Monday, August 30, 2010

Emergency Lesson Plans

I don’t think the discussion about How To Make Substitute Lesson Plans is complete until a mention is made of Emergency Lesson Plans.  They are an essential element to proper lesson planning.  As a teacher, you never know when you’ll wake up and discover you need to take your child to the doctor, or some other serious scenario that you could not anticipate, prevents you from going to work the next day.  Even if your principal doesn’t require it, it’s always a good idea to do this.

My advice is to make emergency plans at the very beginning of the year, or even over the summer, and have enough plans to last a few days.  You probably won’t need them, but if you do, you won’t have to worry about your class.  Just make a note in your sub folder about where you keep the materials and lessons for emergency plans.

Keep in mind that emergency lessons are things that you would otherwise not cover during the school year.  Emergency lessons are only for emergencies.  You also want emergency lessons to still be substantive, not simply mindless worksheets that your class would finish quickly.  A little bit of planning and organization at the beginning of the year prevents any issues later on.

If you’re looking for emergency activities, some teachers opt to purchase from various sources.  I would suggest first looking on the net for free activities, and using reproducible books that you may already own or that you can borrow.

A Couple of Ideas for Emergency Lesson Plan Activities:

  •   Writing assignments/journaling are excellent activities for emergency plans.  Students could write a story, a response, an essay or a journal entry.  You can probably find hundreds of stand-alone journal prompts in books or on many websites.  Just select a few and offer your students a few for the lesson.  Also, writing assignments can usually be tacked to the end of whatever activity you’ve planned, whether it’s reading a story, reviewing an article or watching a movie.  Writing usually takes awhile for students to complete, so you get the same effect of assigning several worksheets without having to make copies.
  • Reader’s theater plays are also excellent for emergency plans (or any plans, really… I have a particular bias towards these plays).  What’s great about them is that they are pretty easy to find, they can be read in groups or by the entire class (cooperative learning), and they are pretty flexible when it comes to framing a lesson around them.  Simply have the class read the play and write or create something in response.  Reader’s theater plays are so popular that you can find them for most grade levels and for different subjects.   Here are some links to a few play scripts on the net.
  •    Films are good things to add to emergency plans.  You may have videos in your classroom already, or you could record some programs from PBS.  Use the film as a backdrop for a lesson by having students write a response.
  •    Classroom magazines also offer ample opportunities to be used in lessons and, again, they are convenient because you may already have them in your classroom.  Students could use old magazines to write responses, draw diagrams and graphic organizers, answer questions, etc.
  •    Picture books can be the basis of great plans.  Keep some of your favorites that you don’t plan on using during the year.  Picture books can be read easily by a sub and used to lead the lesson.  Picture book read-alouds work well even in higher grades, and you can create activities based on the stories.
  •    Teacher reproducible resources give a lot of good things you can use to make copies for emergency lessons.  They’re often packed with worksheets, lesson ideas, word lists and other activities.  You may have many to peruse through, and you can also borrow some from other teachers and your school’s library.
  •   Supplemental material in textbooks is one of the easiest and most accessible options.  There are probably several pages that you don’t plan on using in your textbooks.  Extra pages between chapters and units in the textbooks could give your students extra practice over the concepts.  Your teacher’s edition may have some notes about extension assignments for some of these materials.
  •   Review games are always a great addition to any lesson.  If your class has a favorite game to review spelling or vocabulary words, math skills or science and history facts, then consider it for your emergency plans.

The Caffeinated Teacher has a really good example of advance planning for a sub.  She has a sub tub (which I think is a good idea), and several lessons divided into labeled folders.  In the event that something happens, her class would have great lessons to work on until she returns.  That’s the goal!

As long as you keep a general procedure list in your emergency lesson plans, a substitute or any other staff member should have no issues with educating your students in your absence.



  1. Creating emergency lesson plans is another idea that seems like common sense but I'm sure most teachers don't put for the effort to implement. Personally out of all the emergency activities you have noted, I believe that a writing assignment is the best option. Ofcourse as a writer I am clearly biased, however no matter what the students are learning at the moment, they will ALWAYS be enriched by exercising their writing ability. Especially in the 21st century when the main form of non-verbal communication seems to be text-messaging, which often makes use of incorrectly spelled words and misguided/non-existent grammar. Writing enhances the students' ability to articulate their thoughts and convey them in an intelligent manner.

  2. I agree! Writing assignments are pretty flexible and you can give them in most subjects.