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Small Activities for the Unexpecting Substitute

Lesson Planning ChannelWhether you are a substitute teacher whose lessons fall short of filling up the day or a permanent classroom teacher whose days involve lots of little transitional moments, these lessons will work for you! Included: Ten great activities for substitutes and classroom teachers!

The following activities are the perfect addition to a substitute teacher's bag of tricks! Each is quick and easy, and most require only a few easy-to-find materials. Best of all, they're not just time fillers; they're mind fillers as well -- real lessons for real learning!


For additional tips and great activities for substitutes (or any teacher), see Substitute Survival: Tools You Can Use. Substitute teacher Peg Arseneaux digs into her personal "substitute survival kit" to share ideas with Education World readers!

Click on the lesson headline below to access a complete teaching resource. (Notations in parentheses indicate approximate grade levels for each activity.)


  • Five-O
    Students use logic and deductive reasoning to guess a word. (3-12)


  • Bing!
    Students combine spelling with a game of chance. (K-12)


  • 7-Up
    Students play a game in which they try to identify a student who has touched their thumb. (K-5)


  • Around the World
    Students play a game in which they practice timed math activities. (3-8)


  • Think About It!
    Students use logic, common sense, and creative thinking to solve a number of word problems. (3-8)


  • The Dictionary Game
    Students make up definitions for an unknown word and then try to guess the real definition. (3-8)


  • Area Code Mathematics
    Students solve math problems using an area code map from a local phone book. (3-12)


  • Word-zles
    Students solve a series of word puzzles. (3-12)


  • Fun With Calendars
    Students use the sum of four numbers to find dates on a calendar that form a square. (6-12)


  • The Million $ Mission
    Students figure out whether it is more profitable to start with a penny and double their money every day for a month or to accept $1 million on the first of the month. (3-12)

    Linda Starr
    Education World®
    Copyright © 2010 Education World

    Originally published 08/21/2000
    Last updated 09/17/2010