an atmosphere of continuity in your classroom. If the kids know that they will pay for their behaviour with the supply, they will be more likely to show some respect.

    Hope this is helpful! I personally love supply teaching.. WHEN the classroom teacher leaves good plans and the kids know that they have to behave for me (almost) as well as for their own teacher (my regular classes know that with me, if they're good, I'll have some kind of interesting activity sheets for quick workers, that there will be some free time at the end of the day and that I'll probably look the other way if they're chatting while they work... there has to be SOME perks to having a supply teacher, after all!)

    Hope this is helpful! I am in the business of educating classroom teachers about how to help their classes and supplies succeed together.

  2. I'm working on this same problem. I have high school French students. So far films are very easy. I have them listen for cognates and compile lists of words if they are novices. If they are more advanced I have them describe the movie in sentences when I come back. This builds their vocabulary. Worksheets on cognates were good for the very beginning of the year. Even without me there, they can identify un leopard and un lion as animals and le football and le tennis as sports. And it gives them confidence to know that some aspects of learning French will be easy.
    For my French IIs (beginning of the year) I typed a sample introductory email from a French student. I left an outline of what they could include in their own letter (J m'appelle... J'aime aller...J'aime faire...). They had to write their own email back to the French student describing themselves. Later in the year, I think if I leave a word bank, some simple smaples, and paper and markers, they should be able to write their own short stories. (For example: choose a main character, like une grenouille, une fille blonde, etc. Choisis un lieu: un chateau, un foret, etc...)

    1. I have never left such a creative-writing activity for my students, but it sounds like fun, and with enough support (the samples & word bank) they MIGHT engage in that. My current students are younger than yours, but they've been writing stories in English for years, so it shouldn't be asking too much. Thanks very much for sharing your ideas!

  3. Leave english instructions as you may get a non-french speaking teacher. When I have a sub in or when I sub in someone elses class, I always like to have some ready to go activities that supplement the lesson or unit we are working on. My kids learn early in the year how to play a few vocab and grammar games that can be adapted to any unit we are doing which makes it easy for a sub to come in and have kids lead the game.

    1. Thanks so much for the comment!

      I absolutely agree about the instructions in English. The arrangement I have currently with my French Immersion classes is that the supply teacher gets instructions in English, AND the class gets the same instructions from me directly, in the target language, by logging into Edmodo & displaying them for the class (as opposed to the supply teaching writing the instructions for the day on the board in English). I'm happy with how this is working, and hope it isn't seen as too much interference by my subs.

  4. Hi, I am NOT a Canadian, I'm British and I sometimes cover French lessons. I didn't learn much French when I was at school, but understand more than I can speak. I'm looking for some cover lessons that I can just give to children when the regular teacher hasn't left anything (usually due to sickness)...preferably something other than a bog-standard worksheet that both they and I know will go in the bin when the regular teacher gets back...


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