Behavior Management Activities for Substitute Teachers


Substitute teachers work in school systems to fill in for permanent teachers absent for personal reasons or in pursuit of continuing education. Every student loves when a substitute is present in class for the day. Students challenge a substitute's authority, bend rules, and attempt to get away with anything they can. Behavior management skills and knowledge of the class's subject are key factors in the success of a substitute teacher.


  • Wear professional attire. Men should wear ties, pressed pants and a dress shirt. Women should wear professional, pressed clothing. The substitute teacher's appearance sets the tone for the day of substitute teaching. The students, easily distracted from learning, will notice an unprofessional appearance, creating an environment that encourages behavior issues. A substitute teacher needs to be proactive in managing behavior of students prior to entering the classroom.


  • Four skills mastered by a substitute teacher will aid in managing student behavior. Keep students on track with lesson plans or activities; the ability to focus student attention will allow less time for practical jokes or disruptive behavior. Focus on maintaining a high number of positive student-to-teacher interactions, avoiding interactions that could invite unfavorable student responses. Teach expectations for behavior at the start of the day. Learn to respond to student behavior without forcibly objecting; do not create an environment where the students test the will of the teacher. Students will bait a substitute teacher attempting to solicit a reaction to behavior, so do not become trapped by this behavior and respond in a neutral manner.


  • Preparation is imperative to classroom behavior management. Substitute teachers walk into unknown situations each day: a new school system, unknown co-workers, new students, limited familiarity with the classroom or school policies. Arrive as early as possible to the work location. Obtain keys and paperwork from the office prior to the start of class. Read lesson plans and prepare for teaching. In some cases, material is missing or a prepared lesson plan is not available for the substitute. Prepare back-up lesson plans for each subject; carry the lesson plans to each job.


  • Substitute teachers use several strategies successfully to maintain a calm, productive learning environment. Let troublemakers know you are watching; do not ignore them. Remove them from the classroom if behavior is too disruptive. Complete students' homework during class; this is an effective strategy for substitute teachers familiar with the subject. Some students will help solve the problems while others will be occupied copying the answers from the board. Once behavior expectations have been set and students are complying with expectations, emphasize having fun. Tell appropriate stories and engage them in conversation. Break the ice early in the day or period with a story, allowing for more conversation once the lesson is complete.

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