Planning for a Substitute

29 March 2015 / 4 comments
It's one of the most important, and most time consuming, parts of a teacher's job. Second only to grading in this teacher's opinion. And when you're going to be out sick, planning is even more of a chore. I know there've been plenty of days that I went to work sick because it was just too much extra work to plan for a sub day. (I'm sure you've all been there. Today, I want to share with you three resources to make planning, specifically planning for a substitute, less painful!

Since I discovered Planbook a few years ago, I have almost completely stopped using a paper lesson planner! Sure, I still use paper for long range plans and to jot down ideas for specific units, but when it comes to the daily grind, I absolutely love Planbook. (No, they are not paying me to say this, I just really love the site!) Planbook costs $12 a year, about the same as a store bought planner, but has so many great features! If you want to read more about it, you can head to this blog post I wrote last fall, but for today, I'm going to focus on how I use it to make Sub Plans easier.

First: I always type my sub plans right in Planbook. There are a couple of reasons for this. 1-I have a record of exactly what I had the sub do with my class. 2-My daily schedule is already there, and it's SO easy to fill in. For a planned absence, I print the correct day and leave it on my small group table with all of the materials and copies needed. For an unplanned absence, I type up my plans, attach anything that needs to be printed, and email it to one of my {fabulous!} teammates, who prints them and takes them to my classroom.

Second: It took me almost two years of using Planbook to realize this, but you can change the names of the tabs in the lesson section! I changed one of the tabs I never use to "Substitute Notes."

Then I created templates for each subject in this tab with info a sub would need to know. Here are some examples of things I include:

  • Morning procedures
  • How to turn on our morning news show
  • Homework routine (shown above)
  • Special student schedules
  • Enrichment/PE rotation info
  • Center rules
  • Dismissal procedures

Most days, this tab is turned off on my lesson plans, because I don't need to see it. When I am typing up my sub plans, I turn it back on so that it all prints for the sub. This saves SO much repetitive typing!

2. Emergency Sub Plans
One thing I would never do without is a good set of emergency Sub Plans. Whether you create your own or buy them from someone else, emergency sub plans are a lifesaver when you're suddenly ill and can't make it to work. I own a couple of sets of "all day thematic sub plans" that I purchased on TPT. (These are the ones I have.) Those are great to keep in the Sub Tub for the truly unplanned emergency absence.

I also have a set of activities that can be done on any day for each subject. Often, activities for a subject or two get thrown into the sub plans that I write for planned absences. Here are some examples:

  • Reading - We do Daily 5, so I have the sub do timed rotations and have students complete each center one time during that day (no Meet with Teacher). Students love "centers only day" so much that we occasionally do it when I AM there!
  • Writing - I have a jar in my room of writing topics that students can use to start writing a story/poem/article/etc.
  • Math - Extra worksheets & online games. I leave a list for the sub
  • Science & Social Studies - DVDs are my friend! This way, I know exactly what is being taught, and my students feel like they've gotten a treat!
  • Time Fillers - My sub binder has a page with a few games my class loves to play in case there is extra time to fill. Of course, this page also has the login info for our GoNoodle substitute account!
  • Behavior - We use ClassDojo in our class, but giving a sub your personal login info is a problem. I can't take credit for this idea, I saw it on the ClassDojo Facebook page, but it's genius! I created an account for substitutes to use (Mrs. Sub Stitute) using a dedicated email address. Then I shared my class with the sub account, and I can leave that login info without fear. All of this info is in my sub binder as well.

3. Substitute Info at a glance
This past summer, I created a Back to School Parent Information Flip Book. It was a huge hit, both in my classroom and on TPT. Parents raved that it was so easy to find the information they needed and that they loved the small size, perfect for hanging on the fridge. All of the positive feedback got me thinking about other ways to use Flip Books for important information at a glance, and the Substitute Info Flip Book was born!

Inside is all the "must have" info for a substitute walking into your classroom, especially on an emergency absence, when you probably didn't leave your beautifully prepared Sub Binder and emergency Sub Tub on the desk in preparation. Here, a sub can quickly find out what other teachers to go to for help or plans, where to find the emergency plans if needed, our daily schedule, behavior plan, etc.

I personally printed mine on bright paper. (Yes, that is my actual flip book in the picture.) I punched a hole in the top and have it hanging on a 3M hook right above my desk. Any sub who doesn't see it, really isn't looking!

What tips & tricks do you have for making sub plans easier? I'm always looking for new ideas! I'd love to connect with you on my blog, Chalk & Apples, on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.


  1. Love your examples for Emergency Sub Plans. I will certainly keep those in mind when I have to plan for a day out of the classroom!

  2. As an intervention teacher, they never had a sub for me before. They've decided that I should have one now, so after teaching for ten years I'm just now learning how to create sub plans. Thanks for the awesome ideas!

  3. I looked into planbook a few years ago and never used it. I will definitely try it now and recommend it to other teachers for next year. I love the idea of changing the tab to substitute notes and turning it on when needed! My concern with all the online planners was the flexibility of schedules (multiple reading groups/rotations, different days/times for specials) but it looks like this one will handle all that. We have one that comes with the attendance/grading software we use, but it is terrible! I'm so glad to have a recommendation of a good one to try! Thanks for sharing!
    Teacher Treasure Hunter

  4. I LOVE Planbook!!! I've used it for 2 years but feel really comfortable with it this year. I had no idea that you can change the tabs!!! I'm off to check this out. I also like how you shared what you do for each activity during the day. I do the same for Daily 5. My kids love doing rotations!! Thanks for sharing your sub info!


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