Save time and energy on days when you are feeling sick by creating a cover lesson folder that’s ready to go!
Cover lessons. We’ve all been there.
You wake up feeling like you’re at death’s door. You can barely crawl out of bed and would rather hide under the covers for the rest of the day.
Unfortunately you can’t do that because you are a teacher-and you have lessons to plan!
I have often thought that the way most schools handle cover lessons is, quite frankly, wrong. I have often gone into schools (and I have known other teachers do the same) when I should probably have stayed at home simply because it’s easier to do that then to try to plan cover lessons from home and send them into school by 8.30am!
Different schools have different policies when it comes to what teachers have to do for unexpected absences (as opposed to ones which are known about in advance). Some will require that all work is sent in by the absent teacher first thing in the morning, some will require work that does not need photocopying, some will require actual lesson plans for a teacher to follow, some will require something basic that a non-specialist teacher could deliver.
In all, it’s a bit chaotic and the last thing you need when you are not feeling your best.
Instead, I suggest you create a cover lesson folder that is ready to go whenever it is needed. Ideally, this could be a policy that is adopted department or school wide in order to make the lives of teachers easier when they have days off.
Follow the instructions below and wave goodbye to stressful sick day mornings!
How to create your cover lesson folder
Get a large, lever arch style folder. Stick something obvious on the front that clearly says ‘Cover Lesson Folder’, your name and your room.
- The first thing to add is a copy of your timetable. Add to the timetable any duties and extra-curricular activities that you normally do. Put this at the front of the folder.
- Next, divide the folder into days of the week using subject dividers. If your school operates a two week system then do this twice, so you would have a subject divider for ‘Monday Week A’ and ‘Monday Week B’.
- On the front of the subject divider write down the classes you teach and the rooms you teach them in (if your room varies). For example: Period 1 Y9A M1, Period 2 Y7C M1, Period 3 Free, Period 4 Y10A M5 double lesson. If you are a primary teacher, write down the order for the lessons that day.
- Print off registers for all the classes you have each day and put these behind the correct subject divider. So if you have four classes on a Monday you will need to print all four registers.
- If you have seating plans for your classes then print these out and put them behind the registers. The aim is to make life as simple as possible for whoever is taking the class by having everything needed for each day in one place.
- If you have any students with SEN then highlight these on your seating plan and, if applicable, add any statements or requirements for these students behind the seating plans.
- Now for each class you teach you will need to prepare a cover lesson (or two or three depending on how prepared you want to be!). You only need to make one for each group you teach. If you teach two groups the same topic you may be able to use the same lesson more than once.
- To make your cover lessons you will need to think about what your classes will be covering that half-term (I suggest you update your lessons each half-term. Depending on your subject you maybe able to do this less often). You want to make your lesson easy to deliver and easy for the students to follow in case your lesson is being covered by a non-specialist. Choose something that roughly fits into the main topic you are covering but is not actually a lesson from the scheme of work you are following.
- You will need to put the lesson into the first day you have each group. So if the first time you see year 8 is a Tuesday, then you will put that cover lesson behind the Tuesday subject divider. Put a very simplified lesson plan at the front that has the title and lesson objectives, the main activity/ies the students will be doing, any textbooks that are needed and any extension work for students who finish early.
- Photocopy any worksheets or other resources that will be needed to complete the cover lesson. Add these to the folder. To make life easier, I suggest avoiding anything that requires electronic resources just in case they are not working or the cover teacher is not able to access them. Remember to include any answers to questions or worksheets.
- Add a blank sheet at the end of each lesson called ‘Lesson Notes’ so that whoever is taking the cover lesson can jot down how the lesson, who completed the work, any behavioural issues etc.
- Once you have made a cover lesson (or two or three) for each group, you will need to find where you teach these classes the rest of the week. So, if you teach year 8 on a Tuesday and a Friday, you will put the actual lesson behind Tuesday and then for Friday you will write on the front of the subject divider ‘See Year 8 Lesson on Tuesday’. This will direct whoever is taking your class to where they can find the lesson.
- Place your folder on your desk somewhere prominent. You’re done! When you need to have a cover lesson ready you can direct people to the folder on your desk.
Remember to update your cover lesson folder as topics change. Don’t throw away your previous work though! You can rotate lessons throughout the years as you come back to topics. If you do use a cover lesson then remember to replace and update everything (including registers if used).
Department Cover Lesson Folders
If you are a department head then consider using cover lesson folders across your department. You can agree in advance what lessons to include and use them as ‘bonus’ lessons where the students cover topics they would not have done otherwise.
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I hope you found this guide to creating a cover lesson folder useful. If you have any other ideas for easing the burden of cover lessons then do share them in the comments below. Remember to share this post on social media before you leave to help other teachers!
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