Friday, January 15, 2016

ELA Substitute Plans to the Rescue

One thing I've learned (the hard way) is that 3 critical elements must be included in emergency plans if my classes are going to run smoothly when I’m absent. 

This is my go-to formula for creating super sub plans:
  • The instructions must be simple (so they’re understood by students and substitutes).
  • The tasks must be relevant (so students know that their work will be revisited or assessed).
  • The lessons must be fun (so that even the most resistant learner will want to do the assignments). 

Simply put: Poorly planned lessons + a day with a substitute = Epic Fail. 

So what kinds of assignments set students and guest teachers up for success?

Here are 3 my favorite activities to leave as emergency plans so the substitute is delivering worthy lessons, the students are enjoying high-interest assignments, and I am feeling guilt-free about missing a day of school:

Activity #1:  Hink Pink Warm Up (5 minutes)

12 Hink Pink cards are included in the Emergency ELA Sub Plans freebie.

Hink Pinks are designed to be used as teacher-led sessions in which students call out single-syllable rhyming answers. 

Example 1: When the teacher announces the clue set, “ARTIFICIAL REPTILE,” a student or students will call out, “FAKE SNAKE!”

Example 2: When the teacher announces the clue set, “BRIEF GRUNT,” a student or students will call out, “SHORT SNORT!”

Activity #2:  Point of View Writing (30-40 minutes)

Pick up these interactive point of view sheets in the Emergency ELA Sub Plans freebie.

The title of this lesson is Make Your Characters Jump Off the PageStudents will receive one Slide and Stop direction card and one 60-80 Word Dash task sheet. 

The substitute will instruct students to drop their fingers into column #1 and slide their fingers up and down the column (without looking) until they hear the word STOP. This will tell the students what their personality types are. Then onto column #2 to find out who they will become for the writing assignment. And finally, the last slide-and-stop (column #3) will identify their setting. 

Students will then write their Slide and Stop combinations on the 60-80 Word Dash task sheets. 

If time allows, students get into pairs and ask each other questions. Note: The most important part of this task is that students must answer questions as if they are the characters they selected. 

Then students will give us a little peek into their new lives by writing a 60-80 word snapshot. This activity is always a hit with substitutes and students.

 Activity #3:  Research Simulation Task (40 minutes)

Simulated Research Notes and a Ben Franklin biography frame are included in the Emergency ELA Sub Plans freebie.

Biography Research Frames help students realize how fascinating research can be by giving them nonthreatening paragraph frames that make research projects easy to do and enjoyable to present.

In this final assignment, student pairs will jigsaw information about Benjamin Franklin and come to consensus about what information should be included in the paragraph frame.

Students will present their paragraphs when I return.

You can pick up a set of ELA substitute plans here:

Thanks to ELA Buffet and Desktop Learning Adventures for hosting this blog hop.

That's it for now, so until next time…stay committed…teach with passion…and inspire students with who you are.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Jimmy Fallon Guide to Test Prep (Part 1)

Random Object Shootout: Celebrity Edition

When it comes to having fun, playing games, and boosting the overall energy of guests and viewers, nobody does it better than Jimmy Fallon. 

As a talk show host, he engages individual guests and groups of guests in crazy games that stir their competitive natures while giving viewers a peek into the celebrities’ true personalities.

What Jimmy understands is that fun activities get people to bond quickly, to focus intently, and to enjoy the experience of being on his show.

Isn’t that what we want students to feel like in our classrooms?

With Jimmy’s playful spirit in mind, watch this clip of Random Object Shootout. Then try a less-messy version of it in your classroom.

View on YouTube
In this game, Jimmy lines up weird or seasonal objects and challenges celebrities or celebrity teams to a Shootout. The player or team with the most points at the end of the game, wins.

  Random Object Shootout: Student Edition 
(The No-Mess Trash Can Basketball Review Game)

Game Rules:

1) Divide the class into 2 or more teams.

2) Set 2 trash cans - draped with nets - at different distances from a piece of tape on the floor that will serve as the free throw line. 

3) When team members answer questions correctly, they can earn 3 points by sinking one of the random objects into the trash can that's been placed closer to the tape - or 5 points by sinking an object into the one that is farther away.

Shootable objects for the game shown included a stuffed rabbit, a roll of tape, an Irish Beanie Baby, a sneaker, a mini-basketball, and a pack of Huggies Diaper Wipes. 

I always include a mini-basketball as one of the shooting options. And when we play the game without a theme, I ask students to volunteer personal items for the Shootout.

4) The game is over once all the items have been shot.

In case of a tie, every member of each team will line up to shoot the mini-basketball into one of the trash cans. The winning team is the one that scores the most points.

Transforming Trash Cans into Basketball Hoops

Wide-mouthed trash cans, basketball netting, and orange, vinyl tape.


1) Drape basketball netting over the outside of 2 trash cans. I used 11 inch trash cans from Bed Bath & Beyond (around $7.00 per can) and basketball netting from Amazon (around $3.00 per net).

2) Attach the nets to the trash can rims with orange, vinyl tape. Then trim away the excess netting inside the trash cans.

3) Add a mini-basketball (along with a few random or seasonable objects of your choice), and you’re good to go!

                                                               Setting the Stage

My favorite game cards to use with Trashcan Basketball Shootout (either to introduce the game or to use in place of review questions) are HINK PINKS. Here's how they work: Each question contains a two-word clue like ROSE COCKTAIL. The answer must be a set of rhyming synonyms for those clue words. For this question, the answer would be PINK DRINK because pink is a synonym for rose and drink is a synonym for cocktail

Here are a few more:

Answers: Strong Song, Blue Shoe, Quick Pick, Loud Crowd
100 Hink Pink Game Cards are available here.

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That's it for now, so until next time…stay committed…teach with passion…and inspire students with who you are.