About Whitney Kaulbach

I teach High school and middle school students World History, AP World History, Reading Instruction, and Literacy Specialist.

Writing sub plans is the task I dread most as a teacher. It is time-consuming and often the best-laid plans go awry. Substitutes misinterpret directions or students use that excuse to claim that they were led astray from a meaningful task. I have found a few digital applications that have changed the nature of the sub-plan to one that empowers the student with more opportunities for 1:1 engagement and more responsibility.

No longer do I write a sub-plan for the sub alone. The paper copy left on the desk might contain a few private instructions but, for the most part, I write a plan that I share with each and every student. Google docs allows me to share the plan with the front office, my department chair, each student and other para educators or adults involved in a daily activity. Attaching QR codes to lesson plans allows students to scan the code for a website or video link. Sometimes I attach various QR codes around the room so that students are not sitting for an entire block but moving in small groups from task to task.  When I link a Google Form I’m able to embed video links with short answer questions or a self-evaluation checklist for students to complete. Google Forms can be viewed in real time.  This has worked well for me when I’m out of school but able to observe on the class engagement with the form.  Telling students ahead of time that they will be observed in real time also affirms that I’m not abandoning them or leaving them with busy work. In return, students have requested one member of the class as the assigned representative for sending me a text or email in case of a need for clarification.  In the end, subs and students are satisfied with the shared responsibility. It is still time-consuming to write the sub plan, but the additional benefit of viewing responses in real time means I can assess them more easily than if I was only reliant on finding the stack of papers on my desk upon my return.

Another application that has sufficed as a sub plan is a video instruction. At times, I have needed to state by voice what could not come across on paper. I am not an expert, but I can put together a simple video in Explain Everything. I can illustrate my instruction or provide a model of how I expect a task to be completed.  Again, I can share this video with anyone as a Youtube link.  I did run into a small inconvenience when all of the students attempted to play the video at the same time without plugging in headphones. I now leave a few sets of headphones for my sub in hopes of dimming the noise.  Again, I do like to assign a student ambassador who will share their link or their device if the sub does not have one of their own.

Our school is fortunate to have substitute teachers who are involved in our community and seem to enjoy their role.  I do hope to provide opportunities for these individuals to develop a solid rapport with students through engaging and fun activities. I recently discovered Goosechase as an app that captures student activity in real time as they participate in a set scavenger hunt. I chose to set up the chase in our library. I wanted students to understand how to navigate our collections of resources to spark individual studies of globalization. Students document their engagement by taking a photo with every clue. I was able to ask them to pose with a resource, to sketch an image that was found in a tagged atlas, or to summarize a quote in their own words. I had fun tasks as well: snap a photo of a team mate reading to you, snap a photo of a sad poem, include your best sad face… etc. The way in which students interpreted the tasks and showcased their findings was so impressive. They really found value in what could have been another dull day. Goosechase is limited to 10 teams per game which is perfect because students are required to team up, collaborate and work together as they problem solve. Different clues in the scavenger hunt can be set for different values. A leaderboard lets them know which teams are ahead or behind. I discovered that I could also change the leaderboard in real time. Some teams did not complete a task which allowed me to change their points earned, but I could also extend the time in which the game could be completed so that students could redo a task later during study hall or the next day.

While technology has not elevated the workload or the time spent setting up a sub plan it has changed the nature of the sub-plan and the relationship I have with students even when I am absent. Education is not about what I teach, but it is about how students learn. Routines and relationships make that learning meaningful. It is a relief to know that students are still happy upon my return from a day away, but it is even more rewarding when they are excited to discuss all that they accomplished on their own.

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