The Five Star Method

An aide for substitute teachers

The ***** Method
(An aide for substitute teachers)

Substitute teaching is a rewarding and challenging occupation.
This is an overview of a system I developed that works all the way up to the ninth grade. Ninth graders are, after all, eighth graders who have moved back down to the bottom of the food chain.
The first thing I do when I arrive in the classroom is to find what I call the ‘panic button.” (All schools may not have this feature.) It is the button that allows you to be put into immediate contact with the office staff. The ones I have been associated with have all been near the classroom door. Hopefully, you won’t need it.
Next, I find the lesson plans the teachers leave for the subs.
I find out how many different groups of kids I will have for that day.
Then I put my name on the blackboard.
I draw a grid on the black board. It should look something like this grid.






Now you have a space for each group you will have that day.
Next you put five stars in the first space.

1. *****_____________________________________________________

When the kids begin to come in I stand behind or in front of the desk and kind of half-smile at them.
They will be naturally curious about the grid on the board. The first class is the most important and they should be told they are important.
They are important because they will be setting the standard for the rest of the day for the other classes.
After they are settled in, I introduce myself and then ask, “Who knows what five stars means?” Even some of the first graders will know that this means you are the best. I say, “The five stars on the board indicate that right now, at his moment, you are the best you can be. From this point on, you can only go downhill. If the whole class acts up, I will remove a star from the board.
I will not remove a star because of the behavior of one or two people. They will be dealt with by themselves. Your teacher has left assignments for you to complete. You are responsible for the completion of those assignments. You are also responsible for having five stars on the board when the teacher returns tomorrow. The teacher will not call me at home to explain why you did not complete your assignment or why you lost any stars. You will be the one to explain to them why your behavior lagged.”
At this point I add. “Now I know that there are some students here today that are having problems with behavior. So, just for today, you have a clean slate. I don’t know who you are so I will treat you just like everyone else. Unless, you show me otherwise.”
At this point someone will inevitably point out the ones in the class who you need to watch. Amazingly enough this has worked very well. In some cases, the offender will go out of their way to prove their classmates wrong.
Some of them appreciate being treated well.
As the day progresses, hopefully, each class will compete to keep their stars. They don’t have to explain to the teacher why they didn’t keep all of their stars.
As the day progress you just repeat the process with each class.
The more five star classes you get, the easier the day. We all know how restless they get towards the end of the day.
I have had only one instance where a class lost all of its stars. It was a group of ninth graders. All they had to do was watch a (boring) movie and answer a few easy questions about it. They chose to talk and throw paper planes.
I stood in the back erasing the stars and saying very little. One of them said “We don’t care about your old stars.” A chorus of ‘yeah, yeah’s followed this remark.
I happened to be at the same school the next day. I was on cafeteria duty.
A boy, from yesterdays class, walked up to me and said, “Mr. Letcher, you almost got us Saturday school!”
I said, “No, you almost got you Saturday school.” He just frowned and walked away.
It is not a magic bullet. It works very well most of the time.
Good luck with it and I look forward to your feedback.
You can copy this article and use it to explain to the teachers my ***** method.
AL Letcher