How to Effectively Plan for a Substitute Teacher

 How many of us have gone to work sick because it was easier than planning for a sub?  We just can't afford to do that anymore, especially in the world of Covid.  Years ago, I was determined to find an easier, more manageable way to plan for a substitute teacher.  I am sure you know the feeling of waking up sick and not knowing how you are going to get everything ready for a sub when you feel so terrible.  With that in mind, I created a Substitute Teacher Binder and Sub Tub.  In this post, I will share how I prep for those surprise sick days and how I prepare for days that I know ahead of time I am going to be off.  I most recently had to plan for a sub for a week, so I will share some tips and tricks for planning for those days off.

How to easily plan for a substitute teacher and create the PERFECT substitute teacher binder!

At the beginning of the year, I create my Substitute Binder.  I divide it into sections for easy access to different topics and parts of their day.  I print the section cover pages on cardstock and laminate with 3M laminating pouches.  You could also just use a clear binder if you don't want to use the rings like I did.  (The discs/rings and the paper punch I use are from Happy Planner.)

How to easily plan for a substitute teacher and create the PERFECT substitute teacher binder!

Choose which sections you want to include that are important for a sub to know.  I then sit this by my door so that they see it when they come in.  If it's a day I had already planned on being off, I put it on my desk or teacher table with everything they need for the day.  As for the sub tub, I always put extra worksheets in the bottom of it throughout the year that we didn't get to.  This just gives the sub something extra if they need time filler throughout the day.  

First, let's talk about the sub binder and what I include.  All of this is very helpful for those surprise days off.  I can just text a teammate and ask them to set out my binder for the day if I get sick.  I always sort my worksheets and activities in daily bins, so I ask them to set that day's bin out along with the binder.  It makes planning for a sub super easy for me and for my teammates.

How to easily plan for a substitute teacher and create the PERFECT substitute teacher binder!

The tabs on the binder are super important to have.  This lets the sub know what's important for them to know and shows them where to quickly turn if they need that section at a particular time.  

How to easily plan for a substitute teacher and create the PERFECT substitute teacher binder!

I always have a little WELCOME note to make them feel welcomed.  You could also include any special information you need them to know first thing.

How to easily plan for a substitute teacher and create the PERFECT substitute teacher binder!

I include a full page ROSTER of my class.  I also print the half sheet rosters and clip them to the front of the binder.  They can take attendance on these since they don't have access to our online attendance.  Be sure to include a note about that on your lesson plans so they know where to put attendance.

How to easily plan for a substitute teacher and create the PERFECT substitute teacher binder!

The next sections I like to make are STUDENT INFO and IMPORTANT INFO.  These are the sections where you will include important health information, such as allergies or other medical conditions they need to know about.  I also include emergency procedures, pull outs, seating charts, a class schedule, and any other helpful information about students or special situations that could arise.

How to easily plan for a substitute teacher and create the PERFECT substitute teacher binder!

For RELATED ARTS, I include our rotations.  If I know I am going to be out, I include the exact one that we go to that day in my lesson plans.  If not, they can just ask another teacher what day we are on.  

How to easily plan for a substitute teacher and create the PERFECT substitute teacher binder!

I put my classroom management strategies and classroom rules in the PROCEDURES section.  I let them know the specifics of expectations, consequences, and incentives that they can use.  I also include another pull out list here, just in case.


How to easily plan for a substitute teacher and create the PERFECT substitute teacher binder!

The ARRIVAL section gives important details about expectations during the first part of the morning.  This is where you tell them what students do when they first come in, details about announcements, and how to complete attendance.  

How to easily plan for a substitute teacher and create the PERFECT substitute teacher binder!

The LESSON PLAN section includes a basic class schedule in the first part of the section.  I then include very detailed plans for our day.  For the lesson plans you put in the binder or planner, you can give a general run down of what they do during each part of the day.  This will help your sub so much if you are out unexpectedly.  I tell them how the lesson generally goes and they can grab the practice from the daily tub.  I also tell them where they go and how to do lunch, recess, and all of the other parts of our day.  By including these detailed break down of your day, you can ensure that instruction continues as if you are there.  I don't like to plan something totally different from the pacing guide, because it throws everything completely off.

How to easily plan for a substitute teacher and create the PERFECT substitute teacher binder!

How to easily plan for a substitute teacher and create the PERFECT substitute teacher binder!


How to easily plan for a substitute teacher and create the PERFECT substitute teacher binder!

How to easily plan for a substitute teacher and create the PERFECT substitute teacher binder!How to easily plan for a substitute teacher and create the PERFECT substitute teacher binder!

How to easily plan for a substitute teacher and create the PERFECT substitute teacher binder! 

I include dismissal procedures in the detailed lessons plans, but I also add it to the DISMISSAL section.  Be very specific about how students go home, how they pack up and clean up, and what the sub's responsibility is during dismissal.

How to easily plan for a substitute teacher and create the PERFECT substitute teacher binder!

The TRANSPORTATION section includes how each student goes home.  I also put a note in there telling them that students have to go home that way, unless they receive a change of transportation note from the office.  I like using this box sheet for each student.  I normally have that all typed in here but I used a blank one here for confidentiality purposes.

How to easily plan for a substitute teacher and create the PERFECT substitute teacher binder!

The CLASS section is where each student has a box.  They can use this to tell me about any students who were absent or any behavior issues they had that day.

How to easily plan for a substitute teacher and create the PERFECT substitute teacher binder!

The BEST DAY EVER section is where I ask them to leave a note about their day.  I have found that this helps to end the day on a positive note.


How to easily plan for a substitute teacher and create the PERFECT substitute teacher binder!

Always let them know how thankful you are for them filling in.  Being a substitute teacher is not an easy job.  I want them to know that they are appreciated.

How to easily plan for a substitute teacher and create the PERFECT substitute teacher binder!

Finally, I just include a NOTES section, in case they need somewhere to take notes throughout the day. 

How to easily plan for a substitute teacher and create the PERFECT substitute teacher binder!

Now let's talk planned days off.  The only things I do differently are change the lesson plans and lay everything out for the day.  

How to easily plan for a substitute teacher and create the PERFECT substitute teacher binder!

I recently was out for a whole week, so I will show you how I planned for those days off.  I color coded everything!  First I used the lesson plan section I had already made, but I added more details about each specific lesson, as well as what related arts we went to each day.  Just copy and paste the lesson plans pages.  I also put the day of the week at the bottom of each packet.  I did not put these in the binder.  I decided to staple each day's plans printed on different colors of paper.

How to easily plan for a substitute teacher and create the PERFECT substitute teacher binder!

For the sheets that were needed for each day, I used the same color sticky notes to label each day's activities.  You could even put the time that they will need each activity.  I also lay everything out in order for the day.  I just spread it all out across the table for the sub, and it keeps everything organized and the expectations clear.   If they needed a teacher edition for that lesson, I also marked the pages with those same color sticky notes and put them in the stacks.

How to easily plan for a substitute teacher and create the PERFECT substitute teacher binder!

I hope seeing how I plan for a substitute teacher helps you plan for yours.  So many subs have thanked me for having everything prepped for them, and they love coming back to my class.  I have had other teachers request for me to share how to properly plan for a sub, particularly how to put together a proper Substitute Teacher Binder.  Often times, teachers do not leave detailed plans, which makes the day difficult not only for the sub, but for the other teachers on your team.  You want your sub to feel prepared and to want to come back.  It's so hard to find a sub these days, so we want to do everything we can to support them.

You might even want to include a little treat for them.  We know that chocolate makes everything better!  You can grab this free tag by clicking on the photo below.

How to easily plan for a substitute teacher and create the PERFECT substitute teacher binder!

If you have any questions, feel free to send me an email or reach out on Instagram.  What tips do you have for planning for a substitute teacher?

How to easily plan for a substitute teacher and create the PERFECT substitute teacher binder!


How to easily plan for a substitute teacher and create the PERFECT substitute teacher binder!










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