What? No Lesson Plan?


April 25, 2023

Your job as a guest teacher is always easiest when you start the day with a detailed lesson plan.

But more than likely, there will be days when you walk into the classroom and there’s no lesson plan to be found.

There could be several reasons for that: the teacher’s absence might have been a last-minute emergency, or maybe the plan is done, it’s just not where you’re looking. It never hurts to ask the school secretary or another teacher – perhaps the lesson plan is just misplaced.

But if there truly isn’t one, don’t panic. You don’t need to queue up the TV cart for a day of videos. If you arrive to every assignment armed with ideas for down-time, you’ll be prepared to handle the day with or without a lesson plan.

Here are some tips for days when you’re on your own with no lesson plan:

  • Gather ideas from educational websites. These websites are a great resource for last-minute activities, and there’s no shortage of ideas on them. Prepare a list of websites categorized by content and age group.
  • Use writing prompts. Writing practice is an activity that will improve students’ skills in any subject, and they are a great way to engage students.
  • One popular writing prompt for younger students is “Our teacher is missing.” Students can dream up a story about why their teacher is absent that day.
  • Other great writing prompts are writing from someone else’s viewpoint, giving advice to a new student, writing about a school day, or creating a comic strip.
  • For older students, have them write about current events, or opinion pieces on popular news topics. Those activities will teach new skills, help students learn new perspectives, and engage them in a worthwhile activity.
  • Prepare ahead of time: Doing the prep work before your assignment will always pay off. Consider creating a guest teacher binder where you can keep activities and resources. This binder will serve as one of your greatest resources throughout your guest teacher career. Include lessons that have worked for you, master copies of worksheets and any other useful information. Be as thorough as possible when leaving notes about activities you have done before and any instructions you will need when the time comes. Make sure they’re easy to read and follow.
  • Reading. When all else fails, silent reading is a great activity. A simple trip to the library to let students pick out age-appropriate books will give you something to have them do throughout the day when there is free time.
  • For younger students, choose to read a book aloud together and discuss it afterwards. Or choose a book you can read to them and start a discussion when you’re done. Reading improves overall literacy and a student’s writing ability. Discussing the book afterward helps improve students’ reading comprehension, a skill they will need throughout their life no matter what career they go into.

You never know when a lesson plan won’t be available, but these tips will help ensure that when that happens, the day will still go smoothly. Arriving at the school with a list of activities as your backup plan will make you a more confident and effective substitute teacher.