When you’re a substitute teacher, classroom management can be more difficult than it would be in your own class. There’s many reasons for this;

  • You don’t know the class/class dynamics etc.
  • The class might test the boundaries (especially with a teacher who is new to the school)
  • The class teacher has different expectations/ a different way of doing things

Hopefully the ideas and strategies below will help you with your classroom management when subbing.


Be clear about your expectations at the beginning of the day. Explain who you are, what you’ll be covering during the day and how you expect the children to behave/complete their work (Choose a simple phrase such as Work hard, be kind or Respect – respect for yourself (always try your best), respect for others (be kind) etc.)

I always used a powerpoint presentation when subbing as this provided students with clear guidelines on the expectations and plan for the day.

Relationships and Connections

Relationships are the key to success with classroom management. It’s important to build relationships with the children whether you’re in the class for a day, week or month. Connections are really important too.

How can you do this?

  • Introduce yourself (this is so important – tell the children a little about you. If you have pets – share a photo, if you have a hobby e.g. hurling/camogie/football etc. share photos of yourself at a match etc.)
  • Get to know their names as quickly as you can – get them to design name plates that they can put in front of them so you can call them by name. (Also a good idea to know something about them so you could ask their name and one thing they like)
  • When the children are working, walk around and have a quick chat – praise their work/handwriting
  • Praise them (using their name) throughout the day
  • Make connections – what do you have in common? did you go to this school? do you support the same football team? do you like the same sports etc.

Ask and Look

Look around and see if you can see any routines that the class teacher has in place in the classroom. If you don’t notice any or you’re not sure how they work – ask the children/the SNA (if there is one in the class) or the support teacher.

Things run smoothly when routines are in place so try to keep these as normal as possible for the class.


It’s likely your buttons will be pushed as a substitute teacher so it’s important to learn to remain calm.

  • Take deep breaths
  • Breathe before you react
  • Be extra prepared and organised (this will help you to feel confident and in control.)

Never talk over the children! Wait for silence.

There are tons of ways to do this but here are some of my favourite. It’s important to share the expectation with the class especially if they’re not familiar with the strategy.

  • Countdown 3-2-1 (by the time you get to 1 the children should be silent)
  • Hand in the air (children copy this and fall silent)
  • Call and response (Teacher: hocus pocus Children: everybody focus.) There’s tons of options.
  • Clap my rhythm
  • Noiseometer (The bouncy balls digital noiseometer is super)

There’s no need for tons of rewards! But some suggestions that can work well (dependent on class level)

  • Praise
  • Stickers
  • Job for the day
  • Sit with a friend for lunch

Whole class

  • 5 minutes extra yard time
  • 5 minutes free time
  • Games

When the children are doing independent work, I appoint a ‘quiet monitor’ (somebody who is on task and working well), the quiet monitor walks around the room for 2/3 minutes monitoring the noise levels and after 2/3 minutes they chose the next quiet monitor – this continues on and the children generally remain quiet and on task giving the teacher time to work quietly with a group of children without any disruptions.

Give clear expectations of the amount of work you expect the children to complete.

Type/write up the list of expectations/ list of work to be completed.

Use a timer to keep the children focussed on the task.