Hot Tips & Topics

We are dedicated to providing you with a comprehensive collection of relevant and up-to-date K-12 education news and editorials. For teachers, by teachers.

Classroom Management: Discipline Plans for Subs

Janelle Cox

Whether you are an experienced classroom teacher or if you just started your career as a substitute teacher, your priority is the same: Maintaining discipline via classroom management. The only real advantage a classroom teacher has in this category is that they get to have the same students day in and day out, which makes it easier to implement any type of classroom management discipline plan.

As a substitute teacher, no two classes are ever the same, so maintaining classroom discipline plan is an extremely hard feat. As a substitute, you must try and balance the needs of the teacher for which you are relieving, as well as try and control a classroom full of students who have no idea who you are. This will not only take some time and a lot of practice, but also some top-notch discipline skills on your part.

To help you out, we have gathered some of the most effective classroom discipline tips. Here are a few classroom management tips to help you properly handle the classroom in any situation.

Classroom Management: Evaluate the Mood of the Classroom

An effective substitute teacher will evaluate the mood of the students as soon as they enter the classroom. They will get a feel for the students’ vibe, and understand that a change in their regular routine (you coming in) means that the students may feel a little more anxious then usual (especially the younger children).  These students are used to the same teacher coming in each morning preforming the same routine, so as soon as there is even the slightest change you will find that a lot of children don’t respond well to it. Explain from the moment that you enter the door that you will try and follow closely to what the students are used to, but not everything that you do for that day will be the same. That’s OK, because it will all go back to normal tomorrow. This will help to make the students feel more at ease.

Related Articles
Our tips for using classroom jobs to get students involved in the classroom,...
Teacher and students playing a board game at a table.
When reviewing for a unit or state exam, try to incorporate activities and...
The words higher order thinking spelled out in blocks.
10 teaching strategies to enhance higher-order thinking skills in your students...
Red toolbox with the words word toolbox on it.
Here are 5 teaching strategies for instructing vocabulary words to elementary...
Person drawing a brain on a wall. The brain has the words leadership written on it.
Students need to be taught critical thinking skills, which they will need to...

Be Confident, Assertive, and Positive

Just as you explained to the students that things will be a little bit different from what they are used to, you must be sure to say that with confidence. You need to try and approach each classroom that you are substituting for with a positive and assertive attitude. This will set the tone for the rest of the day. As soon as students think that you are a pushover, they will take full advantage of that, and that is when the trouble and chaos will start. Make sure that you look confident and that you are confident, and you will soon notice that this positive vibe that you are sending will go a long way with the students.

Set the Tone and Set your Rules

From the moment that you introduce yourself, you are setting the tone for the day. If you say hello with confidence and explain your rules and expectations, then students will know that you mean business. Start the morning by kindly introducing yourself and be sure to tell students that the same rules apply as usual, even though their classroom teacher is not there. Also mention that in addition to those rules that you have a few of your own, as well as some consequences if they are not followed.

Develop Your Own Discipline Plan

Before you even enter the school doors you must have a discipline plan already set in motion. By developing a plan well in advance, you are preparing yourself for whatever comes your way. It is wise to stick to the classroom teacher’s discipline plan because this is what the students know, and this is usually what works, but it’s also wise to have a few tricks up your own sleeve as well. Choose a few rules of your own as well as the consequences that go along if students don’t listen to them.

Be Sure to Overly Prepare

While it is the classroom teacher’s job to have lessons and activities already prepared, sometimes there it is an unexpected absence and you will find that there is nothing prepared for you. Instead of freaking out, be prepared. This means that you need to have lessons, activities, mini-lessons, games, etc. all ready to go and it must fill up every minute that you are in the classroom. That’s because as soon as there is a lull (which there will be during transition times), you will find that chaos tends to erupt. The more that you give students time to talk amongst themselves, the more that you will find that students will be disruptive when you are trying to teach. This is why it is essential to be overly prepared.

Avoid Confrontations

There may come a time when you will encounter a confrontational student. Your job as the adult in the classroom is to keep your cool and not raise your voice or let your own temper get the best of you. Also, the worst thing that could happen is if you let other students get involved. No matter what you do, a confrontational student will disrupt the class, so you need to stop it as soon as it starts. You can do this by asking the student to step outside of the classroom and quietly take a moment to calmly talk to him or her. If that doesn’t work, then you must call the office for some extra assistance.

Use these tips to help develop your classroom management skills as you learn to develop and grow as a teacher. Think of substitute teaching as an unforgettable learning experience that will help you figure out what works and what doesn’t work in the classroom. The more that you substitute in different classrooms, the more that you will grow as a teacher. Don’t be afraid to try out new strategies and techniques to see what students respond to and what they don’t.

What some classroom discipline tips that you have found to be effective in the classroom? Please share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.