Classroom templates are a teacher life-saver when things get stressful. Instead of waiting until year 3-4 to get them set up, let’s relieve some of that stress before year 1.

This is a transcript of Episode 10 of the Simple Systems with Sam Podcast. If you’d prefer to listen to the episode, there is an episode player below the links section.

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Teachers Pay Teachers- Sub binder with secondary lesson plans for any course (not just science)

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5 Classroom Templates for your First Year Transcript

Here we are in the final section of our symbol classroom setup series. We are in part four. And if you haven’t yet, please go listen to part one, two, and three and download your free classroom essentials checklist. Because those are all of the things on that list that I truly believe every teacher needs to feel completely in control when that first bell rings on the first day of school. 

But today, we are not looking at anything on the checklist. I don’t know if you noticed, but we kind of ran out of things on the checklist to talk about. So why is there even a part four. And it’s not because I’m talking about your digital classroom setup, because honestly, from school to school and district to district, it is way too much to try to figure out what everybody’s doing and what everybody needs. 

Today I want to talk about something a little bit more directly related to actually teaching. Things that build up with teaching that causes a lot of stress and how we can prevent that now. And what I am going to suggest is that today, we brainstorm and think through some templates for things that you are going to need on a regular basis to help make you feel in control and successful. 

These are things that my very first year I wish I had, I wish I had something that would help me guide planning my units. I wish I had something that made me feel more confident to take my days off. I wish I had some of these things. And it took me probably until about midway through my third year before I felt like I had these figured out. And I don’t want you to have to wait till midway through your third year. So let’s start talking about the templates that I believe you should start creating. 

The first thing we’re going to talk about is a sub binder. Now I subbed for a year before I taught, and I can tell you that teachers will go the whole gamut from literally not even leaving me a roster to leaving me literally 200 pages worth of reading material, which included the student handbook. 

I’m going to tell you, subs don’t have time to read all of that, first of all, and they don’t need all that information. And you do not want to have to recreate that every single year anyway. Let me tell you what a sub needs to be effective that you can create right now. So that when you need to take a day or when you want to take a day, because they are your days to take you can do so without worrying. 

The first thing you’re going to include is a basic rundown of your expectations. And I mean, think pretty bare bones, basic technology usage, snacks and food, aAnd how many people are allowed out of the room at a time on a pass outside of class. If they’re not paying attention, they’re not doing their work, you will know or the sub will leave a note.

Micromanaging is not going to be a sub strong suit, they’re not going to have the authority in your class like you would so leave it pretty minimal but with the big ones intact. 

Then you’re going to leave a schedule for any type of day that you might have. Whether you have a regular day, modified blocked day, maybe you have an early release, maybe you have a new dismissal, maybe it’s an assembly schedule, they are going to need access to all of those because you just never know what might be happening. 

And then leave a very condensed version of emergency plans. Summarize each type of emergency in like two to three sentences, what needs to happen, who do they follow. That’s it. They will not have time, especially if with younger students. To corral the younger students, inform them what is going on, and search through pages and pages of documentation…

Then you’re going to leave student rosters. I don’t leave seating charts anymore, students will typically come in and sit where they’re supposed to sit. And if they don’t, there’s really nothing a sub is going to do about it anyway. And that way you don’t have to update your seating chart every time you change it. It’s just a roster. And the roster changes but it doesn’t change nearly as frequently. 

On the rosters, I will highlight two to three responsible students in each class period that I know will help or can help the sub in case of an emergency, or if they have any questions about the school. 

Then you’re going to need a place for your subs to leave notes. And always ask for positive notes as well, not just the negative ones, even though those are way easier to leave as a sub.

And finally, you’re going to leave your lesson plans. Now I like to use template lesson plans.

These are lesson plans that can fit literally any topic. I’ve taught 14 different courses in five years, and I’ve been able to use these emergency plans in every single course I’ve taught from middle school through high school. 

And all I have to do when it comes down to a sub is I have all of these lesson plans saved. And I say first and second hour doing lesson plan number one, the topic is global warming. And then I’m done. That’s it, I already have my copies made, because I already know that that’s an emergency plan that I have to have writing ready to go. It doesn’t have to be complicated, can be nice and easy. 

I do sell my sub binder kit on Teachers Pay Teachers, if you just need a quick outline, want to type in the PDF and print it and go, it’s ready there for you. I also have all of my template assignments included, if you are a secondary teacher, I have got you covered, you can have any of those template assignments and just print off the entire thing as you need. 

Next up, we’re going to talk about a lesson outline. So when you have a lesson, what main pieces do you want involved in it? We’re not going to go crazy overboard with this, do not go minute by minute. But if you know you want to start with a bell ringer, then maybe you want to do a video or a quick lead an activity, then you want to maybe do some notes, then maybe you want to do a check in as a group and then independent work time. 

That outline right there will give you a really easy way to kind of visualize lessons as you are planning long term. Now, you could micromanage this and go through multiple different types of lessons. But whatever one you think you’re going to encounter the most, then go ahead and get that outline. It’s a lot easier to fill in a template like that than it is to stare at a blank page that just says lesson plan. 

And along those lines, we’re going to go with number three, which is a unit outline. Now we’re not planning out the full unit, but we are creating the puzzle pieces that are going to help you fill in the unit. So kind of like a lesson outline, you know the pieces that you want involved in a lesson. But we’re not organizing these yet. Instead, what pieces do you want involved in your units? 

For me, as a science teacher, I know that I want at least one lab or hands-on activity, I want to give them a research opportunity, I incorporate at least one of my template assignments into each unit so that when the sub plans come around, they remember what they’re supposed to be doing. I also will have a quiz in the middle of the unit and a test and one review day before each of those. 

Right there that is at least seven days worth of a unit that I know I have. And then I fill in what topics I’m going to teach as my other puzzle pieces. All I have to do, once I have those puzzle pieces in place, is to put them in order. And just like a lesson outline, it’s way easier to plan an entire unit when you know the pieces that are involved with it. 

Number four is a grading rubric that you will use over and over again. If you have a type of assignment that you know you are going to be assigning multiple times, create a rubric for it. Having a rubric is going to cut down on the time you spend grading, and it’s going to also allow your students to know the expectations and then improve when they do have errors or mistakes.

For me, I have a grading rubric for my template lessons. I also have a grading rubric for my research assignments that are assigned for each unit. And then my department actually has a lab rubric, which means that almost half of the things that I’m going to assign, especially the bigger things like labs that can take a longer time to grade, I already have rubrics for. That means that I’m just searching for individual pieces within that assignment and I’m grading based off of that.

These are things that I strongly encourage you, once you have a little bit more time and bandwidth, start creating rubrics that you can use regularly through more and more types of assignments. 

Even smaller things like if you are a math teacher, then maybe your rubric in your head is to go ahead and give five points per completed assignment and then grade two problems. And those are each worth two and a half points. One point for the correct answer and one and a half points for the work. 

That little mini rubric is going to help cut down on your grading as well then you can just build from there as your confidence grows and grows and your grading time is going to be cut in half.

And last but certainly not least, is creating template emails for parent contact. You are probably going to need to reach out to parents for a variety of different reasons depending on your grade and subject area. But you can have templates for recurring instances. Maybe it’s missing homework, maybe it’s coming to school unprepared, maybe it’s tiredness in your class. 

But also it could be that they had a really great day. It could be that they were helping another student and you wanted to commend them for all of the work they did helping each other out. Maybe it’s that a student stayed after to help pick up a mess and you just really appreciated it.

Create email templates for the things that need to be addressed and the things that you get to address like the positive behavior. Then put these into a Google Doc. And when it’s time to sit down and send emails, you can just copy and paste and send to each individual parent as needed. 

Now, you can also do this for student emails if you have older students, but make sure that they are the type of people who are going to check their email first. 

Those are the five templates that I want you to work on creating before your first day of school. A sub binder, which you can almost essentially complete before the first day of school. A basic lesson outline for your most generic lesson. A unit outline for all your puzzle pieces grading rubric, and then add to those as you can. And then parent contact emails. 

These are five components that I promise are going to help you with a smoother year. And this is it for our simple classroom setup series. But I really hope that you got something out of it. I would love it if you would tag me on Instagram at engineerdoeseducation or at simple systems with Sam podcast. Now we are not done talking to each other just maybe done specifically talking about school. I hope that you will come back every Sunday as we talk about more simple steps to incorporate into school, home and life. See you then.