Classroom Management Tips for Subs

Students joke while substitute instructs in the background

Any substitute teacher you ask will tell you that classroom management is the most challenging aspect of the job. It’s true, maintaining control of 30 students you have just met is certainly not an easy task. Depending on the grade, some student’s may have had years of practice learning exactly how to undermine a guest teacher. Sometimes, it only takes one troublemaker to throw off the entire day. Wondering how you can keep your classes under control? We’ve gathered 5 tips from teachers and subs to help you manage your classroom!

1. Be Confident

The first rule is to be confident. This may sound silly, but classroom management isn’t just a response to misbehavior. It’s a preventative measure that starts the moment you walk into the classroom. Students can smell fear. If you don’t show that you are confident, they will take advantage of your apparent weakness. So, what should you do? When the bell rings, introduce yourself. Make sure you speak clearly, stand tall, and make eye contact. It’s simple things such as posture and tone of voice that communicate your control of the classroom. If students see that you know what you’re doing, it will be easier to gain their respect.

2. Break Up the Day

Most of the time, teacher’s will lay out a lesson plan for you. Whether it’s been left on the desk or been sent to you through Tagg’s messaging system, take note of breaks. Arrive early enough to get a handle on the morning’s activities and classroom rules. While student’s are at lunch, double check what’s supposed to happen after they come back to class. This way, you won’t have to take breaks to look at the lesson plan and can maintain the student’s attention.

3. Walk Around

Imagine students are busy working on an assignment. You may be tempted to sit at the teacher’s desk and work on something else. This is a common mistake made by guest teachers. While you may think you have the class under control, students will notice your inattention and abuse it. Instead, try walking around the room. Ask students individual questions such as “what have you decided to write about?” or “how are you doing with the assignment?”. This will keep them on their toes. With you watching, they’ll keep working and want to be prepared in case you address them.

4. Bring a Behavior Incentive

A great way to keep your class under control is by providing behavior incentives. Now, this does not have to mean sweets. In fact, most teachers advise against food because all schools have different policies and you don’t know what kids are allergic to. Consider using a hole punch card. At the beginning of class, lay out cards on students’ desks and tell them to write their names. If you notice them displaying good behavior, punch a hole. Students who get all holes punched by the end of class, get to pick a prize. You can even have a similar incentive on the board that applies to the whole class. Prizes could be anything from bookmarks to 5 minutes of social time.

5. Have Some Activities in Your Back Pocket

Most seasoned substitutes will agree that the most common cause of misbehavior is downtime. When the students have nothing to do, they’ll fill that time themselves by talking, using their phones, or just being disruptive. So the best defense against downtime is having activities for students to do. Always come prepared with a backup activity that is age appropriate. These can be individual or group tasks. For example, for younger students, read a picture book out loud. For older students, place brain teasers or writing prompts on the board while they wait for other’s to finish an earlier assignment. Keeping them busy will keep you in control.


Have any other classroom management tips? Tell us in the comments below!


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