Great Sub Plan Ideas

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Synectics was designed by William J. Gordon who defines it as, “The joining together of different and apparently irrelevant elements,” or put more simply, “Making the familiar strange.” Using the basic sequence, students:

  1. Learn a topic.

  2. Describe the topic, focusing on descriptive words and critical attributes.

  3. Identify an unrelated category to compare to the descriptions in #2. (“Think of a sport that reminds you of these words. Explain why you chose that sport.”)

  4. Write or express the analogy between the two: “The endocrine system is like playing zones in basketball. Each player or gland is responsible for his area of the game.”

Important: Students are very creative. Just because we cannot see the analogies right away doesn’t mean the students can’t either. They often see connections and differences we do not see.
In 4-Square Synectics, the class brainstorms four objects from a particular category (examples: kitchen appliances, household items, the circus, forests, shopping malls). Then, in small groups, students brainstorm what part of today’s learning is similar in some way to the objects listed. Finally, they create four analogies, one for each object, then share their analogies with the class.

Example: How is the human digestive system like each household item below? Sink, old carpet, microwave, broom

Kitchen sink

Old carpet

Microwave oven


Example: How is the Pythagorean Theorem like each musical instrument below?


Full drum set

Electric guitar


Creative Ideas for Practicing and Using Vocabulary Terms

  1. Forms – Get blank copies of any form students will encounter in the real world of adults and have them fill out the forms using the vocabulary terms. Examples: a will, a checkbook, tax forms, employment applications, hotel registrations, loan applications, wedding applications, car registrations, medical insurance forms, accident reports, time sheets

  2. Restaurant Menu -- Make it look real! Names of items include the vocabulary word, descriptions of items convey the term’s meaning. Example: Antecedent Apple Pie – A dessert so good, it’s best served before the meal.

  3. Game Clues -- Choose familiar board games, car games, or t.v. game show formats.

  4. Taboo cards – based on the popular game. Students write the word at the top of an index card, then list the five terms most associated with the word. Students try to get their teammates to say the word without using any of those terms.

  5. Art collage with all the words in the list.

  6. Shape Spellings -- Students write the words in such a manner as to convey the meaning of the word. Examples: “Tall” written in tall, skinny letters, “Conflict” written with each half of the word leaning toward each other or breaking apart, “Germination” written with each letters sprouting from soil, “Fraction” written as Frac/tion.

  7. Vocabulary Rummy -- Play it just like the card game, except the cards are the vocabulary terms written on index cards. Make up combinations that groups of students are striving for in each hand – Words that express all steps in Mitosis, nouns and pronouns, words associated with a pentagonal prism (five, edges, faces, vertices), words that describe the Industrial Revolution. When someone calls out “Vocabulary Rummy,” he or she must defend his choices with his or her playing partners.

  8. Wanted Dead or Alive Poster – all descriptions and images of the criminal or ruffian include the proper uses of the words and reveal the words’ meanings.

  9. Conversation – dialog between two famous people in which they both use the vocabulary terms.

  10. Rap or Folk Song.

  11. Newspaper Article.

  12. Rules to a new Board Game.

  13. Dictionary for younger children – illustrated.

  14. Movie Poster.

  15. CD-Rom cover and insert.

  16. Eulogy.
  17. Bumper stickers – Different slogans that are similar to structures found on bumper stickers. You can display these on a real car bumper in your room or in the school. Make sure the meaning of the word comes out, or use them purely for spelling practice. Example with the word, “environment”: “Clean up the environment – Our surroundings are borrowed from our children!”

  18. Letter of rebuttal.

  19. A new cereal box for a new cereal.


Your readers want to be treated with respect. They also want to be drawn into your story. You want them to be active readers, not passive. Let them come to their own conclusions. SHOW your reader what’s happening, don’t tell him or her. Do this with creative and detailed descriptions.


* Try an interesting verb (use your list of movement words!)

* Avoid clichés

* Focus on what is smelled, tasted, felt, heard and seen

* Use thoughts in the character’s head

* Look at it from an unusual point of view

* Compare it to something else

* Use dialog to reveal emotions and actions
Here’s an example of a description turned into something more interesting that SHOWS readers what it was like instead of simply telling them...
Change, “The rainforest was humid” to:
Moisture dripped from the large banana leaves and fell upon the damp soil. Every few minutes he had to peel his shirt away from his stomach. The sweat on his face gathered in great droplets and rolled downward, following the curve of his eyebrows cheekbones. Breathing was like sucking mud through a straw -- he hoped at least once he’d get a pocket of clear, fresh air, but each inhale was the same -- wet and full of mildew. Hiking up the steep incline toward the Mayan ruins turned his leg muscles to well-boiled noodles. He stopped and unfolded the map for the seventh time and noted his fingers were wrinkled, like they were after a long shower or swim.”


Directions: Write down any three of the following descriptive phrases, leaving ample space between them. Then in each space, write descriptions (of three or four sentences) that SHOW the reader what it was like instead of telling them, similar to the example above. Use the strategies listed above as much as possible.
Descriptive Phrases to Re-write:
A. It was raining. J. It was a difficult decision.

B. I was afraid. K. The desert was dry.

C. She was excited. L. The river was full.

D. It was a boring afternoon. M. The fog was thick.

E. The light was bright. N. The classroom was busy.

F. The car was really old. O. The house needed an owner.

G. The jewel was pretty. P. The map was ancient.

H. The room was a mess. Q. The dog looked dangerous.

I. She was a good problem solver.

Journey to the Land of...

S H A P E S C A P E S !
What is a shapescape? It is a landscape of geometric solid figures made out of folded paper patterns. They are placed on a larger flat surface as buildings in a futuristic (or current time period) city or colony. For instance, you could create a lunar base for the space shuttle, an undersea city, school, or center for scientific study, or it could be a new town located somewhere nearby or in a fantasy country. The purpose is to use all the shapes in a 3-dimensional way and to be creative. The design of the city is up to you.
What do you need to do? Look at the shapes listed in our textbook. Consider how to make each shape. Then, design your city on the paper, marking where each building will be placed and what shape will be used for each building.

Once this is done, you need to draw the pattern for each shape on paper, cut-it out, fold it together, and tape or glue it closed. You may want to decorate your shapes with windows and door designs or names of companies, etc., to make it appear more like a city. Once created, you can glue the shape to the right spot on the paper. Also, consider what color you want your building or structure to be. Use that color of paper.

Finally, give your city a name.
What shapes will be expected to be on your shapescape? Use the following:

(All shapes can be used more than once!)
cube rectangular pyramid rectangular prism

triangular pyramid triangular prism cone

cylinder pentagonal pyramid pentagonal prism

* This is a difficult shape to make out of paper. You may use another material if it will be easier for you. Tinfoil? Clay?
Your shapes must have the correct number of faces, edges and vertices!

Use regular large size construction paper or posterboard as your base. MAKE IT FIRM! You may decorate it with streets or tramways if you wish. If you want to make some geometric vehicles you may. These are ideas to add to your fun, but they are not required.
Language Arts Integration (Choose one):

Create a Tourist brochure for your shapescape. Make it similar to the ones with three panels describing points of interests, a brief history, hotels and restaurants available, pictures of the sites, a small map, a city motto, and anything that makes it look like a real brochure.
Create a Constitution for your new colony.
Create two legends or folktales about former residents of your colony.
This will be an enjoyable activity if you let your imagination dream a little. What would a base on the moon, a city under water or your own fantasy city look like? Ask, if you need help!

Due Date: __________________________________

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