I hate taking off work. It’s a pain to prepare work and instructions for a sub, and I would like my students be able to work on something meaningful and worth their time. On the other hand, sometimes it can be hard to give them something that I can trust them to do if I’m not there – and, if I’m being honest, that doesn’t require me to grade a whole stack of papers when I return from wherever I’ve been.
So here’s my list of go-to assignments for when I need to be out. Some of these options might fall into the “busy work” category for some teachers, to which I can only say… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. I don’t feel bad because we do almost no busy work otherwise in my classes, and I truly believe a worksheet once in a blue moon is not going to kill a kid.
- Workbook pages and/or worksheets from our textbook series (Cambridge) and other series.
- Crossword puzzles created using the website Armored Penguin. I usually make these puzzles about vocabulary, but you could really do any number of things, like questions about a story you’ve been reading. I like crossword puzzles because of their self-checking aspect.
- Old National Latin Exams. The easiest way to assign these is to just print them off and pair them with a Scantron or something like ZipGrade, but over the past year I’ve slowly put together some Google Form versions of these so that they are self-grading.
- Reading comprehension questions about Cambridge stories from Quia and Quizizz. You can print these off or have students take them online (I think you need a paid account on Quia to do this, but this option is free on Quizizz).
- “Tests” from Quizlet. Every Quizlet set has the option to create a test, and you can adjust the settings so that the test creates different types of questions (fill-in-the-blank, matching, short answer, true/false). You can print these off for students. I’ve also had students complete activities on Quizlet, but you need a paid teacher account to keep track of what students have done.
No Prep – good for emergencies or the “sub folder” because they can be adapted to any chapter, stage, story, etc.
- Magic puzzles. This is something I think you have to have done together in class once or twice before to make sure students know how to do them when you’re not there. Magic puzzles are a vocabulary activity, although you could also use them to match something like a character and a description. I usually have students hold their magic puzzles until I get back. Then they cut them up and switch with a neighbor to try to complete their neighbor’s puzzle. Here’s an example I made a few years ago for my students.
- National Latin Exams, like I mentioned above. Reserve a set for your emergency sub plans.
- 4-word stories. I have created a template for these for my students (feel free to use it) that has up to 12 frames. Normally when we do these in class, I just do an adapted version of what Keith talks about in his blog post: I give the students XYZ number of words they can choose from and then tell them something like “you must have XYZ number of sentences that are compound sentences.” To create instructions that could apply to any lesson or unit, however, I would just say that students must use at least XYZ number of words from the vocabulary list or Quizlet set for that chapter/story/stage. One last thing: if assigning for sub work, I would not let students work in groups, only in pairs (if they can be trusted to behave for a sub) or alone.
- Reading guides (here’s my template), which we use in our program as a regular assignment. The idea of a reading guide (h/t Maria Kepler) is that students read a story on their own before coming to class and write down vocabulary and structures that give them trouble or are unfamiliar. When we do these as homework in Latin II (about twice a week), I just assign them a story and a number of lines, usually no more than 20. For a sub folder assignment, I would use instructions that say that students should use the next story in their book.
There are also options that are a little bit more prep-heavy like having students complete an EdPuzzle or a student-paced Pear Deck. I haven’t done either of these for sub days, but depending on what you do with them, you could get close to replicating a normal day in class.