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need bag of tricks for new sub

mme NPB

Full Member
I am going to be starting as a sub for grades k-6 in the next few weeks and
would love to get some advice re: practical activities or games that can be done when the lesson plans are inadequate. I am talking specifically about time fillers that require little or no materials, something I can keep on index cards in my briefcase,for example. If anyone out there can point me in the right direction, I would appreciate it.


Junior Member
I never really had a problem where the lessons have been inadequate and or not had lot to do. Only one time I can think of and that was in P.E. Then the students gave me suggestions on games to play or the teacher had so much different sports equipment I was able to come up with things on my own.

Most of the time when I have subbed I have asked other teachers who teach the same grade or a grade close to that on suggestions and usually they have extra worksheets, coloring papers or other ideas. Many times when I have had extra time the younger students love to be read to and many teachers have tons of extra books. Also if I happen to know a student who is responsible in the older grades I have asked them for ideas on different activities they do in class and that helps.

For the most part other teachers or paras are great help and usually have quite a few ideas. Sorry if I wasn't a lot of help.



Here's a game you can play with 3rd-6th. You have to keep them calm because they love to participate and like to call out. One student comes and stands in front of the chalk/white board. Above his/her head you write a noun or proper noun so he cannot see it but the class can. You call on students one at a time who are not calling out to give a one word clue (they will often let two words slip...they have to give only one!) as to what the word could be. The student can guess the word at any time. I usually take up to 10 clues and write them on the board so I can read them back at any time. If the student does not guess it after 10 clues I will give clues that are very obvious. Whoever gives the clue that leads the student to the answer gets to come up next. Students may not give a word as a clue that appears in the word on the board: such as rain for rainbow. This is so simple and students love it! You can alter as you see fit.

Mad Libs are also great for these ages...encourage silliness!

You will accumulate enough activities in time through your experience. I've been subbing several years and still come across interesting things.


Junior Member
Here's a game 3rd graders gave me using their spelling words. Have everyone stand in a huge circle. Start with one kid and go around the circle spelling the word one letter at a time. If a child doesn't know what letter to say when it's their turn they sit down. At the end of spelling the word (after the last letter is called out) the next person is out and has to sit down. Then go on to the next word until there is only one kid left standing...the winner.

word #1 "bought"

kid 1 b
kid 2 o
kid 3 u
kid 4 g
kid 5 h
kid 6 t
kid 7 is out and has to sit down

next word 'cat'
kid 8 c
kid 9 a
kid 10 t
kid 11 is out and has to sit down

and so on and so on. This game is really fun if the teacher makes a silly buzzer sound and nods her head for the kid who misses or is the next in line to sit down. You know, like on one of those old tv game shows. My kids LOVED this game. I also had treats to give out at the end (I love my 'bribe bucket"). At the end of the game when there are only 2 left and if the one misses a letter to loose the game (not just being 'next') I make the winner child spell out the entire word out loud. If that child misses then the other child is not out and both get another chance. This game can fill a good amt of time.


Here's great math game to play with 3-6. You might try it w/ 2nd graders using only 2 digits. It is Math Mastermind. If you have ever played the game mastermind, it's a lot like that, but with numbers instead of colored pegs. Tell the class that you are thinking of a 3 digit number, and their job is to guess what it is. Call on a student, who will guess a random number. Lets say they call out 492. Write this number on the board. Next to it have 2 columns. Label one column CORRECT DIGIT, WRONG PLACE, the other column label CORRECT DIGIT, CORRECT PLACE. Lets say the number you are thinking of is 519. You would then put a 1 in the 1st column (correct #, wrong place), and 0 in the 2nd column (because the 9 in 492 is in your number (519), but it is not in the right place). Using that information, call on another student to guess the number. If they are paying attention, they will say a number with a 4,9, or 2 in it to see if one of those is the number in your digit. Suppose they say 359. You would write this number under the first number they said. You would then put a 1 in the first column, and a 1 in the 2nd column. (the 5 is a correct digit, wrong place and the 9 is the correct digit, correct place). It is really a great game, and I have had a lot of success with it. It sounds more complicated than it is. Try it once, and you will see it is easy to execute. Not always so easy to figure out the number, though!


Full Member
Thanks, Stacy!

I had to read your post several times to understand the game, LOL! But it sounds terrific! I've printed it out, and plan to use it.

Thanks a lot!

mme NPB

Full Member
great tips!

Thanks for the ideas. They are exactly the type of thing I am looking for. If there are anymore out there, bring 'em on! Another request for those of you who have been subbing for a bit. When you start in a new classroom and the kids have arrived, what is the best way to begin. Do you introduce yourself and then launch into your rules, or have some of you found it unnecessary to do that? I have heard and read different things regarding this.Thanks.


Full Member

I used to bring along my rules on a chart, which I attached to the board with magnets!

I no longer do that, and it doesn't seem to matter, as far as class behavior. The kids know how they are supposed to behave, and I may remind them (or penalize them) accordingly, but I now feel that it was a waste of time for me to go over my rules.

I do keep track of their behavior though, often by having groups compete against each other for the most "quiet points", which I write on the board. The reward is that I write in my note to the teacher which group worked the quietest. (When someone in a group calls out, for example, each of the other groups get a point. If all groups are working quietly for a while, each group gets a point.)


time fillers

I really don't have much to offer, but I have had to use "time fillers" here and there.

I know that kids don't like to write, BUT, writing prompts are good. It isn't just filling time, but it is making them use skills that are necessary in writing. Coming up with a beginning middle and end, making sure they are using correct capitalizations etc.... gives them an oppertunity to practice, you some quiet.

You can make them as short or long as you want.

Another thing that I witnessed another sub doing is current events. They discussed a topic (approiate to the age) from the Sunday paper. It makes them aware of what is going on, and allows them to express their feelings and opinions on the subject.

Word puzzles, mazes, and word hunts are a good one too, but they do rush through them rather quickly.

A good game to play would be one like Mad Gab, or even pictionary, but break them up into small groups.

We have accelerated reader here so I just tell them to read an AR book. That is usually what the teacher does anyways.

Search the internet, there are tons of ideas.

Good luck.