Relief Teaching Ideas

Sharing ideas to help make relief teaching fun, enjoyable, and meaningful.

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Keeping Track of Books You Have Read

Relief Teacher Tip

I keep a post it note in the inside cover of the books that I read to classes. I record which classes I’ve read the book to & which ones I’ve done an activity with the book too.

It’s an easy way to keep track of which classes you’ve done what with!

I also have a checklist of activities and classes, that I keep in my folder. The post it notes are just a quick way to check when I’m choosing books to pack for the day!


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Casual Relief Teaching Helpful Tips, Forms & Checklists

Just a quick post to let everyone know that I’ve just uploaded a new product to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store – ‘Casual Relief Teaching – Tips, Helpful Forms & Checklists’.

These forms and checklists are all resources that I have used myself, and I find them really helpful in keeping me organised. I hope that you find them just as useful!


Classroom Photos

I used to love setting up my room at the beginning of the year; I was refreshed after holidays, full of new ideas, and ready for a new school year!
I would scour the Internet, looking for inspiration to turn my classroom into a place that both the students & I would love to spend our days in. A classroom that was colourful, without being too zany, a classroom that showcased the students’ work, and also inspired them, and a classroom that was organised and made sense to everyone who worked in it.
Before Pinterest I used to print off classroom photos I found on the Internet & make up a folder of things I wanted to try. Now it’s so much easier with Pinterest. I’ve become slightly obsessed with clicking that little red ‘pin it’ button!
While searching for photos I did notice that there weren’t a huge amount of Australian classrooms represented. I was planning on posting some photos from my own collection (I used to take photos of all my classroom displays), however I’ve been searching for them for the past few weeks and don’t know where my album is! It seems to have vanished when we moved house last year. If I come across my photos I’ll add them to this post.
In the meantime I put a call out on my Facebook page, asking anyone who was interested to email me photos of their classrooms.
Here are the photos I have already received:

First we have Aymie’s bright and colourful room. Aymie is a graduate teacher who is working in a Catholic school in Brisbane. I love how she has used the rug and the ABC giant jigsaw to mark out her mat areas. I also like how she has displayed her books facing out in her reading corner, and the material she has draped on the ceiling. She’s made it look so inviting!
Next is Emily’s reading corner, based on Dr Seuss’ ‘Cat in the Hat’. What an amazing little corner she has created here! There’s so much I love about it; the cushions, the quote on the wall, the different levelled blocks to sit on, the turning book stand, the truffula trees, the round window! All great!
Marni transformed these old, daggy bookshelves into bright & cheerful additions to her classroom. I would love these in my book corner!
This is Annette’s birthday wall display for her year 1 class. I love how she has used ribbon to create a cupcake stand for the cupcake months to be arranged on!
Rhiahn sent these photos in of her classroom’s transformation from storage space to fun & inviting kindy room!
It started like this…
Slowly being transformed…
Adding some colourful charts to the walls…
I love the ‘Under the Sea’ theme she’s chosen to decorate her room. The material draped across the ceiling to look like waves is an eye catching idea. Since taking this photo, she’s also thrown some shells up onto the fabric…
She is planning on adding photos of her students to the flowers in this display…
Names of students will be put on these envelopes so when they do any work they will go to their name pocket and grab an already printed name tag! She will move names around the poster too so students have to look for their name. Great idea!
Reading/quiet area to the left and morning circle time to the right!
Home corner area…
Work area…
Another ocean themed room! This time it’s Desiree’s year 2 room. She has painted this fantastic mural to add colour to her classroom wall. I’m sure her students will love it!
Katie sent in her photos of her home office. She is a Social Science high school teacher and until she gets a contract she will be relief teaching. She was unable to stick anything to the walls so instead hung some of her posters from string strung up between the bookshelves. To make her pin up board more interesting she covered it with a fun printed material she found at IKEA. Love it! She says she still needs to hang her notice board & add a few more things but I think it’s already looking like a neat, well organised, light filled place to work!
Bel sent in this photo of how she has organised all of her relief teaching resources in the boot of her car.
She has two suspension filing boxes with activities sorted into stages and KLAs, a wicker basket of books she can read and another with resource books, and a big red plastic basket filled with art activities.
You can’t see them in the picture, but she also has a little red container with laminated fast finisher activities and another with laminated game ideas for both in the classroom and outside.
I love how organised & prepared she is!
Next we have Lynne giving us a classroom tour of her year 3/4 room…
Hi Lynne!
This comfy looking chair was a gift from a wonderful school family.
This is the front of her room. As an aide for 17 years and now a qualified teacher she has seen many rooms. She says that she particularly thinks about setting up students with ASD for success. That means to keep things nice and ordered, have clear direction and include lots of visuals. Every child benefits from this approach!
This is a close up of her visual timetable that she has on her smaller whiteboard.
Her theme is ‘Doing Your Best…You Are Already Superstars!’
This area will be used to display the students’ work. She wants the students to feel excited and proud of their work so she designed a wall that has a showcase theme. This will also fit in with the celebrations unit they will be doing. The wall is 9 metres wide, with a 3 metre drop. It was covered in a white fabric first & then black pleats were arranged across the top and pretend curtains on the side. The whole wall only cost $55 to cover because she went to a fabric wholesale factory. Clever thinking!
Even the bin area is designed around learning – reuse/recycle, sustainability and the global effect of our choices.

Finally, we have the lovely Rebecca from ‘Musical Experiences for Children’ who posted a link to an album of photos from when she taught kindy. She has so many inspiring early childhood ideas. Check them out here:

Thank you to everyone who sent their photos in! If you would like to add your photos to this collection, please email them to


Book Recommendations

I love books! So much in fact, that at one point I considered opening my own little book store. The economic realities of such a venture stopped me. I’m always looking for new books to add to my own private collection though.
On my Facebook page we often have people asking for book recommendations.
This post is something I’ve been wanting to do since I started Relief Teaching Ideas; create a list of book recommendations, made by teachers, for teachers!
Thank you to all of those who contributed their favourite books that they like to use in the classroom. I’ve started compiling people’s answers, adding them to some of my own, and now have this document to share. It is still very much a work in progress. There are so many more books that can be added and more learning opportunities that can be inspired by these pieces of literature! Ideally, I would love to have activities typed out for each book. Time prevents me from doing so now, but I hope to continue to add to this document throughout the year.
I have both a PDF & Word version for you to download & use as you wish. With the Word version you can add to it & make it your own.

Book Recommendations Word
Book Recommendations PDF

book title

Disclaimer: These are recommendations only. It is important to read these books first yourself, to determine if the content is appropriate for the needs of your students and your lesson objectives. The age recommendations are only a guide. I sometimes use junior picture books for older grades too, depending on the lesson’s objective.

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Popular Facebook Posts – Special Ed

Kim asks: “Hi, I’ve just been asked to be school SEP- Special Ed teacher tomorrow and I don’t know what to expect. Has anyone had much experience in this field?”

Relief Teaching Ideas – I haven’t had very much experience in this field but I would make an educated guess to say that the students would be working on a set program & activities would be left for them to do. I would also assume that there would be education assistants who would be working with you & they will be able to point you in the right direction as far as schedules, routines, student backgrounds & where resources are kept. Good luck! It sounds like a really good experience! I love the variety of classes & lessons that goes along with being a relief teacher!

Sarah – I had a day in one today and it was fantastic I brought in lots of hands on activities such as play dough and they created Site words and characters from a story I read with it. Good luck. I hope it goes well for you!

Alisha – Make sure you ask the aides lots of questions and be careful with your behaviour management. I was in a class the other day and I told off a girl for talking on the mat (unbeknownst to me she has anxiety issues) and then she got very upset, the poor lamb. It’d be nice if some teachers could leave a file with student info, especially for the ability groupings!

Lauren – Let the teachers aide guide you they are generally a fountain of knowledge, stick to the routine as much as possible and have fun!

Za-Za – I was on Special Ed a few weeks ago and completely unprepared! Think preschool, fine motor, gross motor, colouring and hands on. Sensory items and very concrete activities. Not a very long concentration span so lots of variety. Also, stories are great but concrete – I read Room on the Broom but the concept of an imaginary witch didn’t capture the children. They were an absolute joy! Singing with actions etc. Enjoy!

Mandy – Where you can stick to routine as much as possible… the sso will be a god send to u and will b able to help with all things based around daily timetable… keep transitions quick as this is where they tend to get themselves in trouble… but have fun, the special ed kids are the best…. I spent 2 years with them & just finished a term block as well & they are beautiful, full of character…..

Marion – Look to your learning support teachers for guidance…… They are worth their weight in gold and whenever I’ve done special ed they have been amazing!

Loretta – I love working in special ed……I always ask lots of questions and get advice from whoever is in the special ed unit. The kids I worked with are sticklers for routine and enjoyed hands-on activities. I worked one-on-one in class or in the special ed unit, or with small groups. I always introduced myself and asked the kids about themselves to try to build rapport. Be friendly and flexible and have fun, this is such a rewarding area to work in.

Kate – I regularly get put on special Ed classes. There should be an aide. They’ll know the routine. Just be patient. Expect to feel tired at the end but it’s rewarding. You’ll repeat yourself but the range of personalities can leave you exhausted and wanting to tear your hair out but loving it and them and wanting to go back. At least that’s how I feel. It’s not easy. But it’s so worth it. The aide should be able to explain routine and what to expect from the kids. They’re a blessing

Sera – Make sure you know each individual students routine & triggers, nothing scarier than they go off & you don’t know what you did to set them off!

Emily – If its in an actual special needs school you’ll definitely have a few EA’s. Don’t be afraid to ask them lots of questions because they’re the ones that know the students best. They will definitely need to stick to their schedules because that is one of the major things that will set most kids off. Be very clear with the language you use and try not to be nervous/scared because some kids will be able to pick up on it!
I hope your day goes well good luck and have fun!!

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Behaviour Management

Behaviour Management is a popular topic on our Facebook page. Students often act out when their usual teacher is away for the day.

Here are some follower questions & the responses from other followers:

Jennifer asks: “Hi all, does anyone have any behaviour management strategies for a 5/6 class? I feel like I’ve tried everything but they’re just not working. I’ve kept them in at lunch, taken privileges away, tried to isolate them from other children, told them I’d be speaking to their class teacher and the deputy, but they refuse to listen. Today I sent one of them to another class, which I don’t usually like to do because I don’t want to involve other teachers, and asked him to fill out a behaviour reflection sheet. But we’ll have to see how that goes. Some of them just aren’t giving me the respect they should be. This is my first year out and I have been told I have a baby face so I’m thinking they are behaving this way because they don’t see me as an adult. Please help!”
Click here for the responses

Callie asks: “What behaviour management techniques are other relief teachers using? I had a terrible day relieving today & it got me thinking about needing more techniques.”
Click here for the responses

Sally asks: “Kids seem to be so immune to swearing now and I have heard everything from the s-word to the f-word from all ages either purposefully said or accidentally slipped out during sport, from mostly boys. Today I was particularly shocked because it was the first time I heard a kindy boy say f***. I was just wondering what consequences people out there present to these kids or tips with how to deal with inappropriate language as I feel a simple “talking to” has no real effect. Kids obviously just repeat what they hear at home but shouldn’t be saying it at school especially in kindy right?!”
Click here for the responses

Mary asks: “Teaching a year 6/7 class next week, as a relief teacher. Any teaching suggestions and behaviour management strategies? (feeling a little out of my comfort zone) I want to be the best teacher I can be and have a fun, productive day of learning~ thank you”
Click here for the responses

Mary asked:”I have a question for your page: When relieving in a tough 10 – 12 year old class in which the kids tell you they have no ‘respect’ for you as their ‘reliever’ and you don’t know their names or personalities, what is the best way to get them quiet and focused, especially at mat time (assuming the teacher has left the work so there isn’t a choice of activity to do). Does anyone have any hints or tips to use with older kids?”

Mila – Tell your stage supervisor. If they don’t listen, keep them all in at recess/lunch until they do.

Heath – Bring a prize box with you. If the kids want in they have to write their names on a nameplate made out of a4 paper. Keep your lesson design as fun and inclusive as possible. Bottom line is you can’t expect respect because of your age and position you have to earn it first.

Relief Teaching Ideas – I’ve taught some very tricky year 7 classes before! Not fun! Try to start the day positive. Tell them how much you’re looking forward to being in their class, let them know some of the fun activities you have planned (squeeze in a fitness or quick classroom game sometime during the day) but then also clearly & firmly tell them what will happen if they act out & don’t follow the rules – state your basic rules & consequences. I would usually give them a warning, move them in the class & then remove to a buddy class (see if you can organize a neighboring classroom to use). At least one student will probably test you to see if you mean what you say! It’s important to follow through.
I’ve also heard that class dojo is a fantastic free behavior tool in the classroom.
You can hand out points to students & can collect the data & leave for the teacher. You can give a certificate or small prize (pencil, eraser, notebook) to students who reach a certain amount of points.

Ashna – Use some sort of reward system eg: points system for the day and have a reward for the highest scoring boy and girl. Or do a class team points system and if they get to say 100 by the end of the day they can have 10-15 mins of free time or extra sport etc.

Ashna – I use class dojo too and it’s great!

Belinda – In the past I have called the office. They have sent the principal and the class has gotten in trouble. The office staff are big on not letting the school down just cos it is a different teacher. After they have had a talking to by someone they know, they are generally better

Annette – Definitely call the office to let them know what is happening. Make a note for yourself in case you get this class again in the future. Try and ask what behaviour system is in place before class starts. Table points, house points and so on. Remember that respect is a two way street and they have to earn yours as well

Relief Teaching Ideas – One of the first things I do, going into a new room, is draw up a quick seating chart & walk around recording where each student sits (use name plates, pencil cases that are sitting on the desks). During roll call I double check that my seating chart is correct. Try to use their names as much as possible in the first lesson & you’ll be surprised how quickly you can learn the names!

Belinda – I should have mentioned that I follow the class system of warnings, timeout, buddy class. However there are some cases where you have to jump all of the other steps and go straight to the office.

Relief Teaching Ideas – Another tip (although this can sometimes be hard to do!!) is to avoid being baited. Some students will try to push your buttons to see how far they can push you. They want to upset you & make you angry/yell. Try to stay calm, stick to the behaviour plan. If they won’t listen & move seats or go to the office, don’t get into an argument, just phone the office. The other kids will quickly see that there is no point in trying to play that game. Win for you! (Even if you’re secretly seething inside!)

Misel – Say ‘You don’t need to like it, or love it- but you will need to find a way to live with it for today’
‘Can be an easy day for you- by following my instructions, or a hard day- missing out on the fun stuff (games, recess, lunch)- choose’

Tanya – Before school I do a seating plan of where the desks are and who is sitting in it. I can usually get most names off chair bags, pencil cases or books they’ve left on desks; otherwise I fill in the blanks when I mark the roll (or an eager helper during class set-up) – it spooks them when you refer to them by name. I then run them through the rewards system I have (raffle tickets and a prize box) and then the consequences. Don’t be afraid to keep them in or call the office for help, especially when starting out at a new school. Once you’re established, you’ll find problems become minimal.

Cassy – This goes against most teaching practises however I found having kids copy notes off the board kept the kids quiet and focused. Find out what the science or HSIE topic is, then have the kids copy information down. Discuss it with the class and follow-up with an art lesson. Students are often scared of looking stupid, some feel less threaten just writing information.

Misel – You’re the boss- you don’t need other teachers they ‘know’ to plead with them to be ‘good’ – they’ll have more respect for you If a) they know you’ll be consistent b) you’ll follow through

Amanda – Buy some king size chocolate bars and a book of raffle tickets! Let them know that at the end of the day you will drawing a ticket, winner takes all! To gain entry to the raffle they need to be on task, respectful etc. each time you see this hand out a ticket….the more on task etc the more tickets, the greater chance they have to win…..this has won over many a difficult class…..the power of king size chocolate on pre-teens is amazing!!! Appeal to their greed!! You can also have a couple of draws winner gets first choice!

Anna – I find using a kitchen timer works really well, that way kids know how much time they have left to complete tasks and make an agreement at start of the time whatever time you have to wait for the when the timer goes off is the time they have to make up to you in there time (lunch, interval or after school). I had tricky year 6 clases last 3 days this worked awesome because they could hear the timer from anywhere in class and stopped and looked at me when it went off.. Also a good way not to lose your voice 🙂

Michelle – I just calmly let them know that whilst they think they can get away with bad behaviour, that all their behaviours are reported back to their teacher to deal with ;). It’s amazing how quickly they shape up!

Lisa – I always draw a clock on the board at the start of the day. Sometimes I tell them what it’s for, sometimes not till they ask. I add strokes around the outside for minutes the class or individuals have kept me waiting etc, I don’t always comment when I do it either but they VERY quickly learn that those minutes will need to be earned off at recess/lunch/home time. They piece this together and beg to earn minutes off for good behaviour too, which is a positive reward system for you. Works every time!

Alisha – Time them and make them give that time back to you at recess and/or lunch.
Give them an explicit run down of the rules and tell them exactly what will happen if they are good or bad.

Nadine – A student telling you they don’t respect you because you are a relief teacher isn’t such a bad thing as it is a great lead into a discussion about respect. You can agree by discussing how it can be hard to respect people when you don’t know them; talk about what respect is; make it clear that you are going to model respect by your actions towards them as students; ask them how it feels when they are treated in a disrespectful manner. One of my fav sayings is, “Every action has a reaction”. I write this on the board and talk about what it means with the students. I also play class ball games that encourage students to use their strengths to beat their own times passing the ball to all members of the class.

Annette – I do something similar. I draw a detailed face on the whiteboard and when they get disruptive I take one feature away. I do tell them they can earn features back bad if the whole face is still there by the end of the day they earn a quick 5-10 minute game. It’s amazing how the whole class will be grumpy at those that ‘lose face’!

Jess – I use the raffle, rewards bag, adding minutes to keep them in and games or fitness, but am always looking for new ideas.

Marcella – I draw 5 stars on the board at the start of the day. They automatically get free time at the end of the session if they can keep those starts. It’s amazing how quickly they will settle if they see you moving to the board to wipe off a star. I also sometimes add stars so if they end up with 10 they get double the free time

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Still Waters

Still Waters – A game to quieten K-3 students quickly
*especially good to use before moving to a specialist lesson or assembly*

1. Tell the class that you will be playing a game called “Still Waters” throughout the day. They will know when the game starts when you say, “1,2,3,3,2,1 Still Waters has begun.”

2. When they hear this they are to freeze and not say a word or move.

3. Time them to see how long they can stay still as a whole class.The goal is for them to break their best record.

4. You will hold your fist in the air and each time you see someone move or talk, you put a finger up and stop when you have all five up. Let the class know how many seconds they lasted for!

5. By this time you will have their attention and can give them instructions or directions for the lesson…

They don’t usually last long before someone moves!

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Seating Chart

Just a quick tip for any relief teachers out there!

One of the first things I do when I go into a new classroom (after reading through the teacher’s notes!) is draw up a quick seating chart.
I will walk around & check for desk name tags, pencil cases or books with names on them, to help me fill out my chart. When I do the morning roll call, I double check that I have the correct names marked down.
Knowing the students’ names & where they sit is a HUGE help with behaviour management!

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Book Week Dress Up Reminder Stickers

Here is a little freebie for teachers who would like to stick a reminder into their students’ diaries, about the upcoming book week dress up day.
cover picturereminder picreminder pic 2
These Reminder Labels have been designed to fit a sticker label size of 99.1mm x 34mm.
I bought PPS Laser/Inkjet Copier Labels (16 per A4 Sheet) from Office Works. Avery Inkjet J8162 are also the same size.
Simply choose the page you would like, place your label paper in your printer and then print off as many as you need!
I hope you find them useful!

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Group Work Noise Management

Love this tip from The Organized Classroom…
Noise Management Tip for Group Work~ Use green, yellow, and red coloured cups for group work. When a table gets too loud, change the cup to yellow. If the table continues to be too loud, the cup gets changed to red; this means a loss of group time. Students now have to do their work independently and silently. This is great and won’t punish the entire class!
group noise