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4 Simple Tips for Planning for a Sub

You wake up in the morning to a child who just threw up right on the edge of the carpet (only two more steps and it would have been a hard surface!) Or you wake up and you feel your fever roaring. Or, you know you have to be gone, but you still have to have your classroom ready. Trying to plan for a sub can be stressful whether it’s for a planned or an unplanned absence. However, it doesn’t have to be complicated! You can keep it simple with these tips for planning for a sub!

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Why Plan for a Sub Ahead of Time

Sometimes we have no idea we are going to be gone! These days tend to be the most stressful days. Typically, they are a day where we had big plans that required more teacher-led instruction rather than students working together. However, when you have a personal absence, it is nice to have a set plan that you don’t have to think too hard about ready to go. This can be done if you make planning for a sub part of your beginning of the year prep!

1: The Everything You Need to Know Sub Folder

One of the biggest headaches when you have a sub is getting them all the information they need for your classroom to simply run. Having a folder with everything the sub needs to know can be a huge time saver! This information should include:

  • You class roster
  • A simple schedule
  • Map of the school
  • Staff contact information
  • Emergency information for a fire, bad weather, a lockdown etc.
  • Any known allergies, medications, or medial issues your students have
  • Transportation list for students
  • List and contact information for any specials teachers, aids, or paras you or your students work with.
  • Any behavior notes or other important information to help guide your sub in relation to your students.

Throughout the year, you’ll want to keep this folder or binder updated so the information is current because you never know when you’ll need to be gone. As a rule of thumb, I liked ot check my sub binder once per month. I would just add it to my calendar and take 15 minutes to check the binder before leaving school.

It’s important to put this binder in a place that is easy to find. I always make sure I told a neighboring teacher, co-teacher, or the administration where the binder or folder can be found if you are gone unexpectedly and can’t set it out. You can even make an extra copy and have a co-teacher hang on to it in just in case of emergency.

2: Create Special Lessons Plans when Planning for a Sub

One of the reasons many of us try to power through when we shouldn’t is simple. Whoever they get be “you” for the day is simply not YOU. They don’t teach the same way you do. Plus, they don’t always know the ins and outs of what you’re teaching or the format you use when teaching. Because of this, I never liked it when my stubs did MY lesson plans, especially the important things. However, they can’t watch movies and be on devices all day.


So, to solve this problem, when I was planning for a sub, I would make three to five days of basic, easy to prep activities for each of my subject blocks. This would allow students to review and enrich the material that we had already covered.

Just like the emergency class binder, I check this information every month and switch them out to match the skills we have been working on. I always made all the copies for my sub. That way, the sub didn’t have to worry about it. I also always had a list of supplies students would need as well as instructions to find them in my classroom. No matter what you leave, you want to make sure there is enough detail left behind. I always like to include the following:

  • Where are the supplies needed?
  • Where do students work?
  • What you want the sub to do with completed work?

Having these questions answered can make planning for a sub so much easier in the long run. Plus, your sub will thank you.

3: Have A Special Classroom Management Plan

When you are planning for a sub, one thing you can’t control is how your students are going to act. What we all know is your students are going to push the boundaries which will cause come mishaps and maybe event a bit of mutiny. Often, this is the main reason we decide just to tough it out! However, we can’t do that! You still need time to rest and heal when you are sick. So what can you do to try to make sure your class stays on track?


One of my favorite strategies was to have a special classroom management system that my students had to follow when I was gone. I always tried to make this fun by using a new game classroom management system. Because it was new and a game, students were more engaged with it.

Some simple systems you can use include drawing a picture on the board or chart paper and having your students collect items to complete the picture. For example, in September, you could draw a tree and have students collect apples on the tree based on following the class rules. Your sub can reward great behavior by giving out apples to students who are following directions.

As always, students are working towards a “prize” that they will get when you get back if they have earned it. Remember, keep in mind your rewards need to be small and meaningful. Don’t promise a full-on party in September because then you’ll have to take them to Disney for winter break!

4: Ask for Feedback from Your Sub

Whenever you’re away from your students, you’re going to spend the whole day thinking about what the day was like and whether your students behaved. One way to avoid this is by simply asking your sub to give you some feedback on how the day went. In this note, they can tell you what was completed and what went well and what did not. You can also get any behavior reports that you might need to address.

This will give you the opportunity to praise your students if they did well. However, it will also give you a glimpse into what did and didn’t work from your sub plan. This will only make planning for a sub simpler in the future.

Don’t Re-Invent the Wheel

When you are creating your sub binder, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. My friend Kristen from Easy Teaching Tools has a fantastic Sub Plans Template Bundle that is perfect for getting your sub-plans in order. This bundle includes so many great features that will make your life so much easier! Some of the documents included are:

  • Five different fun covers
  • A note to the sub
  • Seating chart
  • A daily schedule
  • An editable class list
  • School staff information
  • Emergency drills
  • Guided reading plan
  • And more!

You can also use any of your centers for kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth, and fifth grade from my store. Remember, when you’re gone, you want to review and enrich students’ learning experiences. Therefore, center activities are a great resource to use when you are planning for a sub.

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Whatever you use for planning for a sub, make sure you are prepared with something. You will never be able to relax and therefore feel better if you are worried about what you need to do so your students are still learning. With these simple tips and great templates, you can stop stressing out about that fever and get the rest and relaxation you need to get healthy!

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