The Best Digital Emergency Sub Plans for Middle School Math

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I’ll be honest—whenever I have to make a sub plan in a hurry, I worry about all the ways the sub day can go wrong.

It's like rolling the dice. Will the sub actually know the topic? Will the students behave themselves? Will they even do the assignment? I would sit there anxiously wanting to pull my hair out.

I spent years trying find the right activities to use, and found one that’s resulted in the nicest notes left by substitute teachers, many of them gushing over how easy the day has been because of the fun activities.

I’m so excited to share it with you so you can use it totally for free in your classroom.

Let's dive in!

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My favorite free, no-prep emergency sub plan

After years of trial and error with different activities and substitute teachers, I realized that my three criteria for any sub plan are:

  1. Something students can work on independently.

  2. Receive instant feedback.

  3. Have fun.

This keeps classroom management as simple as possible for the sub, and minimizes the risk that students will sit around and just do nothing.

As I’ve talked about before, Google Sheets Pixel Art is one of my favorite math activities in general.

And it perfectly fits all of these emergency sub plan criteria.

Students solve math problems and type their answers in Google Sheets. Correct answers reveal pixels that would show a mystery picture. It’s easy for the sub to use, engaging for students, and comes with multiple levels to cater to all students.

And better yet, my free resource library contains four pixel art activities you can use immediately.

What do I need to include in my sub plan?

A good sub plan contains detailed instructions, a student-proof activity, printouts, and answer keys to help the sub support the students while you’re away.

The pixel art activities include everything that you need for this:

  • Instructions. The pixel art contains a page explaining how to assign it to students as Google Classroom activities, or with Google Suite more normally.

  • Student-proof activity. The biggest reason I spent weeks making my own version of pixel art activities is that they are also student-proof, with carefully programmed conditional formatting so students can't cheat by looking up the answers.

  • Work space printouts. One year, a small group of students started copying answers off of each other, so I made print worksheets that would require that they show work before typing their answers. Not only did this prevent cheating and loss of work, but the optional student workspace worksheets also gave everyone a chance to show their learning.

  • Answer keys. And of course, if there’s students that are struggling to unlock a problem and need extra support, there’s a print answer key that the sub can use as they walk around.

These free pixel art activities really have all you need to make sub day a breeze.

How do I prepare my students for sub days?

And if you're worried about how to help your sub implement them in the classroom, don't be! I've got some tips and tricks to make it a breeze.

  1. Do digital activities with your students regularly so they can learn the routine. Introduce the activity before you're out of the classroom give students clarity about the routine and what's expected of them. This includes where to pick up their laptop, how to put the laptops away, where to charge the devices. I usually do digital activities with my students at least once a week. It frees me up to differentiate my instruction and help students that are struggling with particular topics.

  2. Set expectations that they need to show work. Have them show their work on paper before typing in their answers. The pixel art Google Sheets already comes with these worksheets. Just print and go.

  3. Put them in small groups. If they get stuck, they can help each other. For rowdy classes, you may have to start with independent practice before putting them into groups.

Beyond sub plans, these pixel art Google Sheets activities have you covered for independent practice, or just a fun warm-up.

Where can I get free emergency sub plans?

My free resource library contains four of these free pixel art activities that you can use right away.

Free 5th Grade Sub Plan: Multiplying Fractions

One of my favorite free pixel art activities for 5th grade math is the multiplying fractions pixel art. The problems are word problems that connect the concept to real-life scenarios, and include multiplying fractions by whole numbers as well as fractions by fractions.

Give it a try in your classroom and make your sub day a breeze!

Free 6th Grade Sub Plan: Decimal Operations

One of my favorites is the decimal operations pixel art.

Decimals are a foundational skill used in rational numbers and are a great topic not just for 6th grade, but for 5th and 7th grade too. It’s broken into two levels, with both arithmetic problems as well as decimal word problems—making the topic fun by connecting it to real life.

Free 7th Grade Sub Plan: Triangle Inequality Theorem

In the triangle inequality theorem pixel art, students determine whether triangles can be formed from side lengths, and find missing side lengths. Geometry is always such a fun and visual topic, making it perfect for a sub plan.

Free 8th Grade Sub Plan: Linear Equations

And last but not least, in this linear equations pixel art, students practice determining whether a function has one solution, no solution, or infinite solutions, and practice solving linear equations that have only one solution. I love it as a way to give students more practice on a critical topic for high school math.

Need more sub plan topics?

I have nearly 300 paid pixel art activities you can try if you need more topics.

These activities are a massive time-saver all year long, and worth it for your next sub day in addition to independent practice, quiz review, and more!

So give the pixel art in the free resource library a try today. You’ll love them.

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Hi, I'm Ping!

I spent 7 years in the classroom working to make math fun and relevant in middle school, by integrating math, art, and technology. I started Congruent Math to share this all with you.

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