Great Sub Plan Ideas

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Garbalogy Archeology

[Students will need to bring in or find 10 items of trash for this activity – ‘nothing that is sticky or wet or likely to mildew, of course!]

  1. List the contents of your trash bag on a piece of paper. Describe each item clearly so that your reader knows what the pieces are. You should have twelve items described. Finally, briefly describe the trash bag itself.

  1. Lay out the items on your desk or table (or even the floor) and look for stories. Some of the pieces might connect in some way. For instance, an old shoe splattered in yellow paint laying next to an old soap wrapper might suggest someone who was painting his house last Saturday, had an accident and spilled paint all over himself. He was such a mess, he had to open a brand new bar of soap in order to wash thoroughly. It would be great if there was also a gum wrapper in the pile – he could have been trying to find a place to put his worn out, stale gum when he leaned over a bit too far and fell off the ladder -- the bucket of paint following right behind him. Spend more than 10 minutes just thinking about possible connections until almost every trash item has been connected in some way. Feel free to write brainstormed ideas down on the same piece of paper as the list of trash.

  1. Next, using skills learned in our lessons on “Show, don’t Tell,” write a character description of the person or family or group of friends in whose dwellings this trash was excavated. You’re pretending to be an archeologist or a detective trying to piece together a picture of this person, or persons. The only ideas about which you are allowed to write are ideas that are generated by your trash items. You’ll be tempted to turn this into a story, but avoid the temptation. Stick to the pure description of one person or a group of people. You’re trying to make your character so vivid that your reader would recognize this person if he saw him on the street, or talked to him on the phone. If you need a story line, you have permission to describe the character and then cleverly weave in a major conflict of the story, but no further.

  1. Remember, be creative – don’t tell us about the way someone is, SHOW us how he is through the character’s actions, words, clothing, conversations, comparisons, tone and other strategies listed on the “Show, Don’t Tell” sheet. Don’t forget those interesting movement words, both implied and real movement!

  1. Finally, this is also an exercise to develop your ability to synthesize ideas. This means you’re bringing together unrelated things, finding connections, then creating something new from that association.

Now, sit back, look over your trash bag items and begin creating the picture in your mind of what this person was doing on the day this trash was placed into the bag...

Due: ___________________________________

Special Assignment:

Write a Letter to Yourself

In June of next year, you will receive a letter addressed in familiar handwriting – your own! It was written by you a year ago (right now). It will make predictions about your future self and it will tell you who you were a whole year ago. In a way, it’s a bit of time travel for yourself as well as being an interesting record of growth. It’s a great experience to write one of these.

To do this assignment that will not be completed for one year, write a letter to yourself that includes the following information:

  • Date

  • Greetings

  • Predict the weather and what clothing you’ll be wearing when you read this letter

  • Predict one book you’ll probably have read and what you thought of it

  • Describe a movie you saw during the year.
  • Predict who won the presidential election.

  • Make a prediction for one discovery that will have been made during the year.

  • Name a school subject you enjoy and why.

  • With whom do you “hang out” at school?

  • What specific advice do you give yourself for a successful 8th grade year?

  • What do you do after school on a typical day?

  • What do you consider to be a fun time with friends?

  • What do you have planned for the summer?

  • List 3 of your favorite sports teams and/or music groups/singers

  • Describe what you like about yourself.

  • If you could change one thing about yourself, describe what it would it be.

  • Describe an accomplishment you are proud of this year.

  • Briefly describe your family.

  • List three things you wonder about.

  • In the larger country or world, what issue(s) do you worry about?

  • Is there anything else you want do add?

  • Farewell and Signature

Don’t forget to address the envelope given to you with your home address. I’ll pay the postage to get it to you. GIVE THE LETTER AND ENVELOPE TO ME WITHOUT SEALING THE LETTER INSIDE THE ENVELOPE.

Have fun with this, but be as sincere as possible in your statements. In the past, students who have treated it seriously have reaped the greatest rewards, while those who were silly felt foolish when they received their letters. Choose the greater reward. That’s it! All letters are due Wednesday, June 21, 2000.

Create Your Own Written Language

Directions: Design a new language. It has to be organized, logical and creative. Have fun -- put a little of your own style into it. The following aspects should be included in your written presentation:

  • A name for your language

  • A complete translated alphabet or symbols

  • Example words and phrases

  • Demonstration of how you pluralize words

  • Demonstration of how you punctuate

  • Completion of five illustrations of the five most important contributions

made to civilization with a written description of each, written in

your new language, accompanied by an English translation. Explain why you

chose the contribution as important.

  • An attractive cover


While you’re gone, ask students to design a deck of Taboo cards based on terms you supply. Here’s how you might introduce the game before asking students to make their own cards:

  • Make up forty or more Taboo cards about a unit of study or several units of study. To make a Taboo card, turn an index card vertically and write a vocabulary word at the top. Place a thick line underneath that word. In the remaining space under the line, write four or five words/concepts your students would normally associate with the vocabulary word. Place all the cards in a stack face down.
  • Call a representative up from each of two teams. The two sit at a table in the front of your room. Set a clock for one minute (two minutes, if necessary). Ask one player flip over the first card and give clues to her teammates. Her goal is to get them to say the vocabulary term at the top of the card without using any of the related terms listed below the line on the card. She is not allowed to use any gestures, rhymes, sound effects, or any portion of the vocabulary word or Taboo words below. If an teammate says one of these words, however, the player can use the term in her clues.

  • The team can call out the answer at any point. If the team members guess correctly, their representative puts that card to one side, pulls up the next one, and starts giving clues. The process continues until time is called.

  • The opposing team has a buzzer (or squeaky toy) which team members can use if the person accidentally uses a Taboo word or any portion of the intended vocabulary term in her clues. When that happens, the card is given to the opposing team’s card pile and a point is awarded to the opposing team (the one with the buzzer). If a player can’t communicate a term successfully, she can pass on the card, but a point is awarded to the other team for each card passed. Keep playing until both teams have had the same number of opportunities to give clues or time runs out. Throw in a few cards relating to students’ interests, just to add a little more pizzazz.

Even if you haven’t gone through this with students ahead of time, you can ask them to make up the cards while you’re away. You’ll have to supply ample index cards, however. I’d suggest 10 for each student, if possible, the first time you do it.

Cleavor Endeavor
This is a game in which students create clue cards and then use them with each other to move a marker around the board. While you’re away, they can make the clue cards, and if they’ve made them ahead of time, they can play the game. Here’s a card – can you guess the topic?

  1. T

    here’s no need to write substitute teacher plans or travel to a conference

  2. One of the probable futures of teacher professional development

  3. Can be archived
  4. Interactive experience with a national presenter who doesn’t need to leave his own home

  5. Requires the use of a computer hooked to the Internet

  6. A spider’s home tossed like a fisherman would do

Answer: A “Webcast”

You can make up ones for the subject you teach. It’s played like the board game of the same name. Players are given six clues, one at a time and in any order that the clue-giver wishes to give them. If a player guess correctly in the first clue or two, he earns more points. The total points earned is 7 - # of the clue given. Example: If a player guesses by the second clue, he earns 7-2 or 5 points. You can play by points or the player gets to advance that number of spaces on a board you design.

The Dot Game
This is just a lot of fun as you explore logic, and it’s easy to learn. Draw a set of dots that looks like this (7 dots, 5 dots, 3 dots):
. . . . . . .

. . . . .

. . .

Taking turns, players circle 1, 2, or 3 dots horizontally only. The player that circles the last dot loses. The more they play, the more students discover patterns that lead to wins. They must anticipate their opponents’ moves.

In the Manner of the Word (Adverb Game)
One student leaves the room. The rest of the class chooses an adverb secretly. Student returns and asks classmates to perform certain tasks, “in the manner of the word.” Student tries to guess the word. Example adverbs: clumsily, angrily, nervously, sleepily, romantically, happily, fast, intermittently, tenaciously


  • Groups of students line up according to criteria. Each student holds an index card identifying what he or she is portraying.
  • Students discuss everyone’s position with one another -- posing questions, disagreeing, and explaining rationales.

Students can line-up according to: chronology, sequences in math problems, components of an essay, equations, sentences, verb tense, scientific process/cycle, patterns: alternating, category/example, increasing/decreasing degree, chromatic scale, sequence of events, cause/effect, components of a larger topic, opposites, synonyms


  • Choose a player from each of two teams. Ask these players to turn around and face their respective teams while you write the Password on the front chalkboard. Let the audience see the word, then erase it.

  • Choose a player to start and ask if he wants to pass or play. If he passes, he will have the benefit of two clues before guessing the word, if the other team doesn’t guess the word in the first clue. If he chooses to play, he can guess the word in the first clue, earning a higher number of points.

  • Allow all seated team members to use their notes/textbooks to look for one-word clues. The clues cannot be proper nouns, sound effects, or gestures. Each player takes turns calling upon members of his team as they offer one-word clues to the Password. If a player cannot guess the word after his team’s clue, then the other team can offer another clue to their own player – but the point total is now lower.

  • Let whichever team misses the word earn five points by spelling the word correctly.

[See next page for scoring sequence. Note that after the 5th word, the word is thrown out and two new players and a new word are selected.]

Clues Number

Points Earned

1st clue

10 points

2nd clue

9 points

3rd clue

8 points

4th clue

7 points

5th clue

6 points

Academic Rummy

  • ‘Played just like Rummy card games. Instead of a straight such as the four, five, six, seven of spades, however, students get the components of a sequence or set you’ve taught. Examples: steps in photosynthesis, process for dividing fractions, all the elements for a animal’s habitat, four things that led to the Civil War, four equivalent fractions, four verbs in the past perfect tense

  • Students work off a central pile, drawing cards, discarding cards, just as in they would do in a Rummy or Gin Rummy game until they achieve a winning hand.

  • ‘Alternative: Each hand requires a different configuration -- a winning hand could be a set of three and a run of four, two sets of four, a run of six and a set of three. Decide the escalating configurations before beginning the game.

  • While your away, ask students to make up their own decks of cards in preparation to play the game, or if they already have decks of cards, ask them to play the game.

Frozen Tableau (Statues)

Students work in small groups and create a frozen tableau that uses every groupmember’s body in the tableau to symbolically portray concepts given to them. They design the tableau in hushed tones so no one can hear them, then the class guesses what they are portraying. There is nothing so abstract that students can’t portray it like this!

One of these is Wrong
Can be used as jigsaw experience, getting-to-know-you game, or to summarize information. In small groups, students share two accurate statements about a topic and one inaccurate statement. The rest of the group guesses which one is inaccurate.

Cornell Note-taking Format

Teach students to use this format and give them practice using it while you’re away.
Reduce Record

[Summarize in short [Write your notes on this side.]

phrases or essential

questions next to

each block of notes.]

Review -- Summarize (paragraph-style), list questions and your responses to them. Reflect and comment on what you learned.

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