No plans, not a sausage, not even brief 'aspirations' as to what the class teacher would like. Lovely! You have free reign to teach what you like in the way that will most engage the children - and you!
This is what makes supply teaching both exciting and terrifying. Not being given instruction is what I love about the job because I relish the chance to teach the things that I can genuinely enthuse about and thus enthuse and engage the class by association. I'll be honest and admit that I like a bit of chaos - thinking on my feet gives me a 'buzz'. Having said that, I doubt I would feel as confident if I didn't have eight years of teaching experience behind me - and I know that gives experienced teachers a massive advantage. If you are new to the job, don't worry - read on...
Ok, so here it is - the road plan for getting the most out of a 'free plan day'.
- Be prepared. Expect your next assignment to be free of instruction, and have a few things up your sleeve. Elsewhere in this site you will find lists of activities to cover a free day. Take a look at these and have a rough idea about what you could do if you needed to.
- Arrive between 8 and 830 - this will give you a minimum amount of time to rough-out a plan that fits around the school day and get any photocopying you need done before first break.
- Check the class timetable for 'immoveable' periods (e.g. PE sessions, joint-class sessions, 'banded' maths, assemblies etc.)
- Plan to do at least an hour of maths and literacy content. This could / could not be discrete sessions. Maybe you would like to teach a day without lesson boundaries and include content throughout the day. Do what you know that works (again, if you are starting out look here for some safe starting points) but make sure you are able to report back to the class teacher that the class have done the hour of literacy and maths they are required to do by law. (Actually, the statutory coverage is per year - but if you skip these lessons on one day the teacher will have to make it up another day - you may not be popular!)
- Have the children produce work on loose sheets of paper, not in books. This makes it easier to mark, and avoids disputing the progression of work the class
- teacher may have been wanting to demonstrate prior to being booked on a course/getting a toe infection/being mauled by a bear etc.
- Be prepared to take a detour. There is no requirement to adhere religiously to your plan for the day. Use your judgement. If the class are getting good learning out of a certain idea, or have discovered a notion that has engaged them, go with it! Remember that if you are gainfully occupying the class and they are enjoying what they are doing, you have already provided them with activities that consolidate skills they have learned (look at them go - they're doing it!). Use your professional judgement and the skills that got you through your QTS. Work with small groups and take their skills to the next level. Be vocal and specific in your praise - scaffold learning by sharing good practice.
- Keep the pace up - provide lots of short activities with only a little whole-class input from you. If you aim for 4 small inputs an hour you will be delivering a 'pacey' session.
- If you feel confident enough and the class are suitable you should try to be inventive and creative. Use drama, music, use the school environment (how many teachers ever actually use the 'wild area'..?). Try out grouping strategies like 'jigsawing' or drama activities like 'mantle of the expert'.