Top Teaching > Stacey, Grades 6-8 > And ACTION! Math Instruction When You’re Out of the Classroom


And ACTION! Math Instruction When You’re Out of the Classroom

MovieclipartThough it’s only the beginning of October, it’s time to write sub plans. Whether you're out because of a sick child, professional development, or a doctor’s appointment, creative approaches to planning for a substitute in your math (or any) class help the day run more smoothly. I've found that recording video lessons for the substitute helps enormously when I have to miss class. Read on to find out how you can create your own library of video lessons for the days that you're out of the classroom.


Math instruction can be tricky, and nothing replaces the instruction of the teacher. In today’s classroom, with the pressure to teach all the standards and benchmarks by the test date, not a moment can be forfeited. Losing even one day to “busy work” with a substitute can be detrimental. Video lessons of YOU providing instruction are one possible solution. 

Flip camera
Photo: Darren Murph,

Creating Video Lessons 

Here are some suggestions for making this option work for you: 

  1. Invest in a cheap handheld video camera. I use the Flip video camera, but unfortunately it's been discontinued. However, there are several HD cameras on the market very similar to the Flip for extremely reasonable prices.
  2. Use the video option on your mobile phone. Smartphones are everywhere, and I am guessing that most of you have a cellular device with decent video capabilities.
  3. If you know in advance that you are going to be out, record the lesson you have planned for the day of your absence. For unforeseen days out, consider the benchmarks that students may need to revisit or skills that are ongoing — order of operation, fractions, central tendency, volume and surface area . . . you get the idea — and make a library of lessons.
  4. Keep it under 15 minutes. Attention spans can be short when you are not present. I also end the video instruction with a five to ten minute Q&A session. For this, think of possible misconceptions, noteworthy vocabulary, and various strategies for solving the problems.
  5. Speak directly to the students. Throughout the videoed lessons I make comments to particular students, just to keep things fresh.
  6. Put the video lessons on DVD so it’s easy for the substitute to show to the class.

Finally, you might be wondering what platform I use to create video lessons. Currently I use iMovie; however, I have used Movie Maker on my PC in previous years. Simply upload the video and throw it into the program. There is no need for fancy editing (unless you really love transitions and adding text).

Tips for the Camera Shy

I’d like to close this week’s post with options for teachers who are uneasy in the limelight:

  1. Video only your writing and voice.
  2. Video just your voice explaining procedures and math processes.
  3. Use still shots of math problems and examples.
  4. Use math instructional videos that are already on the Internet, but remember NO ONE can mimic your personal teaching style, and that’s what your students are accustomed to.
  5. Have fun. Doing this should not take that much time. Once you have created your video library, you can refer to it for years to come.

Hope you all find these suggestions useful. I look forward to hearing back from you with your wonderful ideas for the days when you have to have a sub.

All the best,




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