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Fail-proof lesson plan ideas for substitute teachers

Whether you come down with the flu, have a family emergency or are attending a conference, at some point or another you’re probably going to miss a day (or more) of school. While some outages are expected, others are not, which is why having several lesson plans in the hopper makes those missed days less stressful for you—and your substitute teacher. Plus, it ensures your students aren’t losing a day of learning just because you’re not there. 

In addition to lesson plans, you’ll also want to do some other preparation for your students and subs to make sure their time together goes smoothly. For starters, it’s a good idea to let students know when you’re going to be out in advance, whenever possible. This allows you to reiterate what you expect of them while you’re out of the classroom as well as the consequences they’ll face if those expectations aren’t met. 

When communicating with substitute teachers, it’s important to be very explicit. You can’t assume they’ll take the same approach to something as you would, so provide clear and detailed instructions to set things up to go the way you envision—and help level the playing field between superior subs and ones who might not be as effective. The main goal here is to share everything you can to help set your substitute up for success. That being said, a well-placed sticky note of thanks attached to those directions also goes a long way toward making your sub feel appreciated (and willing to come back).

Now that you’re familiar with some best practices to prepare for an absence, it’s time to come up with some meaningful lesson plans. We recommend starting with the Start Here, Go Places. Classroom Resources archive. It’s filled with lots of valuable accounting-based activities to keep students tuned in and subs free from frustration. Here are a few that will work particularly well:

  • Intro to interviewing: Developing skills to help you land the job—If your substitute doesn’t have a background in accounting, have them focus on soft skills instead. This activity is a wonderful way for students to learn, develop and get feedback on their interviewing skills to make a positive impression. It includes two downloadable pages— an educator’s guide and a student handout.
  • Budgeting 101: How to be intentional with your spending—Another good option for subs who aren’t well versed in accounting is this financial literacy-based activity. It provides a budgeting overview for students and a discussion guide for teachers. The invaluable information it presents can help your students develop a strong foundation for fiscal responsibility and inform their personal financial futures.
  • Take a Virtual Field Trip—A recurring feature on the site is our Virtual Field Trips. This collection of archived events take students into a day in the life of CPAs across the U.S. working in a variety of industries and roles. Videos of past events range from approximately 45-60 minutes. You can choose one based on the length of class time or the type of accounting that’s most relevant to what you’re currently teaching. Then, upon your return, you can finish the “trip,” if need be, and discuss what students learned from the experience. 
  • Set up a Bank On It tournament—The internet’s favorite accounting game is the perfect way to keep your students’ synapses firing even while you’re away. With several versions to play (including intro-levels, advanced accounting and financial literacy), your class can test their fiscal know-how in different ways each time you’re out. Setting up a tournament is easy—our handy guide will walk you through each step. (Tip: We recommend choosing an additional solo activity from the archive for students who don’t make it very far in the competition.)

With a little advanced lesson planning, some detailed notes for your sub and enough printouts for your entire class (when applicable), your students won’t be stuck biding their time with trivial or unrelated assignments. Store everything in an easy-to-find folder as soon as possible and you’ll be able to avoid the teacher anxiety that all too often surrounds an absence—whether it’s expected or not.