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8 Digital Tools to Boost Substitute Teacher Effectiveness

8 Digital Tools to Boost Substitute Teacher Effectiveness

“Technology can become the ‘wings’ that will allow the educational world to fly farther and faster than ever before – if we allow it.” ~Jenny Arledge

Teacher effectiveness is essential if students are to get the education they need and deserve. While permanent teachers must have a degree and a teaching license, substitute teachers may not have the same background and training. The ongoing substitute teacher shortage makes it all the more important to make sure that subs have the training they need.

At Alludo, we understand the importance of substitute teacher onboarding and training. We’ve seen the impact it can have on students and school districts. Proper onboarding can even lead to hiring substitutes as full-time teachers. And with the use of digital tools and technology on the rise in classrooms around the country, substitute teachers must learn how to use these tools effectively to connect with students.

It’s for these reasons that we’ve included training on how to select and use digital tools in the Alludo professional development catalog. Here are 8 digital tools that substitute teachers in your district can use to be more effective in the classroom.

Table of Contents

  1. What is the Definition of an Effective Teacher?
  2. What Does Effective Teaching Look Like?
    1. Respectful Teacher/Student Relationships
    2. A Positive Learning Environment
    3. Active and Collaborative Learning
    4. Effective Use of Technology
  3. What Things Can Help Substitute Teachers Be Effective in the Classroom?
  4. 8 Digital Tools to Boost Substitute Teacher Effectiveness
  5. What is the Impact of Teacher Effectiveness on Student Achievement?
  6. Alludo's Take
  7. Boost Substitute Teacher Effectiveness in Your School District with Alludo

What is the Definition of an Effective Teacher?

Effective teachers are teachers who have the training and experience to manage a classroom and engage students. While not all effective teachers are alike, they do all share certain qualities:

  • Preparedness. An effective teacher is prepared when they enter the classroom. This aspect of effective teaching requires substitutes to review and understand lesson plans quickly before students arrive.
  • Clear and Fair Expectations. Setting boundaries and expectations is essential in any classroom because without these things, it will be difficult for any substitute teacher to maintain order and maximize their effectiveness.
  • Positive Attitude. A substitute teacher who enters the classroom with a positive attitude and belief in their own abilities is likely to be highly effective at connecting with students and helping them understand the day’s lessons and concepts.
  • Patience. Patience is an essential teacher quality because students of all ages may challenge their authority or need extra attention to grasp the material being taught.
  • Regular Evaluation. Regular evaluation, including self-assessment and third-party feedback, can help substitute teachers be more effective–but only if they are receptive to such feedback.
  • Flexibility/Ability to Adjust. Flexibility is one of the most important attributes of an effective teacher because students are individuals and many will require special attention or understanding.


Effective educators will demonstrate all of the above teacher characteristics and attributes, bringing them to the classroom every day. 

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What Does Effective Teaching Look Like?

Now that you understand the qualities of an effective teacher, here are some of the ways that effective teaching manifests itself in the classroom.

Respectful Teacher/Student Relationships

When a teacher is effective in the classroom, their relationships with students will be mutually respectful and positive. Students afford the teacher their courtesy and respect while teachers reciprocate. Teachers set and maintain healthy boundaries and students respect the classroom rules and the teacher’s boundaries, all of which are necessary for effective learning.

A Positive Learning Environment

The overall learning environment in an effective teacher’s classroom is positive. That means the teacher allows for and adapts to students’ varied learning styles and allows students to have a voice in their education. A positive classroom climate should include collaboration and allow students to participate in discussions and activities.

Active and Collaborative Learning

While there is a time and a place for a classroom lecture, the most effective teachers encourage students to actively participate in classroom learning, collaborating with one another. Students should develop their own inquiries, ask questions of the teacher and one another, and put new concepts into practice.

Effective Use of Technology

Today’s K-12 students are all digital natives and technology is an essential part of their daily lives. Effective teaching brings technology and digital tools into the classroom, integrating their use with lesson plans. Using digital tools in the classroom is an important part of preparing students for their lives beyond the classroom.


What Things Can Help Substitute Teachers Be Effective in the Classroom?

Substitute teachers can and should be provided with the tools and training they need to be effective replacements when teachers are away from school. It’s the responsibility of school districts to provide onboarding and training, so that all approved substitutes are prepared to be effective in the classroom. Here are some things that can help substitute teachers be effective:

  • Creating a welcoming environment. When a substitute teacher arrives at school, they should be welcomed in the office and provided with the resources they need to acclimate quickly. These may include a list of school rules and safety procedures, a school map, and the name of one or more “buddy” teachers that they can approach if they have questions or need guidance.
  • Providing lesson plans. School administrators should encourage teachers to create lesson plans for substitute teachers, keeping them straightforward and easy to understand. Plans should include a few extra activities in case the lesson plan takes less time than expected.
  • Setting concrete performance expectations. Substitute teachers should be provided with a clear-cut set of expectations that lets them know what to do and how to do it. Without expectations, teachers are less likely to be effective and more likely to make mistakes.
  • Developing a buddy system. Having a buddy system in place can be hugely helpful to substitute teachers. By assigning buddies, schools help substitutes by providing an opportunity for on-site collaboration and advice.
  • Creating positive student relationships. While substitute teachers rarely have the opportunity to build long-term relationships with students, both permanent teachers and administrators can work to cultivate an environment where students are welcoming and respectful to substitutes.
  • Providing onboarding and professional development opportunities. Substitute teachers are professionals and require onboarding and training in the same way that full-time teachers do. By providing substitutes with opportunities to develop professionally, school districts may encourage substitute teachers to acquire the necessary licensure and experience to become permanent teachers–something that’s hugely important in light of the ongoing teacher shortage.

Providing these things means that substitute teachers can enter a classroom with confidence and armed with the information they need to be effective.

8 Digital Tools to Boost Substitute Teacher Effectiveness

There are thousands of digital tools that can be useful in the classroom, but here are 8 that we believe are particularly helpful for boosting substitute teacher effectiveness:

  • Trello. Trello is an organizational tool that substitute teachers can use to keep track of their assignments, create timelines, and even collaborate with other teachers. The free plan allows teachers to create up to 10 boards and it may also be used by students.
  • Kahoot! Kahoot is a tool that facilitates the creation of educational games and quizzes that engage students and encourage learning. It can be used in both in-person and online learning and has privacy tools that allow teachers to share their creations using a PIN.
  • Sky Guide. Sky Guide is an astronomy app that uses augmented reality (AR) to show students what’s happening in the sky overhead. Teachers can point their iPad or tablet at the sky and get a detailed map of any stars, planets, or satellites in the area.
  • Quizlet. Quizlet is an app that substitute teachers can use to create flashcard-based games to incorporate in the classroom. It’s ideal for teaching new vocabulary and concepts and testing students’ memory.
  • Buncee. Buncee is an online learning platform with thousands of templates teachers can use to create engaging activities for students.
  • Pear Deck. Pear Deck is a tool for creating interactive lessons that can be used in the classroom or for asynchronous learning. Its focus on active learning, retrieval, and formative assessment makes it a particularly effective tool for teachers.
  • Epic. Epic is an app that encourages students to read. It provides them with the opportunity to create virtual bookshelves and review the books they read. It can be helpful for substitutes because they can encourage students to use it to interact with one another and ignite a love for reading.
  • Screencastify. Screencastify is a tool that teachers can use if they want to project what’s on their computer or tablet screen to demonstrate to students. It was a popular tool for remote learning and continues to be useful in the classroom.


These 8 tools are some of the most effective to help substitute teachers connect with students and be their most effective in the classroom.

What Is the Impact of Teacher Effectiveness on Student Achievement?

There is a well-documented link between educator effectiveness and student outcomes. Multiple studies have shown that students who are placed with effective teachers reap the rewards even if they later move to a classroom with an ineffective teacher. The reverse is true as well, with ineffective teachers impacting student achievement even if they have effective teachers later in their school career.

These studies have found that student test scores were significantly impacted by teacher performance, particularly when students had effective teachers for multiple years in a row. Teachers who are effective in general were found to be effective with students at every level, which is proof that teaching effectiveness is driven by a collection of teachable skills that are useful in any classroom.

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Alludo’s Take

At Alludo, we understand the impact of effective teaching and since we know that every student spends a significant amount of time with substitute teachers, we’re believers in a robust system of substitute teacher onboarding and training. That’s why we have incorporated training related to teacher effectiveness and digital tools in our professional development catalog, including classroom management and assessment.

When handled properly, substitute teacher onboarding and professional development can serve as an onramp to hiring new teachers, something that we saw happen at the Yucaipa Calimesa JUSD after they partnered with us.

Boost Substitute Teacher Effectiveness in Your School District with Alludo

When substitute teachers are trained and effective, they can have a positive impact on student learning and achievement that extends far beyond their time in the classroom. The 8 digital tools we’ve listed here can help substitute teachers increase their effectiveness and connect with students — and they’re all included in the Alludo professional learning platform.

Do you need to create a training and onboarding system for substitute teachers in your district? Alludo can help! Click here to download your free trial of our professional learning platform, Madagascar, with our content catalog preloaded for you to review..

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