Emergency sub plans! Do you have them?
Will you need them?
This fall especially (2020), you may need to have those emergency sub plans ready. Perhaps your school district is requiring you to have a week, or even two weeks, of plans. Or perhaps you just want to be extra-prepared. What's the best way to approach emergency sub plans in middle school math?
If you're like me, you don't want your absence to cause your math students to 'get behind' in the curriculum...you don't want things to be put on hold or to stop in the middle of a unit. But, you don't always know who will be taking over your math class....will it be a math teacher or someone who has never taught math and isn't comfortable with math?
If you must have the plans set at the beginning of the year, you can't really include the specific content you'll be teaching when those plans are needed.
So what's the best approach for sub plans?
First off - if you do have to be out and there's a test (or some other really critical item) scheduled for your first or second day of absence, I'd keep that on the schedule. Do whatever you can to be sure students get to take the test as scheduled. Make sure you're prepped for the test a day or two before....copies made or links prepared, so no one has to scramble to take care of it that morning (or has to postpone it). After the test, your sub can move on to the emergency plans. (I only mention this because I was guilty of last-minute 'morning of' prepping too often. Eventually, I started prepping my classroom for the next day before I left in the afternoon....writing the agenda on the board, being sure all copies were done, etc.)
OK, on to some ideas...
Problem solving is always an area that students can practice!
I typically include problem solving sheets requiring students to show all their math work AND do some writing, to explain how they arrived at their answers.
Some problem solving suggestions include:
Color by Number Activities
These are my favorite:-) Once I started creating these, they were always part of my sub plans! If I was out for just a day, I'd include one for the math topic we were covering. However, in the emergency plans, I included 'mixed practice' color by numbers.
Members of my email community receive a free color by number every month, so you might have several of these saved or still waiting in your inbox!
I also loved including Faceing Math activities. These incorporate drawing as well as coloring...so much fun and so creative! My own children brought these home as homework and got me hooked on them:-)
Many students love number puzzles, and depending on the type, they can be excellent to help students problem solve, work on math fluency, develop persistence, and look for patterns.
If you have time, creating review lessons focused on areas of student need could be very beneficial. At the beginning of the year, you might do a pre-assessment of math skills needed for your grade level. Review lessons would then focus on those skills students seemed to have the most difficulty with. In 6th grade, students have always needed extra fraction and decimal practice, so I'd include those in review lessons.
If this is a possibility, I'd recommend having students work on whatever program your school may use...students can complete a lesson every day or two that you're out. Fluency lessons and review lessons are great options.
If your district doesn't have a particular program, Kahn Academy is always great!
There are also several free activities on my math activity site.
Do Your Plans Need to be Computer-Based?
If you're currently virtual, your sub plans may need to be more computer-based. If it's possible for students to print some of the math activities and interact on paper, I think that would be great. However, students can still complete many of these suggested math sub plan activities on the computer.
Do you have any other sub plan ideas to share? Feel free to add suggestions in the comments!
To Read Next:
Do you teach divisibility rules in your math class?
I've always enjoyed teaching divisibility rules and my 6th grade math students have always seemed to have fun using them!
I've read different opinions about whether or not teaching divisibility rules should be a focus in math class, because they may be viewed as 'tricks.'
However, I think understanding and using them in middle school helps students develop number sense and number fluency.
Rather than being taught as a 'unit,' I think divisibility rules should be introduced and then referred to again and again in any applicable situation throughout the year. To make the continuous revisiting easier for students, I've always liked to have a resource for them to refer to throughout the year. We used to create fold-it-ups, but then I moved to using a Doodle Notes resource or a Math Wheel.
Any reference sheet is helpful so that when you ask a divisibility question, students can grab it (or look at it on a wall) to quickly refresh their memories, if needed.
Where can students apply divisibility rules?
There are several math concepts where students can apply the divisibility rules:
1) Working with division facts that are beyond the 'basics.' Like 51 divided by 3, for example. Students so often believe 51 is prime, but if they take a second to test the rule for 3, they can quickly see that 51 is in fact a composite number.
2) Prime factorization. When determining the prime factorization of a number like 51, 57 or 87, using the divisibility rules can be very helpful!
3) GCF. To find GCF, students need to determine what each number can be divided by, so the divisibility rules are quite helpful here.
4) FACTORING. If you teach divisibility rules in elementary school, you might not be thinking of this eventual application. However, the more frequently math students work with divisibility rules, the more their number fluency improves, and the easier factoring will be for them.
Finding the sum for checking 3 and 9 sometimes led some students to start adding the digits to check for every number. I found the use of visuals with the Doodle Notes or the Math Wheel reduced this tendency, as compared to when we used the fold-it ups.
What's your favorite way to teach (or use) divisibility rules?
To Read Next
Hey there! I'm Ellie - here to share math fun, best practices, and engaging, challenging, easy-prep activities ideas!