French sub plans – 5 ways to avoid chaos when you’re out

French sub plans

One of the biggest problems with taking a day off is coming up with French sub plans. The number of times that I’ve had a sub who could speak French is in the single digits – more precisely, I could count it on one hand! With shortages of subs in general in most districts, the chances are that my sub will be another teacher giving up their prep hour, and almost none of them speak French. Sometimes they’ll speak Spanish (which helps), but this means that I need to make sure that whatever I leave is something that students can do without a teacher’s help. So what’s a French teacher to do?

Ideas for French sub plans

Show a movie or video – This is probably the path of least resistance. If your French sub plans involve showing a movie, you should be careful that it doesn’t have anything that a sub or students might find offensive. This will depend on your area, your school, and the maturity level of your students. For high school students, an episode of Extra might be perfect.

For younger students, playing a Disney-type movie in French could work. You might also consider children’s TV shows such as Bluey, which are available in French. In the past, I’ve also used travel videos (Rick Steves) as sub plans but I’ve found that today’s students aren’t all that interested in those and will tune out if they don’t have an assignment to accompany the video.

Have students write a story – If you do CI, your students are used to hearing stories. If they are familiar with the super 7, they can write a story for the class and illustrate it. One thing I like to do is give them specific words or phrases that they MUST use in the story – silly words, like squirrel. You will want to leave specific instructions (you can only use ONE new word that the class doesn’t know already), otherwise students are likely to write in English and use a translator or just ask an AI site to write the story for them.

Boom cards – If your students have used Boom cards before, it’s easy to assign a deck or two for the times when you need a French sub plan. I wouldn’t have them do Boom cards for the first time ever with a sub (there are always tech issues to be solved), but once they’ve used them it should be pretty easy to have them do a deck based on whatever you’ve been working on in class. With a Boom account, you can add other teachers’ decks to your library or make your own decks.

Read a story – A short story can be fun, and it’s even better if it’s a bit silly. I have a few short stories that I can pull out at a moment’s notice for those times when I need a French sub plan – some are longer and more difficult, but others are simple enough for first year students to read. If you’re going to be gone for several days, you could have the students act out scenes from the story when you come back.

Do a virtual field trip – a sub day can be a good time to do some cultural work. Have students take a virtual field trip to somewhere in the Francophone world. I use Google maps for mine – students have the forms to fill out as they visit the place on the map.

Things to watch out for when making French sub plans

French sub plans - 5 ways to avoid chaos when you're out

When you’re making your French sub plans, there are a few things to avoid or at least be aware of. Nobody wants to leave a sub with the horrible feeling of “Oh no, I have an hour with these kids and there are no plans/the plans don’t work/the kids finished the plans too quickly!”

Tech issues – If you do plan to have the sub show a video, make sure the technology is ready to go and that you leave instructions for what to do if things go wrong. Will your sub have access to a computer? DVD player? The projector remote? Who can they talk to if they can’t get it to work? The best sub plans can end in disaster if your sub can’t get the basic technology to work.

How to help kids who are stuck – The “what ifs” should be a part of your sub plans as well. Students will test the boundaries when you have a sub. Make your expectations clear for what students are allowed to do if they don’t understand something. Do you have dictionaries they can use? Are they allowed to look up words on a translator? Should they just leave a word in English until you can help them on your return? What do you want the sub to do if they see the students using a translator/AI?

What to do with fast finishers – every good French sub plan should include instructions for what students should do if they finish early. This will depend on your school’s policies and your students’ maturity levels. In high school, if your students are allowed to have phones, most students will just quietly go on their phones when they finish. If you have younger students, or if they aren’t allowed to have phones (or to use them in class), you will need a plan for what they can do.

TPT links to resources mentioned in this post:

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