Focus on Five: Sub Plans

One of the major reasons I don’t like taking a day off from school is because of sub plans. Now that winter is upon us, students and teachers will inevitably get sick and sub plans are a must. In addition, teachers are people with families and mental/physical health needs, so if the only thing standing in our way of taking a needed day off  is some paperwork, then let’s get that paperwork done!  Here are things kept in mind as I created my sub plans…

1. Work Smarter, Not Harder

I struggle with leaving sub plans because I feel like I could write an entire novel about my students, their abilities and needs, ways to prompt, management and procedures. Also, I could spend hours preparing work for my students to do, with no guarantee that the sub will get to that lesson or give the students the assistance (or independence) that they need. Here are some ways to make sub plans easy for you, but still maintain a safe structured learning environment for students when you are gone: 

  • Make one of your lessons about class rules/expectations so that the sub understands them. It also never hurts for students to have a refresher- I have a Google Slides presentation with social stories included. 
  • Use systems/independent work that you already have in place- students and staff already are familiar with these systems, which is better for consistency.
  • Leave previously taught lessons or activities for the sub- you obviously don’t want to leave a new lesson or concept for them to teach and multiple practice opportunities are beneficial for students. 
  • Get in the habit of making extra copies of written assignments so you can leave review work in a sub folder for planned or unplanned absences. 
  • Include links to documents or lessons that you already have completed and make sure that the link is able to be shared within your school districts system or with anyone with the link. 
  • Leave already prepared activities (e.g. games, adapted books) for the sub to do with students during small group time.

2. Schedules & Procedures

Schedules and procedures/logistics are all essential when teaching in a cluster classroom. This is what helps the classroom to run smoothly and will hopefully help your sub in your absence. While this may seem tedious to type out, this can also be a useful document to give to staff (particularly new staff) or to use for any paperwork (e.g. pre or post observation write-ups, weekly lesson plans). Here is what I included in my sub plans: 

  • Schedules- I included my students’ schedules, my staff’s schedules and the specialty class schedules. I also make sure to set up the large visual schedule I have on my board before I go home each day to ensure that the schedule is up, regardless of my absence (but, I’m willing to bet multiple students would set it up correctly if I ever forgot). I include a printed version of my schedules, as well as links in a shared Google Doc. 
  • Procedures/Logistics- My colleague developed a document outlining the logistics of her classroom for staff and includes the same document with her lesson plan for subs. In the procedures/logistics, I made sure to include the procedures for each subject, transitions, breaks, lunch/recess, bathroom and arrival/dismissal.
  • Classroom Management- I wrote a brief overview of my token economy system and included our “Class Code” (expectations) with each of our lessons. I also made additional copies of behavior plans to include in the sub plans. If it is appropriate, printing off any behavior data sheets (with clear instructions or operational definitions) may be helpful, but it may be best just to rely on staff to collect any behavior data while you are gone.

3. Technology & Slides

Schools are adding more technology in the classroom, therefore, many of my lessons are around students’ individual laptops and using the Promethean Board for lessons. Here is how I addressed this in my sub plans: 

  • Technology- As we know, familiar technology can present a challenge, let alone technology you may not already know. I make sure to explain in my plans about our technology procedures as well as how to use the Promethean Board. I included pictures in my instructions and relied on the password remembering in order to make it easier for someone who is not me to access the slides and websites needed. I also make sure to go over where technology is kept and let one of the staff members in my classroom be in charge of locking and and unlocking
  • Plan/Slides- A colleague of mine puts her whole day’s worth of lessons on slides as a guide for her sub and even includes a printed copy with notes (some slides even have a timer embedded for easy use). I really liked this idea, so I used it for my own sub plans. I also incorporated the schedule into the slides, to make the day easier to follow. I put the sub plans in my Google Classroom on our staff Google Classroom page, which is accessible through our Promethean Board.

4. Gather & Organize Materials

Hopefully you don’t have too many things to organize and gather, but if you spend time upfront gathering and organizing materials, it will be easier for you to take additional days off as needed. Here are some things I did to gather and organize materials:

  • Set up the classroom for the next day- I put up the schedule, straighten out desks, make sure independent work is in students’ drawers
  • Make copies of written work or organize extra printed assignments for students
  • Upload your plans where they need to be and email your plans to any other teachers, staff or clerk
  • Make sure your plans and other documents can be accessed by the sub (share via school district or make the link available)
  • Print out hard copies of schedules and plans 
  • Put all documents on teacher table or desk

5. Try to Relax/Get Better/Have Fun

Being a teacher is very rewarding, but it can be a challenging career. We all know what flight attendants tell us before take-off: “Put on your mask first”. We all want to be dedicated teachers, but we are only human and sometimes a day off is what we need to come back to the classroom refreshed and healthy for our students. So try to relax, have fun and/or rest and recover on your sick day or personal day and know that you wrote great plans, your students know the routine and your staff is there to support those plans. 

I hope you found some helpful tips in organizing sub plans so you feel like you can take that personal day, sick day or mental health day. For more ideas and resources for sub plans, check out Planning for the Most Successful Substitute Teacher Experience, Substitutes and the Special Ed Classroom, and Substitute Paraprofessionals: What to Do & Not to Do. Stay healthy and safe!
Holly Bueb
Latest posts by Holly Bueb (see all)


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *