Last Minute English Language Arts Lesson Plan Ideas and Resources for Teachers

How many times have you been absent from school and at the last minute, struggled to find something for leave for the substitute? Or how many times have you planned a great lesson only to find that you left your trusted flash drive with all the materials needed at home? Unfortunately, this happens a lot, so it’s always best to have quick and easy backup plans should these situations arrive!

I have compiled a short list of fool-proof lessons that an English Language Arts classroom teacher could utilize with a substitute or when you’re stuck for a lesson. These lessons require no extra materials other than what is found inside the classroom.

  1. Vocabulary Drawing: This can be used to review key terms with your current novel or unit. Students are assigned specific vocabulary term(s) and their job is to illustrate the word with creative, colorful images, including the definition, the word used in a sentence and an example. Students can use markers, crayons, construction paper, etc.
  2. Test Creation: Give your students the chance to have some input into their unit tests! Students can take their current novel and create a list of multiple choice, short answer or matching questions based on the vocabulary and main ideas of the novel. They also have to provide an accurate answer key as well. If you're looking for a more in-depth activity, to last several days, I have created a Board Game Project (to use instead of a test). This project allows students to reflect on what they learned, while at the same time, presenting the information in a really fun and creative way. Everything that was covered in a unit is fair game and can be incorporated in one way or another. Even the smallest details of a unit are important to this project. Click HERE to get a more in-depth looking into this non-traditional way of testing.
  3. Creative Writing: Show your creativity! This assignment doesn’t have to be associated with their current unit. The topics can be as silly or serious as you want to make them and as random as you want. Your student’s job is to create a short story or essay based upon the topic you pick. Whatever crazy ideas pop into their head for a story works!
  4. Grammar Lessons: It never hurts for students to review grammar and especially on a day when you're away, is likely a great opportunity (instead of someone else teaching them the various parts surrounding a current unit of study). Click HERE for a FREE Grammar Worksheet that can be used on a day when there is just no time to plan for a substitute or when you need a break! Depending on the level of your students and the technology available, this worksheet can even be graded at the end of a class, so you can start fresh on new lesson without wasting any more time.

  5. “Around The World” Spelling Bee: Similar to the rules of the fun basketball game, this can be used with a bucket, basket, or something similar. The rules are:
    1. Divide students into two teams. Before students are allowed to take a shot, they must spell one of their assigned words correctly. If they miss, they must stay in the same spot until they spell the word correctly.
    2. After misspelling a word three times in a row, the student is out.
    3. Continue until the winner is the only person left standing.
It is always best to be ready with emergency lesson plans for those unexpected absences or those days when you are unprepared (gasp!) It happens!. My little list of ELA lessons for a substitute are both easy to implement and require nothing more than what’s already found inside your classroom. Enjoy!

Looking for more reading strategy ideas? Check out these ideas from the other Secondary English Coffee Shop bloggers!

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