Monday, March 16, 2009

My Mary Poppins Bag: A Substitute Teacher's Tool

Besides the ever handy umbrella, my seemingly bottomless tote bag accompanies me to each sub assignment. Just grab and go! I'll share my Top Ten items to include in YOUR supercalafragilisticexpialidocious bag and the  reasoning behind it! For substitute teachers, lapses in lesson plans can turn a quiet classroom into chaos. I will be blogging about time fillers in future installments. Many of my suggestions can be ordered here: Savvy Sub Store

These include coloring pages, Sudoku, crossword puzzles, word searches,etc. There are a plethora of internet sites that offer free printables. Just Google terms like: free printable worksheets and you'll be in business with several "masters" to reproduce as needed. Play safe: these worksheets should be generic. Don't bring in themes like Disney or other cartoon figures. Not only can copyrighted material be an issue, but generally schools keep product names out of educational materials.


I keep a couple of the "Two Minute Mysteries" and "Five Minute Mysteries" paperbacks in my bag. These are perfect time fillers while waiting for the bell to ring to go home when you can't start a new project, etc. These books are inexpensive and a great investment. Peruse through them and you'll get a feel for the grade level.  I attach Post-It Notes indicating what grade level I believe will understand the passage.


Check your local dollar store and stock up on one box each of addition, subtraction and division. Students love to play the math game "Around the World". Just pick the type that is age appropriate. You can engage an otherwise unruly class in seconds with this game and the classroom teacher will appreciate the extra math practice the students gained. Again, good ole Google is your source if you are unfamiliar with "Around the World". Yes, classrooms may have flash cards, but why chance it?
*Tip: when you get to a student that struggles, be sure to pick an easy problem so they are not overwhelmed.

I am not talking about a giant ball here, folks. Again, my BFF Dollar Store has small soft balls that, in a pinch, can be used for classroom games like Hot Potato or Silent Ball - two rainy day PE options. (Although the quiet Heads Up, 7 Up is my favorite!).

A must-have for yard duty and physical education.

Students LOVE to glance through this binder I've compiled of the world's largest snake, alligator, etc. and other oddities. Just slip the paper in protective sheets. Use your imagination! I pass this around during silent reading times or for early finishers to look at while the rest are finishing up.
*Tip: Make sure all the animals are portrayed in a safe and humane manner.

Bribery - plain and simple! OK, you are probably thinking, "I don't get paid that much, why should I buy candy or stickers?" The answer, quite frankly, is your sanity! Most of the students I teach have come to expect Mrs. P to bring a treat. They have to earn that treat by not getting their name on the board, though. Or, when the class is divided into specific groups, I have group points competition and the top two earn a reward. Depending on the class size, I sometimes manage to make it an across the board tie by the end of the day! Watch the class quiet down as you pick up an Expo pen and start to write tally marks. I have found the perfect treat that is my "signature" now: "SMARTIES". The kids like them, they have a long shelf life and are inexpensive. My mantra is "You've earned a Smartee today because you are so SMART!" I have had alot of positive feedback from this and it is worth every penny! I don't always have a reward if my stockpile is depleted, but often the teacher has tickets or other classroom incentives that I am generous with, as well.
*Tips: Have stickers as an option if you have a student(s) with food allergies. Check the after Christmas, Valentine and Easter sales in the candy aisle for your rewards stash.

8. LUNCH and WATER for the day.
   Quite simply, no nourishment - no energy to get through your assignment.
I usually take a  large bottle of Smart Water because it lasts the whole day. Otherwise, I toss in two bottles of water. Be sure to pack napkins and any plastic utensils you need. When my grocery store has a sale on Lean Cuisines, etc., I stockpile them. So often in a hectic morning there is no time to make a sandwich. I also keep on hand a supply of Slim Fast and drink my breakfast on the way to work. Yogurt and string cheese are great for recess pick me ups!

Freshening up at recess and lunch puts a pep in my step. I tuck in a  small cosmetic bag filled with a hair brush, lipstick, hand lotion and breath mints. Also in the bag is a bottle of Vitamin B-12.  I take one at lunch and it helps me get through the rest of the day with vigor.

I keep a file folder in my bag that holds my current time sheet. I log in the information at the end of the day after writing a summary note to the teacher.  When the pay period ends, it's ready to turn in on the appropriate day. I also have my sub days noted on my master calendar at home and highlight the teacher's name for easy reference/cross check.  Be sure to utilize your  wireless device's calendar application for this purpose, too.

What's in your Mary Poppins Bag?

1 comment:

  1. I totally could have used a whistle yesterday at my PE class. I had to supervise two separate baseball games at the same time, so if I wanted to communicate with the far baseball field I had to walk all the way over. I am going to go out and buy one a.s.a.p.


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