Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

When You Have A Sub…


Alice Mercer, my co-facilitator of the Classroom Management discussion group at Edutopia, is sick at home and has begun a thread on subs and classroom management.

I thought it might be a good opportunity to share my Attitude and Behavior With A Substitute Teacher grading rubric.

I only use it with classes that I’m concerned about. In those classes, a few minutes before the ending bell rings, the sub passes out the rubric. Students grade themselves, and then the sub grades them. It works quite well — subs can grade by “faces” instead of having to try to remember names (you’ll notice on the rubric there’s a caution and way to spot if students don’t put their real name on it), and pushes students to reflect on how they’ve handled themselves.

Yes, yes, I know — I’m a big believer in developing intrinsic motivation, too. I just figure that I miss class so seldom, subs have such a challenging situation anyway, and remembering how I behaved with a sub when I was a student, that using something like this is best for everybody involved.

Join in the discussion at Edutopia and share how you handle sub and classroom management issues….

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. What a coincidence! You read my mind, don’t you? I have a substitute teacher now because I’m on sick leave (no big deal but cannot teach). I’m going to send by email my students your grading rubric translated into Spanish. Thanks a lot.
    As you can imagine I never miss a class, however my sts love me! I warned, adviced, pleaded for good behaviour and attendance in my absence. Some of them have been so nice to email me and they tell me they are behaving well in class. What about the others? I’m a bit worried for the sub so I’m going to ask her to pass the rubric out to the sts.

  2. While I appreciate the need for this type of personal assessment on the part of students, I do not understand actually GRADING or assigning points to it. Shouldn’t grades be an indicate of mastery of material/concepts taught in class, the curriculum, and NOT behavior? Giving students points for something like this is as archaic as giving attendance points or homework completion points.

    • Cossondra,

      Developing the capacity for self-control, I believe, is a critical ability for students to learn, and is something I teach constantly and that I, and students, evaluate just as often. I also give homework completion points. At the same time, I constantly work with students to help them identify sources for intrinsic motivation. It’s a fine balance to maintain, one of numerous tightropes I find are necessary to walk in order to successfully teach in an inner-city school. You may call it archaic. I call it strategic. And it seems to work for my students and me.


  3. Well, Cossondra, I’m afraid I agree with Larry. Your ideas on assessment would be well received and better implemented if we were in a utopic world. Where I teach assessing attittude and conduct is not only a teaching strategy (it is) but also a necessity and a must. I mean that I have to do it, it’s part of our official curriculum for secondary education. Sometimes, I have to add, my students receive a positive grade or mark because of their good, positive and curious attitude towards the teaching/learning process. And in some cases, it is that attitude which allow them to pass the term evaluation.
    Teachers in Spain are obliged by law (Organic Law of Education) to set the learning objectives and the assessment and evaluation criteria in our syllabuses. These have to be designed according to the guidelines of the general law.
    So, it is a question of law and it is a question of teaching strategy as well. It works to me and to my students. That’s all it matters in the end, doesn’t it?
    Greetings from Spain.

  4. Larry,
    I am not sure why you think your inner-city students lack intrinsic motivation more than other students. My students are quite different from yours, I agree. I teach in an isolated rural setting, where the nearest traffic light is 65 miles away, the nearest mall is over 150 miles away. My students and their parents, in large part, view education as something required by law, but not necessary. Intrinsic motivation is a HUGE issue for my classroom as well.

    My concern with including things like homework completion, attendance, tardies, and other behaviorally driven measures with the final grade is those tend to dilute the actual achievement of students as we report what they have achieved in meeting our preset standards for mastering our curriculum. Reading Marzano, Wormeli, and others has transformed my grading methods to a strictly curriculum based formula of reporting to students and parents.

    When my students move onto the next level, the grades they have gotten in my classes are a true indicator of how successful/completely they have mastered the state directed content. I may include ancedotal accounts of other items but these factors are kept separate from the ‘grade’.

    I see students come into my classes who have ‘always gotten A’s’ but have no mastery of the content. It is a rude awakening for them as well as their parents that to achieve an A in my class they must demonstrate they have actually gotten the skills I am expected to teach them.

    I guess my choice of archaic was a poor one. Inaccurate would be a more ‘accurate’ choice for grades based on something other than mastery of content.

    If your country dicates you assign grades based on something other than content, that is an entirely different issue. In the USA, we strive to have grade consistently reflect student learning, student mastery of preset content expectations.

    As far as what ‘works for students’, my students would be thrilled to have something like completing a behavior rubric to boost their grades. However, they know what my expectations are, academically AND behaviorally, and they know what it takes to EARN a grade in my class – achievement of the content, pure and simple. They know there will be no ‘extra credit’ for slackers, there will be “I like you so I will boost your grade’ points at the end of the marking period. They accept personal responsibility for learning the content, or they accept their failure for meeting that expectation. Behavior is addressed separately from academic success. I refuse to report student ‘success’ in math based on anything other than that. It is misleading to parents and students alike. No one benefits from this dilution of grades.


  5. Cossondra, I’m afraid I’ve been too busy for an earlier reply but here we go again.
    It’s a bit difficult to explain all this curricular and legal matter in short but I’ll try.
    Let’s start from the beginning and this makes necessary to give a brief overview of the term “Key Competences”.
    What is a Key Competence?
    The ability to integrate knowledge, skills and attitudes in a practical way to solve problems and react appropriately in a variety of contexts and situations.
    In other words, it is the integration and application of theoretical and practical knowledge in settings outside the academic context.
    Where do they come from?
    The key competences ( Competencias Básicas ) in the Spanish Education System have their origin in the key competences, established by the European Union at the end of the 1990s.
    What are the European Key Competences?
    • Communication in the mother tongue
    • Communication in foreign languages
    • Mathematical competence and basic competences in science and technology
    • Digital competence
    • Learning to learn
    • Interpersonal, intercultural and social competences and civic competence
    • Entrepreneurship
    • Cultural expression
    They are also called Key competences for lifelong learning.
    When do they appear in the Spanish education system?

    They appear in the Spanish education system with the Ley Orgánica de Educación (LOE, 2006) and in the curricula described in this law.
    How are the key competences related to the curriculum?
    In article 6 of the LOE (Organic Law of Education) the curriculum is defined as a series of objectives, key competences, contents, methodology and evaluation criteria.

    Which key competences are described in Spanish regional education systems? (Spain is organized in autonomous communities or regions, as they were called before, the autonomous communities have wide legislative and executive autonomy, with their own parliaments and regional governments)
    General competences :
    Competence in linguistic communication
    Mathematical competence
    Competence in knowledge of and interaction with the physical world
    Competence in processing information and use of ICT
    Competence in social skills and citizenship
    Cultural and artistic competence
    Learning to learn
    Autonomy and personal initiative .

    The LOE (which is the general state law for the whole country) says that all subject areas should contribute to the development of as many competences as possible, and each one includes specific reference to the competences most associated with the area.

    As for evaluation and grading criteria, during the 3rd year of Obligatory Secondary Education all schools will carry out a diagnostic evaluation of the key competences attained by its pupils. This evaluation, responsibility of the Education Authority, will be formative and diagnostic for the schools and informative for the families and the whole educational community. This assessment will have as a framework of reference the general diagnostic evaluation established in article 144.1 of this law.
    The test will only evaluate the key competences although in some autonomous regions, as part of the evaluation, questionnaires (defined as ‘context’ questionnaires) will be made available to students, teachers, families and the school administrators, with questions on the cultural and socio-economic situation of the students, the academic atmosphere, attitudes towards study and expectations, the implication of the family in education…
    The key competences do form part of our curricular designs and syllabi and they are evaluated and students graded accordingly.

    Have a look at the link below to learn a little bit of our educational system, it won’t take long.
    Kind regards.


  6. Interesting strategy—please check the typo misspelling of substitute in the downloadable document (“Never had to be reminded to be well-behaved and helpful to the subsitute teacher.”)

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