Subbing Special Classes Guide for the Substitute Teacher (page 3)

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Oct 14, 2011

What if I am Asked to Sub in the Media Center?

The Media Center is the place where the school’s library books are located. It also houses music and video players and other audiovisual equipment. Educational tapes, CDs, DVDs, and other digital media are also stored in the Media Center. It is here that resources for teachers are plentiful. There is usually a paraprofessional or a parent volunteer to handle book returns. He or she will know the routine and can help you with the administrative details.

The typical routine for a Media Center sub is first to allow the students time to return an old book and choose a new book to borrow for the week. After this has been accomplished (toward the middle of the period), ask the children to sit together in a designated area (ask your special helper where that is) and read a story to the class. If you are left with extra time, the children may read silently or discuss the story that you have just read.

What if I’m Asked to Sub in the Computer Lab?

Every sub should have at least a rudimentary understanding of basic computer operations and interaction. If you have specific knowledge of Windows or Macintosh application software, all the better. On the other hand, if you’re computer illiterate, you have some work to do. It’s time for you to correct that problem.

When you sub in the computer lab, it’s likely that the students will know far more about their computing environment than you will. This can make your life easy, if you choose your assistant wisely. It’s very important to select a special helper who can assist you as you manage the lab. If possible, ask another teacher for a recommendation. Virtually every school has a “computer genius” student who will be more than happy to help.

It’s likely that you’ll be given plans for each class that visits the lab. In most cases, students will be working on a project and will continue with work from the last session. Sometimes students work on presentations or research projects. Computer graphics or yearbook entries may be on the agenda. Your job is to circulate around the room to monitor students’ activities, ensuring that project work is being done correctly and that students are not surfing inappropriate websites or playing unauthorized computer games.

When students complete their activities for the day, they are usually allowed to play educational games or visit authorized websites. Use this option as a reward for good behavior.


When you are asked to sub for a “special” class, be prepared for a very different type of day. You’ll be in contact with each class of students for only one period, so that even if a group is difficult the students will leave your room relatively quickly. The following guidelines will help you get the most out of this type of subbing assignment:

  • Take the time to understand any special requirements. Will you need special clothing, materials, or equipment? Be sure you have whatever you need before students arrive.
  • Find a special helper to assist you in understanding the particular routines of the class.
  • Be sure to circulate and check up on inappropriate behaviors. Make yourself aware of safety precautions that lend themselves to these classes.
  • Have a few extra lessons in mind, in case children finish early.

In most cases, subbing for specials is actually easier than classroom teaching. Students are happy to be there because specials break up the day and lack the stress of academic subjects.

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