Let’s be honest… having to get a substitute teacher is NOT fun. Raise your hand if you’ve gone into work sick as a dog rather than having to write sub plans? I know I’m guilty. I’ve used all the phrases, “but my kids can’t handle it.” or “It’s so much work I’d rather just go in.” Well I’m here to say… USE THOSE DAYS. Sick days or personal days… USE THEM. Sometimes, you actually NEED a sub. And here’s where I come in, I’m here to provide you with 7 easy tips and tricks for planning for substitute teachers to help making those pesky plans a breeze. So let’s dive right into the good stuff!!
Tip #1: The More Detail the Better
Let me let you in on a little secret. I wanted to stay home the first year of both of my kid’s lives and I did, but because I’m so passionate about teaching, I started subbing. As a classroom teacher with experience also as a substitute teacher at various schools, I can give you BOTH sides and help you make everyone happy.
Most of the time you’ll have a substitute teacher in your room that’s probably never been in there. It could also be the first time they’ve been in the school, or even as the head of a classroom! In order to help provide them as much structure and support as possible, provide VERY detailed plans. We’re talking EVERYTHING. Of course they won’t know your routines or structures like you do, but when they’re done reading your plans, they should know the gist. The more detail, the better.
When planning the day for a sub, try and keep things as similar as you can to your normal routine. The more consistency your students have the better off they will be. Everyone will be happy. However, one part of your day is a CRUCIAL component to your substitute plans. One of the most important pieces while planning and writing details is being SUPER explicit when explaining the process of how students get home. It is different for every school and at the end of the day, getting students home safely is one of the most important jobs of the substitute teacher. You want this to be the absolute priority and easy to understand.
Another thing I always found helpful while subbing is to check off each part of the day so I know we did what was expected. So for example, if the teacher planned out for us to do a morning meeting, then complete reading centers, then math, etc., I would timely be checking off on the plans that part of the day to stay on track. That’s why I created this daily checklist to leave for substitutes so they too can easily stay on track, benefiting students and you feel good that your plans that you worked so hard on were carried out! Check it out here!
Tip #2: The Beauty of Anytime Plans
Got a kid throwing up in the middle of the night? Sick with the flu and can’t leave bed? These are some of the times that anytime plans come in. Your school or team can easily pull these plans in the case of an emergency. An emergency sub tub if you will. They are easy, fun, and engaging activities for your students that are perfect for the guest teacher in your room. You on the other hand can be at home taking care of the things you need without worry or concern on how your classroom and students are doing without you.
Tip #3: Give Them Time Fillers
We as educators know just how scary idle time in the classroom can get. Substitutes should be set up for success in these moments. Just like when we’re teaching everyday, extra time can lead to chaos so why not include some no-prep printable activities. Your sub can pull them out just in case they have extra time. Here are a few easy ones below! Grab the No Prep Miss Nelson Freebie below by subscribing!
Tip #4: Prep Your Students When You Can
Sometimes it’s impossible to prepare students in advance if you’re not going to be there. However, if you can, let them know! Share your expectations with them and assign helpers to help while you’re away. We want everyone to be successful and this is a simple and easy way to do that!
Tip #5: Praise the Positive
Just like picking out a few helpers for the sub can make the day run smoother, so can working towards an incentive. I love to use something as simple as an anchor chart that motivates students to make good choices. Rewards are as easy as extra recess time, a special stuffy day, or a sweet treat if you want to bring one in. Take a look at a few of the charts below included in my Ultimate Sub Tub!
Wanna take the praise even higher? I love bragging about students and their extra positive behavior during a sub day with these adorable brag tags! Instead of threatening the class with consequences while you’re gone, celebrate amazing behavior and use that as positive reinforcement! Check out another fun chart idea HERE!
Tip #6: Lay it All Out
Whether you want to create a substitute binder, tub, or lay everything all out in a designated area, just make sure it’s organized and easy to follow! Below is one of my favorite setups because it keeps everything organized for the guest teacher in your room. Binders and tubs are always amazing ways to organize too!
Tip #7: The Sub Tub Secret
Speaking of binders and tubs, I want to talk to you about the super secret sub tub! How magical and amazing would it be to have an already COMPLETELY organized tub with ALL the information a sub could possibly need? Not only would it help alleviate your stress while gone, but it would be SO beneficial to the guest teacher in your classroom, your co-workers, and most importantly, your students! While this takes a little extra prep up front, when you have to be gone (which you will) this is a LIFE SAVER! I promise you!! Here’s some of the great things to include in your sub tub or binder.
Important School Forms –
Having helpful forms is so nice to receive as a substitute teacher. It’s like an ultimate FAQ section for your classroom in my eyes. Some forms I’ll stick in there include seating charts, schedule of pull-out or in-class support, procedures for all important times such as attendance, recess, snack time, lunch, and dismissal, technology instructions like ‘How do you turn on the SmartBoard’, etc, a list of several reliable students, serious medical issues for students that they may need to know (just in case), and a list of any children who need extra help/understanding/ELL’s/those on a behavior plan, etc. If you check out my Sub Tub you’ll have all of this AND more for your guest teacher to know ALL the things they need to.
Incentive Chart –
Something as simple as an anchor chart can serve as an incentive. I like to set up my substitutes with an easy way to reward good behavior. As mentioned earlier, you can easily write out a quick message to incentivize your students such as “draw a pumpkin every time you see positive behavior”. If they reach your specified number of pumpkins, they get a reward from you! Another cute way to give students an incentive to be awesome while you’re out, check out THIS Editable Year Long Whole Class Rewards System. It is a growing bundle and is a fun, easy and engaging way to encourage and recognize positive whole class behavior. Some theme options include a beach, a flower, rocket ship and more!
Daily or Weekly Plans –
Planning is one of the most tedious parts of teaching, but it is so crucial. When it comes to being out and having to make SUPER detailed plans, it can feel overwhelming. Maybe you just need a one day plan and it’s not that bad. Maybe you have to be out for longer, like a week even, and the thought of plans makes you want to cancel everything. Well I’ve got you covered! Don’t miss out on EVERYTHING you could possibly need to leave to the guest teacher in your room. You can create your own without any of the hard work! Simply edit using these easy templates, print, and assemble your tub or binder. You’ll prep it once and have it ready for the whole year! No more stressing when you need to be gone!
I hope you enjoyed learning all about easy tips when prepping for a sub! Don’t forget to subscribe to my email list! Not only will you get the most up to date tips, tricks, and classroom projects… and of course more fun FREEBIES including the No Prep Miss Nelson FREEBIE! But you will also have exclusive access to tons of digital how-to videos! If you would like to learn about this and other things happening in my classroom follow me @sweetnsauerfirsties on Instagram.
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