Great Sub Plan Ideas

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A Reading Autobiography is the story of how you came to be the reader you are today and what roles reading and books play in your life. There’s a lot to say in a reading autobiography. Here are some ideas to get you started, in no particular order:

Background questions:

  • Who taught you to read? Do you have any specific memories of these experiences?
  • What books do you remember best from childhood through today? Any favorites? Why? Any you didn’t like? Why?

  • What kinds of books do you like to read now? Did you used to read other kinds of books?

  • Did (and does) anyone read aloud to you? How did (or do) you like it?

  • Did you ever read a series of books (Harry Potter, Hardy Boys, Babysitter’s Club, Goosebumps) in which the same characters re-appeared in subsequent novels? Any comment on series books?

  • Do other members of your family read for work or enjoyment?

  • Have you ever read a book recommended to you by an adult? What was the result?

  • Has reading ever led to something else important in your life?

  • What authors do you like (from childhood through today)?

  • Do you have time to read for enjoyment? If so, when? If not, why not?

  • Predict: What kinds of books will you be reading in high school and as an adult?

Thoughts on Reading questions:

  • What does reading enable you to do?

  • Do you like to read? Why or why not?

  • How do you find a good book?

  • Why do you read?

  • Why do schools teach reading?

  • Do you read because you have to or because you want to?

  • What makes you more inclined to read something instead of passing it by?

  • Do you struggle when you read?

Answer all of the questions. You’ll find that some of your responses are detailed enough to answer more than one question. That’s fine. If you’ve mentioned something once, you don’t have to mention it again. Feel free to add more information if it seems important.

Assignment: Write your reading autobiography based on your responses to the questions above. Organize it in whatever structure creates a clear picture of your background, capabilities, and preferences as a reader, but do not use question-answer style. Successful students will be thoughtful, describe some reading experiences in detail, offer opinions (back them up with examples), and they will take care of mechanics such as proper spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

This activity can be done as it is written, or integrated with content, such when describing a ziggurat, a political system, a type of cell, or a math formula:

Descriptions without Adjectives Activity

  1. Brainstorm a list of interesting 10 interesting objects.

  1. Choose one object and describe it without using adjectives (words or phrases that modify nouns or pronouns). Instead use feelings, uses, experiences, comparisons, and anything you can think of to describe the object. The idea is to look at things from more than the obvious angle.

Example for describing an ocean:
It’s the embodiment of antithesis, capable of destroying and nurturing, with more than a few parts, but it can function as a whole. We think we know it by playing at the beach, but we find how little we know when we explore the bottom of an iceberg, or a shipwreck entombed in its silt. There are answers it has still to give us. Stories yet to be told about its mystery. It’s power and nutrients give hope to humans.”

  1. Once done, exchange descriptions with a friend to make sure there are no adjectives in your description, except for pronouns and articles that are functioning as adjectives. For example, in the phrase, “the car,” “the” is an article modifying “car” (a noun) so technically it is an adjective. Don’t worry about these, however. You can have them in your descriptions.

  1. Turn it in to the black basket.


  • Write the lines on paper several times.

  • Practice reciting them while looking at your eyes in front of a mirror.

  • Practice reciting them while standing in front of your family or friends.

  • Memorize the lines backwards

  • Memorize in phrases, not individual words, as well as “bridges.”

  • At every waiting time in your life, practice your lines.

  • Use different voices to recite the lines.

  • Have someone call the cues for you.
  • Repeat the lines over and over by reading them first, then look away from the page and repeat them, then read them aloud again.

  • Use memory devices (mnemonics). Example: for the order of operations in math (parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction) we use “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.” Another example: You can also use a familiar structure in your life. Imagine yourself walking into your home.

  • Have a crazy conversation with someone, in which each time one of you speaks, you have to use one of the words/concepts/lines you’re trying to memorize.

  • After memorizing for a while, go do something else. Let some time pass. Then, recite your lines/concepts again.

  • Make sure your mind is awake:

  • Get plenty of sleep for the two or three nights prior to the performance or test

  • Eat a good breakfast

  • Hydrate

  • Get fresh air/movement/exercise

  • Read something interesting or intellectual, that you understand.

  • Listen to classical music -- the rhythms, emotions, and mathematical

  • patterns enable your brain to process information better. It really works!

  • Draw and color a picture of the concepts/lines.

  • Use props if allowed.

  • Practice reciting the lines or concepts in the same place you’ll be asked to remember them. The familiarity will make it easier to recall the lines.

  • Make an outline of the lines or concepts, and memorize just that.

While you’re gone, ask your students to select and memorize an already published poem as well as one of their own creation. Then ask them to practice performing the two poems with each other. Here is a suggested evaluation sheet for your mini-festival of poetry – provide it or something similar to it on the first day you announce the idea.

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