Useful activities for relief teachers: what are they and how do they work?

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Useful activities for relief teachers: What is relief teaching?

Relief teaching (also known as supply teaching in the UK) means stepping in at short notice to teach a class when their usual teacher is absent due to illness, a holiday or an extended period such as maternity leave.

Supply teaching can be an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling career choice for many talented teachers. Nonetheless, as a relief teacher it can be a real challenge to come up with activities that engage and challenge pupils that you have never met before.

Be prepared with useful activities before your lesson

As a relief teacher you will not need to plan a lesson in advance in the same way that you would have to in a full time teaching position. This is due to the fact that you will typically be contacted at extremely short notice and will often not know the age group, subject or curriculum you will be teaching in advance.

Nonetheless, it is important to have a good supply of teaching resources such as warm up games and activities prepared ahead of time. Having a stock of these for all of the age groups that you teach will make your life considerably easier.

Use warm up games

A good warm up game is a useful way to get your class motivated and energised before you begin your lesson. This is especially true in the lessons after lunch, when students have plenty of energy and may be more ready to talk than concentrate.

A fast paced and challenging warmup will get your pupils thinking about the topic and burn off energy that might otherwise have been channelled into disruptive behaviour.

Be dynamic

When setting children activities as a relief teacher, bear in mind that unlike a traditional full time teacher you do not have the advantage of weeks to get know your pupils and how each one prefers to learn. You are starting with a clean slate and this can prove a challenge.

It is important to establish yourself quickly. By dynamic and charismatic in your explanations of activities to fire up the enthusiasm of your pupils. If you sound even slightly unsure or disinterested in the topic, they will follow your lead.

You should do your best to be lively and fun, but nonetheless project a sense of authority. You only have one lesson with these pupils – you don’t have the time to implement behavioural strategies over the course of several weeks. Create firm boundaries at once.

You may not be able to deviate from the lesson plan left to you by the existing teacher, but you can nonetheless inject your own personality and life into the lessons you teach as a relief teacher. Do a good job and you will create a memorable one-off experience for them.

It’s all too easy to think of activities for relief teachers in terms of pupils, but the trick to getting the best from your supply teaching is to remember to create positive experiences for yourself as well.

Don’t forget to build relationships with the other staff members. Drop into the staff room at break and introduce yourself. If you make a good impression – and a few friends – it’ll be all the more pleasant when you return to that school in the future.

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