Tag Archives: advice for supply teachers

Supply teaching ideas

As a supply teacher, you should find that work has been prepared for you. Sometimes however, this is not the case. It doesn't happen too often, so don't worry too much about it, but having a handful of great, adaptable supply teaching ideas up your sleeve can help calm your nerves, increase your confidence, and improve your chances of being invited to do supply work again!

I have a few emergency lesson plans here you might want to take a look at for one off lesson ideas, and there are plenty of time fillers to be found on the forum.

 As for other ideas, you might want to start by writing a literacy lesson plan based around one story or poem (look at the 3rd category in the shop for inspiration). Then think about how this could be adapted to each year group, each ability.

Guy the Grumpy Gargoyle by Gill JepsonIf you do this exercise properly, it should give you the confidence you need to take it into any classroom. Don't sweat the small stuff: if no planning has been left, the Headteacher should be suitably embarrassed and will not be looking so closely at your planning that they notice you haven't included any visual stimuli for the visual learners!

When you've brainstormed that lesson idea, see if you can eke out a numeracy / history / geography idea from the same story / poem – you should be able to find something that's not too tenuous!

Where next? There's a great quick read here on teaching your own child whilst on supply.
Check out our resources area here too.

The Perfect Food for Supply Teachers? Supply Teacher Tips

My top supply teacher tips #1

Dark chocolate.

The darker the better.

Take a bar, snap it into tiny little pieces. Pop all the tiny little pieces into a Tupperware snap-lock container. A small one. Put the container into your supply teaching bag.

Take one or two pieces as and when necessary during the school day.

Top tip: dark chocolate sticks to teeth like crazy. Also a good idea to carry a compact mirror in your bag to check!

Dark Chocolate - The Ultimate Food for Supply Teachers?

Few noises are more satisfying than the snap of a good chocolate. Pre-snapped, you can carry it in your school bag for the ultimate break-time secret snack!

Do you have a secret stash? What’s the essential, edible component in your supply teacher’s tool kit? I hope you’re not on of those savoury people like my partner! He carries chunks of cheese round for emergency situations!

Working without transport

Can you be a supply teacher with no car?
The answer to this is probably dependent on your location, location, location!
Working without transport may be your only option.
Me? No. I couldn't. I could use my bike to get to one school. The next closest school is not within cycling distance for me. The first bus through the village is after 10am. Taxi? Maybe, but it would cost around a third of my day rate to get to the third closest school. I live in a rural area, and schools are not only few and far between, but also have a relatively small intake. Small intakes mean low staff numbers, means barely any supply work on offer.
Is supply work possible without you own car?
Consider what transport is available to you, and make a list of the schools you could access (in good time!) via a) Shanks's pony, b) bicycle, c) public transport and d) private hire transport. Whatever the number of schools however, you must also consider the likelihood of getting work with them. Just one friendly school that puts you to the top of their supply list may be able to provide you with enough work, 23 schools that already have regular supply teachers may not.
Do you do supply work without a car? Are you able to access the Cycle to Work tax-free bikes scheme?
Where next? There's a great quick read here on holding an appropriate teaching qualification on supply.
Check out our resources area here too.

Survival tips for working when your family is young

My supply teaching tips #2
Preparation – take 15 minutes each evening to prepare for the next day. Check your timetable, make any packed lunches, put a load in the washer, stack the dishwasher, lay out clothes and pack bags for the next day.
Allocate a day to each household task – Monday, focus on your online shopping order for the next week; Tuesday, deal with any letters to and from your children’s school / nursery; Wednesday, love your kitchen; Thursday, love yourself, etc. Do make sure one of these days is about you, it will give you strength to manage the rest of the week!

Getting the family to help

Cherish the weekend – don’t let it become your housework time, let it be your family’s time. Even if you have to work every night after the children have gone to bed (leaving one night a week free for spending time with your partner), weekends are precious.
Communicate with your children’s carers – while you are at work, your children may be at school, or with a child minder, at nursery, with their other parent or grandparents. Whomever they are with, you need to be able to communicate effectively with them. You need to trust that you can get hold of them whenever you need to, and that your child will be safe with them. You also need to have plans in place for if you are detained at work. Make sure you have all contact details not only stored on your mobile device, but also on paper.
Rope them in – from as young as 18 months my son was helping with the laundry! As long as its fun, it can be done. Don’t start off with extrinsic rewards such as sticker charts, the rewards may end up getting larger as your child grows. Make it a game, a competition, a race, and let the children know that you really appreciate them helping you with a big kiss, a high five, and a cuddle at the end.
Raising a young family? Had a flurry of last minute calls recently? Share your top tips on how to manage the household and the job!

Remembering Children’s Names

by Sharon Wood

Supply teachers can have a hard time. A lot is expected of you as you walk into a strange room, in a strange location, full of strangers! There are many ways to help your day in the alien environment run more smoothly and effectively, and learning the names of the aliens, enhancing communication with them, is one of the best. Read on for top tips.

I have found over the years that nothing leaves a better impression with support staff (and therefore teaching staff!) than me having learnt all the children’s names by first break. I’ve got it down to a fine art now.

It makes an enormous difference to the effectiveness of my voice when I am able to tag the name of a child onto the end of a sentence. Teaching becomes easier, therefore I am more enthusiastic, therefore the children are more enthusiastic, and more learning takes place.

If you know the names of the children, marking work at the end of the lesson/day becomes much more effective too. Use the child’s name when marking, and remark on how well they contributed in the class discussion etc.

Learning Children's Names

Below is a garbled list of things that I do, some stand by themselves, some needing support from the others.

  • Arrive early enough not only to read the lesson plans for the day, but also early enough to get a grip on the classroom layout and to find and use all evidence of children’s names within it.
  • Collect the register early, and read it, and read it again.
  • Look at the names of the children on coat hooks/locker doors/drawers.
  • Look at the star charts, who has the most/least, and do they have teams/table names? It’s easy to learn the group/table names before the children come in and use them effectively.
  • Often younger children will have photographs on the wall, especially in the autumn term, with their names, giving, for example, a character trait/favourite book.
  • Aim to learn the names of five children as they walk through the door, introduce yourself, ask them their name, and commit it to memory (use alphabet/numerical help, physical attributes etc.)
  • Aim to learn another five, and revise those first five, while the children settle down in their chairs. These next five must be seated apart from each other – i.e. one from each table. If you arm yourself with the name of one child per table, you can then address each table separately – ‘Can the children continuing their conversation above me on Rita’s table, please stop now!’ To get a hold of this second lot of names, look at the drawers/coat hooks etc., that they go to, and ask to look at their book as they settle down at their table.
  • Listen to the children. You will hear another five before you take the register just by listening to the first ten children you have addressed. They will say things like ‘I haven’t got my reading log, I left it at Tom’s house last night,’ whilst pointing in Tom’s direction.
    [bctt tweet="Top tips for learning children's names? #supplychat"]
  • Do not pressure yourself into learning any more during the register. Simply use that time to confirm the 15 you now hold in your head. Ask the children to put their hand up when you call their name, before they answer you. Look directly at the child and, after they have said ‘Good Morning Miss,’ you say ‘Good Morning Joe.’ Take in the face of that child now sat in their correct place.
  • Repeat the child’s name every time you talk to them, until you know you know it.
  • When you’re going round the class, red pen in hand, look at the front of the child’s book when you get to them, it’s always got their name on… and use it while you’re talking to them about their work.
  • Test yourself, and let the children know that that’s what you’re doing. At break time/lining up for assembly, let them know you’re about to give yourself a test, get them to stand behind their chairs, and they can only line up if you know their name. They love this game! Make an extra effort to communicate with the children you couldn’t name, after assembly.

Where next? There’s a great quick read here on free lesson plans for literacy. Check out our resources area here too.

Continuing Professional Development for Supply Teachers

by Sharon Wood

SupplyBag.co.uk exists to support supply teachers. Here, we have many articles on how to get started as a supply teacher, and how to be a better supply teacher. It is in everyone’s interests for you to continually improve your performance in school.

As part of the Government’s commitment to raising the effectiveness of supply teaching the former DfES commissioned a set of self-study materials for post induction Supply Teachers in order to support their Professional Development.

The materials consisted of five books to enable independent study, but have since been lost into the ether.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) offers a calendar of courses to aid in Continuing Professional Development, a good proportion of which are aimed specifically at supply teachers.

CPD for supply teachers

Most other teaching unions and associations offer CPD courses.  It is worth contacting your local supply teacher recruitment agency regarding CPD that they may offer.

The Supply Teacher offers a CPD course for supply teachers, focusing on increasing confidence, improving improvisation skills, developing professional relationships etc. It is a home study course, self-assessed, and includes a Certificate of Attainment. The course is priced at £20, and is available to supply teachers here:

Swansea University often offers Continuing Professional Development courses for supply teachers.

 Where next? There’s a great quick read here on Daisy the Donkey’s First Fare – Russ Brown
Check out our resources area here too.

Making an Impression

The 10 Commandments of Supply Teaching – in no particular order. by Sharon Wood

Making the right impression as a supply teacher

Work smart and you’ll be a great supply teacher!

  1. Be friendly to everyone right from the start – cleaners and secretaries are often closest to the Head Teacher!
  2. Leave the classroom tidy – but don’t mess too much with the teacher’s desk.
  3. Be confident – if a school thinks they can leave you to get on with it, without having to fuss around with you, they’re more likely to ask you to come back.
  4. Tell them you had a great day – flattery gets you everywhere remember! This works with the children too.
  5. Be prepared – for anything to happen!
  6. Learn namesstaff and children, as quickly as possible, and remember them.
  7. Be smart – in your appearance and in your working. Leave plenty of information on how they day went for the class teacher. Remark on the children’s achievements, and any disappointments. Avoid making unnecessary derogatory remarks about the children! Think – would it be professional for you to tell the child’s parents? If not, don’t tell the child’s teacher either!
  8. Be efficient – If you need to sign time sheets etc., do this before the end of the day. Many secretaries and bursars do not work until the end of the school day, use your morning break to clear up any business which is not related to your teaching timetable.
  9. Mark the workI’ve always been a diligent marker, sometimes seeing everyone leave bar the caretaker before I have left a school. Mark at every opportunity you have: break, lunchtime (I mark whilst eating, but if in a new school, I do make sure I leave time to pop into the staffroom at some point for five minutes) and during lessons. This does not mean sit and mark the numeracy while the children sit and do their literacy! I make it a policy not to use the teacher’s chair/desk during the day. I walk round with my red/green pen in hand while the children are working (KS2 – obviously this doesn’t apply so much in Hands-On KS1) and the children really do respond to this. While the children are on task, they very much appreciate a word or two every so often regarding their work. Take a few tours of the classroom while they are settled and mark their work as you go. It’s easy to think it’s unfair when it’s well after half four when you leave, and you were only officially paid until 3:45pm, but it doesn’t often go unnoticed, and it’s one way to help ensure the school contact you again offering work. And remember, those teachers who walked out half an hour after the children left, have probably taken home 64 books to mark, a policy to review, staff meeting notes to tweak, an assembly to write, and a parents’ evening to prepare for!
  10. Follow the lesson plans – It is no small feat managing to fit the current curriculum into a school year, along with Christmas panto’s, field trips and sports matches, so don’t make it any harder! Teachers will not specially request a supply teacher in whom they have no confidence that a) lesson plans are followed, and b) work is marked effectively.