Listenwise is so easy to implement that it’s even a great digital tool to use if you are absent and have a substitute teacher with limited teaching experience. That’s why we are excited to debut this collection of substitute lesson ideas that will not only help you but also make it easier for anyone taking over your class.

substitute lesson ideas

We’ve compiled 3 instructional strategies to help you with lesson planning, and we have included substitute plan drafts to make your life easier. Whether you need to plan for a sub or just looking for new podcast activity ideas, check out the strategies below, each paired with a listening organizer that you can easily print out or copy, customize, and have students complete digitally.

#1 Listen to Current Event Podcasts & Use the 5 Ws Organizer or the 3-2-1 Organizer

Student choice is an important lever for engagement and personalized learning, especially when there is a substitute teacher. 

Teachers can invite students to select a current event (or more than one) that interests them and complete an assignment using a listening organizer that will support their comprehension, like our customizable 5 Ws Organizer (summarizing based on the 5Ws of journalism: who, what, when, where, why, and sometimes how) or our 3-2-1 Organizer (noting 3 facts from the story, 2 questions about the story, and 1 big idea from the story). 

This substitute lesson idea can work for any current event, but we recommend using Weird News and debate current events with lesson ideas two and three. 

Substitute Instructions: Students should select a Listenwise current event podcast (or more than one) from______ (insert student listening link). After listening, students should complete the  __________ (organizer) located ______ (location). Students may listen to the podcast again, pausing and rewinding as needed while completing their organizer. After completing the assignment, students should __________ (next steps – e.g., discuss their answers with a partner and then turn in their organizers). 

#2 Use Weird News Podcasts to Focus on Vocabulary with the Frayer Organizer

Our 30-second Weird News podcasts, published on Sundays, include academic vocabulary words featured in the stories that are incorporated into the accompanying comprehension and discussion questions. Teachers can assign our Frayer Organizer for students to complete after listening to one or more Weird News podcasts. Students may complete the organizer’s tasks (definition, sentence, picture or symbol, and synonyms in English or another language) using their own resources. Or, teachers with Premium accounts can create a lesson for students and give them access to the podcast’s transcript and the text-help toolbar.

Substitute Instructions: Students should listen to the assigned Weird News podcast from _________ (insert student listening link). After listening, students should complete the Frayer organizer located ______ (location) for the vocabulary words ________ and _________ (list two or more featured words) used in the podcast. The organizer requires that students define the vocabulary word, write a sentence that includes the vocabulary word, draw a symbol or picture related to the word, and provide synonyms for the word in English or another language. Students may listen to the podcast again, pausing and rewinding as needed while completing their organizer. Students should use the following resources as they complete the organizer: ______ (list resources – e.g., dictionary, text-help toolbar).  After completing the assignment students should __________ (next steps – e.g., discuss their work with a partner and submit completed organizers). 

#3 Listen to Debate Podcasts & Complete the Debate Organizer to Build Critical Thinking

Debate podcasts, published on Fridays, feature an issue being debated in the public sphere. By assigning students to listen to a debate story and complete our Debate Organizer, teachers can work to strengthen students’ critical thinking skills – even when there is a substitute teacher in their classroom. Students can listen to the story, list the arguments mentioned on both sides of the debate, and write a paragraph explaining which position they agree with. 

Substitute Instructions: Students should listen to the assigned debate podcast located _________ (insert student listening link). After listening, students should complete the debate organizer located _________ (location) to list the arguments mentioned in the podcast on each side of the organizer. Then, students should write a paragraph explaining which side of the debate they agree with. Students may listen to the podcast again, pausing and rewinding as needed while completing their organizer. After completing the assignment students should __________ (next steps – e.g., discuss their positions in pairs and submit their organizers). 

General Tips:

  • Teachers can copy, paste, and modify the sample instructions provided for each strategy and share them with subs and/or students through any communication system.
  • Teachers with free or Premium Listenwise accounts can share audio links with their students via Google Classroom, an LMS, or a digital worksheet. 
  • Teachers with Premium accounts can customize lessons through the Listenwise platform to include a variety of curriculum and scaffolding resources, which they then can assign to and share with students through the platform, Google Classroom, or an LMS.

We hope you find some great substitute lesson ideas and would love to hear how they went in comments, or tweet at us @listenwiselearn. If you have used other Listenwise assignments/activities with substitute teachers, please let us know! 

Happy Listening!