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Tips for Creating Emergency Substitute Plans

September 12, 2021 No Comments
sub plan folder

We’ve all seen that meme about how sick teachers still come to school because writing sub plans would be worse. Scrambling to come up with engaging standards-based activities that aren’t just “fluff” is no fun when you’re sick or have an emergency. So today, I’m sharing some tips for creating emergency sub plans so that you’re ready to go when you unexpectedly need to be out.

It does take some time to put your sub plans together, but trust me, you’ll be so glad you did. This is a great activity to do over the summer and then just update as needed each school year. Let’s get to the tips!

Tip 1: Create a sub folder.

I like to make it easy on a sub by creating a folder that has everything he or she will need. I’ve always kept my sub folder near my desk, clearly labeled, so it’s easy to find. I also make sure my teammates know where it is.

Here are a few things you may want to put in your emergency substitute folder or binder:

  • names and room numbers of teammates
  • class list (including notes about allergies and other medical needs)
  • attendance sheet
  • daily/weekly schedule (including specials, pull-out times)
  • any procedures a sub would need to know (like taking attendance, changing the calendar, how centers work, etc.)
  • school safety plan, fire drill map, etc.
  • names of students who can help answer questions and who may need support
  • overview of your school/class behavior management system
  • substitute feedback form
  • lesson plans and worksheets
  • read-aloud book (or an explanation of where he/she can find the one you’re currently reading)
emergency sub plans folder and sub feedback form

Tip 2: Prepare lesson plans and activities that can be used anytime.

When you need to be out suddenly, there’s no time for typing out complex math lessons and science experiments.

I recommend prepping at least one-two days’ worth of lessons and activities that will work anytime during the year.

I love including generic, reusable activities and worksheets that offer flexibility, but also rigor. You can start by thinking of areas that students can always use more practice with. For example, multiplication/division facts and place value in math, paragraph writing, fiction and nonfiction graphic organizers that work with any book, etc…

Virginia SOL-aligned activities

You can go with a mix of activities or use a theme. For example, one year I created emergency sub plans in which every activity was related to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. I kept a copy of the book in the sub folder.

Comprehensive sub plans like this no-prep set for Virginia fourth grade teachers makes it easy to know you’ve got every subject covered.

Tip 3: Make your sub plans simple.

Substituting for a class, especially if it isn’t for a planned absence, can be hard! Leaving a well-formatted, clear, and easy-to-read plan helps make it easier for a substitute to teach your class.

It’s helpful to make copies of any worksheets that students will need (or you can include a blackline with copying instructions). And of course, labeling everything you can!

Virginia 4th grade sub plans with printed sticky notes to label worksheets

Tip 4: Make sure your students know what to do.

All the time you spend in August and September practicing rules and expectations will really pay off when you suddenly need to be out. You want your classroom procedures to still run like clockwork even though you aren’t there.

It’s especially helpful if students know what they should do when they finish an activity, since guessing at how long an activity will take can sometimes be tricky with sub plans. If students find themselves with extra time, they’ll already know to complete unfinished work, play a math game, or read a book, for example.

Knowing that you have these plans ready just in case will alleviate stress and save time when you need to miss school at the last minute. Then you’ll know that your sub has everything he or she needs to teach your students while you’re out.

If you’re a 4th grade Virginia teacher wanting to save time, you may like my print-and-go emergency sub plans. This resource has enough activities for 2 days or more, and everything is aligned to the grade 4 SOLs. Since this set includes printable and digital worksheets, you’ll be prepared if you ever find yourself in this situation.

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