6 Tips for Better Sub Plans

Let’s face it. Sub plans can be a real pain. You feel miserable or have somewhere else you need to be; instead, you must write a dissertation on your day. Worse yet, you know large parts won’t be read or followed, and you’ll just come back to a mess. They’re the worst!

6 Tips for Sub Days so your stellar subs always return.

It was only my third year of teaching when I had my little girl and decided to take a break from the classroom and sub for the year. I planned to work more as a stay-at-home mom and substitute a few days a week. I limited myself to grades three through six, where I thought I would feel more comfortable. Boy, was I wrong!

Since I was an experienced teacher at the school and with the unique curriculum, it didn’t take long to start getting calls. Soon I was getting regular callbacks to the same 4th-grade teacher’s room.

Subbing in Fourth Grade

6 Tips for Your Sub Plans

Mrs. Sampson was a phenomenal teacher. She kept her class in order and produced excellent results, so I thought nothing of subbing for her. That was until I got there and realized 4th graders are a whole different breed of animal from my usual 6th graders.

It only took three days of being bombarded by stuffed animals in shoe boxes, make-believe friends, and petty, he said-she said fights before I wanted to say no to any more of Mrs. Sampson’s sub requests. The kids were driving me batty. Fourth graders were just too young for me and my secondary mind.

6 Tips for Sub Plans

It wasn’t all a lost cause, though, because Mrs. Sampson taught me just what to do when I had a sub, and it’s a procedure I’ve followed ever since.

  1. Type up detailed sub plans for the day. Assume nothing and explain everything, and you’ll return to fewer headaches. My typical sub plans are 6-8 pages for a half-day and 10-15 for a full day. It sounds crazy, but once you have one for each day of the week, you can reuse them, copying and pasting information as needed.
  2. Layout all your materials for the day in chronological order, and better yet, label them. Put sticky notes on the pages and resources the sub will need throughout the day.
  3. Leave two lists of kids in your sub plans. One should be a list of kids that can help when called. The other should be kids needing extra attention or watchful eyes.
  4. Make sure to include more material than you think will be needed. Subs don’t tend to teach as in-depth and with as much passion as you may like, so they may get through material faster than you anticipate. Make sure they have plenty to keep them busy.

With that in mind, my color by number sheets repeatedly review as the perfect sub plans activity. They come in 13 different skills for any age from kinder up to 8th grade and cover every month of the school year. They can be purchased individually by the sheet when you just need something quickly for one day. Or better yet, you can get a Monthly Bundle of one particular skill if it’s something you need to master over the year. With these in your back pocket, a sub will have plenty to keep the kids busy, just in case.

Color by number math pages are perfect for sub plans.
  1. Include a sub-folder with your sub plans. Have all your copy codes, emergency numbers, teaching cohorts, and more in your folder. It’s also good to have emergency lessons in your folder when you don’t have time to write up sub plans or fill the whole day.

History Minutes are a great example of emergency lessons for your sub folder. These packets on a moment in history can take a tiny bit of each day or an extended period of an entire day, depending on how much you want to cover and what subjects you want to integrate. History Minutes blend curriculum together, such as history and language arts, science with math, etc., allowing students to get a full circle view of the topic.

  1. Arrange with a friend or a co-teacher to step in and check how things are going, answer questions, and take control if things are going awry.

Hopefully, by following these six steps and gathering some go-to sub folder lessons of your own, it won’t be such a pain to call in and take a sick day the next time you’re feeling under the weather.

The Colorado Classroom Signature - Brittany


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