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!st Graders build a fort during math lesson


Junior Member
I subbed in a 1st grade class this week and while I was teaching math one boy snuck away to the reading area. As I was walking around checking students papers and assisting the students "who didn't get it" another student got out of his seat to help the 1st student build the fort. They took a cardboard petition and put it on top of the teacher desk and the book case ajacent to it. I didn't notice the fort until I had walked around the entire class and got back to the reading area. I was hot!!! Told the students to get back to their seats and took note of their misbehaoir. At the end of the lesson, I scolded both of these boys for this behavoir.

The next day during math, they did it again and this time they made a slide with a chair and a piece of wood from a bookshelf. Their were 5 students this time. One of the boys who had been an accomplish the day before was a part of the action again this time. I was really hot!!! I grabbed a chair and sat in the reading area as the students scattered and then realized that they should tear down the fort. I didn't speak to the class for almost 5 minutes as I walked around the class and fumed.

I felt like I should tell the principal about it but then realized that that wouldn't be a good idea because of 2 days being tricked. The following day I was back in this classroom. When the class arrived, the first thing I did was change the seating arrangement. I had every kid in the class crying because they were able to sit next to their buddy. I felt vindicated. The day was a little better as far as chattiness but was by no means good.

We are on spring break now. I have a good feeling that I will be back in this classroom after the break.


Senior Member
I'm sorry they did this to you, but I'm wondering how five children get out of their seats and build a slide without you noticing them up in the first place. Are you constantly circulating around the room during the day? And I don't understand what changing the seats of the whole class accomplished. How would doing that stop the offenders from getting out of their seats? One thing I would keep in mind is that elementary students (especially in the younger grades) need routines, which I'm sure their teacher has plenty of in place. Keeping that in mind, moving all of them to different seats might not be the best solution since their seating arrangement is usally critical to many of the established routines in the class. Can you think of a few things you might do differently next time?


Junior Member
What would I do better next time?

I was put in this class on a Monday and told the teacher was sick. At lunch time, I was told the teacher would be sick all week. I asked if she was in the hospital or had a death in the family. The principal just said that she was sick and would send lesson plans for the week. This was the week before spring break and I was really confused how a teacher could get sick on a Monday and be gone all week.

After the day was over, I talked to the principal about the status of the teacher who was ill. She said that she couldn't say anything other than that she was sick. On Friday, I asked is the teacher would be coming back after spring break and was told that she wasn't sure. I told the principal that this class wasn't my idea job choice.

I talked to a few of the teachers colleagues and found out that the sick teacher was a "first year teacher" and had had lots of stress throughout the year. I finally figured out that "sick" meant "burned out".

I was burned out by the 2nd day that I taught the class.

As a sub, I generally like to keep the teachers routine and use her discipiline stategy. In this class, there is no plan of attack to deal with discipline.

One of the lessons was to put the math vocabulary in ABC order but there was not alphabet in the classroom and no alphabet on the student's desks.

As I was writing up the sub notes last night, I wrote up discipline problems on 12 students. 12 students out of 25. That's terrible.
3 of these students were sent to the principal office during the week.


Senior Member
I wish

you better luck next time. Some classes are difficult for a reagular teacher or sub. I find that when mine are getting ready to get into mischief, they need to do more. Usually a busy studetn finds a lot less time to get into trouble.

Marie from PA


Full Member
1st grade, Ugh!


I don't care what 1st grade I'm in, I have problems. There is just something about that age group that distress's me, and it must also for the regular teachers, because I have problems in those classrooms every time I teach. I can usually handle a half day, but once it becomes a whole day, I'm whooped!

I almost attribute it to the curriculum of that age group. Back in the old days they would be starting what the kinders do today. It's like the system is pushing the kinders to come along faster than they emotionally should be going. Even if most of them have been in a pre-k, etc., they really should be spending more time on social skills; not to tattle, to sit in their seats for longer periods of time, and to learn negotiation skills, etc. But the kinders I've had are required to sit in their seats for 1 1/2 hours at a time! My goodness, the wigglies occur!

1st graders tend to have a relapse when they've been pushed too hard in kinder. It's as though they have to recapture their "youth", and thus act out as kinders. Tattle tailing is one of their worst offenses. And don't worry about not being able to keep track of them. There is only one of you, and 25/30 of them! They've learned to be silent when they want to be. I'm surprised you didn't have 10 of them telling on the fort builders. Do have a sense of humor about the fort building, and think of it as being an initiative skill. Because really it is, especially if they were home and not having to be molded into a little soldier following along with all of the directions they get all day long.

Good luck with the little ones. Obviously, the principal thinks you're a good fit with the little ones, otherwise, you wouldn't be in the same classroom. The Wong's book might be a good one to reread and get some ideas if there is actually a chance you'll be going back, because after a week, it's the "first day of school" again, especially if the regular teacher hasn't been well, and has not established minimal "rules".

Take care of yourself!



Junior Member
Thanks for the nice words

I told myself when I started teaching that I would immulate a DUCKk and let things roll off my back and not carry them into the classroom the following day. With this class, I see myself as more of a PORCUPINE because it's been 2 days since I was in class and I'm still thinking about it.

Very true about the first graders reaching a certain maturity level. This school had 1/2 day kindergarten last year and this year it's full day for the little ones.

On Friday, this school received their preliminary assessment scores and they had the highest in the district.


You need to figure out a more effective way to get these kids back on track. You CANNOT be writing up 12/25 kids when you are a substitute. It sends the message that you are incompetent. The last thing a principal wants is to deal with minor disciplinary problems that you should be able to handle yourself. This is bad advertising for yourself if you ever hope to get a job in this school system. Instead of fuming around the room (there first graders for god's sake!) you should be using your skills to think of strategies to keep them on track. Doesn't this teacher have a discipline/rewards system? What's the classroom management like?


Junior Member
No classroom rules or management plan

There wasn't anything. I was very surprised that there wasn't any color cards or anything in the classroom. For a temporary fix, I made a time-out corner.