Engaging Substitute Teaching Plans for Middle School Students

Substitute Teaching Plans for Middle School Students

Being a substitute teacher in a middle school classroom can be both exciting and challenging. Middle schoolers are beginning to test boundaries and develop their identities, which makes classroom management crucial. At the same time, their increasingly complex thinking skills allow for engaging lesson plans across subjects.

With thoughtful preparation, middle school sub plans can keep students productively occupied, minimize disruptive behaviors, and ensure continued learning in the teacher’s absence. This comprehensive guide provides tips and examples to set substitute teachers up for success.

Table of Contents

Making a Great First Impression

The first few minutes with a new class set the tone for the rest of the day. Here are some tips for getting off on the right foot:

Introduce Yourself Confidently

  • Share your name, background, and enthusiasm for teaching. This builds your authority and rapport.

Set Clear Expectations

  • Review classroom rules and procedures. Remind students to raise their hands, listen respectfully, and stay on task.

Show Interest in Students

  • Ask them questions and listen to their answers. Learning names build connections.

Convey Excitement for the Day’s Activities

  • Briefly explain the lesson plans and emphasize the engaging parts ahead. This builds buy-in.

Remain Calm But Firm with Any Early Tests

  • Some students may push boundaries or act out early on. Calmly redirect them and apply consequences if needed. Starting strict allows you to loosen up later.

Presenting Effective Middle School Sub Plans

Presenting Effective Middle School Sub Plans

Advance planning is key for sub-day success. Here are tips to create engaging sub-plans:

Provide Detailed Instructions

  • Thoroughly explain locations of materials, lesson procedures, transitions, and behavior expectations. Don’t assume anything is obvious.

Include Meaningful Content

  • Avoid busy work. Select activities that align with current instructional goals and give students a chance to learn.

Incorporate Varied Formats

  • Combine direct instruction, collaborative activities, hands-on projects, and multimedia to reach diverse learners.

Tap Into Their Interests

  • Pick content they can relate to and express opinions on. This intrinsic motivation leads to deeper investment.

Offer Some Choice

  • Provide choice boards, differentiated tasks, or options within assignments. This autonomy engages students.

Plan for Transitions

  • Schedule water breaks, snacks, and movement between sit-down activities. This maintains engagement.

Limit Downtime

  • Structure every minute and keep a contingency activity ready. Down moments often spur misbehavior.

Go-To Activities for Middle School Sub Days

On short notice, sub plans may be vague or incomplete. Having go-to activities in your back pocket can save the day. Here are some flexible options to fill time productively:

Current Events Discussions

  • Let students share headlines from news websites or magazines. Debate perspectives and connections to class material.

“This or That” Debates

  • Pose fun pop culture debates like books vs. movies and pizza vs. tacos. Students argue preferences in pairs or small groups.

Personal Timelines

  • Provide timeline templates for tracing key life events. Students can illustrate and share with the class.

Would You Rather?

  • Lead funny “would you rather” scenarios. Students explain their choices and ask follow-up questions.

Trivia Games

  • Find trivia lists related to course subjects and divide the class into teams. It’s a fun way to review.

Character Interviews

  • Assign fictional characters for students to research online. They create interview questions and answer in character.

Photo Scavenger Hunt

  • Provide a list of silly photos students can recreate with classroom objects and themselves. Award creativity.

Drawing Contests

  • Give simple prompts like “science lab scene” or “favorite book character” and vote on the best drawings.

Maximizing Learning During Independent Work

Maximizing Learning During Independent Work

Sub plans often involve independent work like reading, writing, and worksheets. Here are tips to keep middle schoolers focused when working alone:

Provide Clear Instructions Upfront

  • Set expectations for what to do when finished to avoid off-task behaviors. Check understanding.

Make Direct Connections

  • Explain how independent work ties into prior and future learning goals. Show its value.

Set a Purpose

  • Rather than just completing a worksheet, have students produce something to present, display, or turn in.

Use Accountability Tools

  • Share checklists, timers, and progress charts to keep students on track.

Incorporate Engaging Content

  • Seek unique primary sources, case studies, and multimedia to analyze. This boosts interest and effort.

Offer Choices

  • Let students select books for literature circles, essay topics, or the order they complete tasks.

Use peer Models

  • Have students who finish early share their work as examples before helping peers. This builds community.

Provide Ongoing Feedback

  • Check on progress individually and offer redirections, clarifications, and praise.

Keeping Middle Schoolers Engaged While Teaching

When directly instructing middle schoolers, engagement is crucial. Avoid the dreaded “deer in headlights” look by:

Starting with Relatable Hooks

  • Open lessons with funny videos, current events, or funny analogies hooked to the topic.

Infusing Humor

  • Look for ways to creatively interject your personality and age-appropriate jokes. This ups rapport.

Sprinkling Brain Breaks

  • Invite students to stand, stretch, or take a 1-minute dance break throughout lessons. They’ll refocus afterward.

Using Props and Visuals

  • Incorporate tactile objects, diagrams, art, and technology when possible. Multiple modes boost retention.

Playing Review Games

  • Try team Jeopardy, basketball facts, and timed quizzes. Friendly competition motivates.

Facilitating Discussions

  • Allow debate around controversial issues and open-ended text questions. Monitor closely.

Asking Thoughtful Questions

  • Mix knowledge checks with bigger questions that require analysis and unique connections.

Running Engaging Group Activities

Group work allows middle schoolers to collaborate, share perspectives, gain confidence, and develop communication skills. Follow these tips to maximize productivity:

Explain the Benefits of Working Together

  • Emphasize how they can support each other, catch errors, and achieve more than independently.

Keep Groups Small

  • Pairs and trios work best. Larger groups often get unfocused.

Assign Meaningful Roles

  • Rotating roles like facilitator, recorder, materials manager, and reporter keeps everyone accountable.

Model Expectations

  • Demonstrate what teamwork looks like and sounds like. Set the bar high.

Monitor Closely

  • Move around the room to check understanding. Prevent off-task chatter early.

Incorporate Healthy Competition

  • Time groups, allow presentations, or recognize exemplary teamwork. Friendly competition motivates.

Check for Understanding

  • After group work, allow pairs to share key points or unresolved questions. Clarify and summarize.

Managing Middle School behaviors

Managing Middle School behaviors

Despite the most engaging lesson plans, misbehaviors still occur. Maintain classroom control with these tips:

Establish Your Authority

  • Speak confidently, make eye contact, and follow through on consequences. Don’t take disrespect personally.

Praise Positive Behaviors

  • Compliment students for following expectations first and often. This motivates others.

Circulate Constantly

Your proximity curbs off-task behavior. Gently redirect with humor whenever possible.

Remain Calm

  • If you become angry or defensive, students gain power. Calmly restate rules and consequences instead.

Follow Through Consistently

  • Back up verbal warnings with actions like moving seats, calling home, or assigning detention. Don’t make empty threats.

Avoid power Struggles

  • For argumentative students, table the issue for after class. Removing their audience prevents escalation.

Add Accountability Structures

  • Use behavior charts, incentives, assigned seating, and firm boundaries. Many middle schoolers thrive on these.

Seek Support If Needed

  • Follow teacher protocols for contacting security or administration if major issues arise. Don’t hesitate to get help.

Concluding a Middle School Sub Experience

The way you leave the classroom is just as important as your entrance. End on a high note by:

Allowing Closure

Give five-minute warnings so students can reflect on their work and ask clarifying questions.

Communicating Gratitude

Thank students for their cooperation, participation, and hard work. Leave a note for the teacher highlighting positive behaviors.

Encouraging Continued Learning

Challenge students to teach someone at home one key idea from the day. This boosts retention.

Straightening Up

Direct students to help tidy up materials and put away devices. Leaving an orderly room shows respect.

Making a Memorable Exit

Share one positive thing you noticed about each class. End with a silly joke or funny story to be remembered.

Reflecting on Successes and Areas to Improve

Substitute Teaching Plans for Middle School Students

Assess your strengths and lessons learned after each subbing experience. Set goals for improvement. Each day is a stepping stone in your teaching journey.


Substitute teaching in middle school comes with unique challenges. However, entering each classroom prepared with solid lesson delivery skills, engaging backup plans, and behavioral management strategies allows you to create a productive environment where learning happens even with the teacher away.

Review the tips in this guide and continuously improve your toolkit. Building strong classroom leadership abilities as a substitute will serve you well on your journey to becoming an effective middle school educator. Stay positive and expect the best. With the right mindset and preparation, you can make a lasting difference in students’ lives, one sub-assignment at a time.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How much detail should sub plans have for middle school students?

Sub plans should provide very clear, step-by-step instructions for middle school students. List locations of materials, explain where students will move throughout activities, detail the instructions and expectations for each task, and note how to fill every minute of class. Leave no room for students to improvise or make poor behavioral choices due to lack of direction.

  1. What are some engaging lesson ideas for an English/language arts sub plan?

For ELA, you could facilitate a short story literature circle, a debate on a current controversial text excerpt, a research project on authors, a creative persuasive writing activity with fun props, reading and analysis of high-interest article excerpts, or an interactive vocabulary review game. Avoid busy work and tap into their interests!

  1. When should I call the office for help with middle school behaviors?

As the sub, you should handle minor issues like redirected off-task chatting, calling out, or occasional rudeness on your own through reminders of rules, proximity, separating students, or short timeouts. However, immediately call security or administration if you face issues like physical aggression, walking out of class, outright defiance, dangerous behaviors, intimidation, or destruction of property. Don’t hesitate to get expert support.

  1. What if the sub plans don’t cover the full class time?

Always arrive early to look over sub plans, materials, and timing. If activities seem light on content, have backup plans ready like short videos, current events discussions, trivia games, journal time, or hands-on projects with classroom materials. Better to over plan than kill time and lose engagement.

  1. How can I make the day go smoothly if students are rude or challenging?

Starting out strict, calmly following through on consequences, using humor, keeping them busy, checking in individually, and highlighting positive role models are all key strategies. Also emphasize that rules are non-negotiable because you need their help having a productive day. Building rapport and communicating that you’re on their team helps immensely.

George Bowman

George Bowman: An education enthusiast on a mission to ignite curiosity and empower learners through innovative teaching methods and personalized experiences.

Learn More →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.