7 Easy Ways to Prep for a Substitute Teacher

By Kirsten Hammond

Being able to prepare for a substitute teacher if you are feeling sick or need a mental health day is so important. 

The last thing we need when we’re not feeling so good or there’s a family emergency is to have to scramble to get everything together. You don’t want the day to be a wasted day of learning for your students!

Here are some really great tips on getting ready for a sub. These suggestions are not only easy to prep, but it’s also easy on yourself, your students, and teachers on your team! 

1. Have procedures listed in advance. 

It helps to have a list of common procedures and how the procedures work in your classroom. This can range from restroom breaks, transitioning to a new activity, morning meeting, morning time, what students do if they need to use the restroom, and any other emergency procedures.

Try to think of as many as you can –  but don’t overwhelm yourself in trying to explain it! 

Try to think of the most important procedures and then add what you can later on.

2. Have a master schedule. 

Another way to prep for a substitute teacher is to have a master schedule. It’s important to have a master schedule of everything that students will go through throughout the day. You don’t have to add in exactly how many minutes are a mini-lesson – just a general time-frame will do! 

Keep it basic and general so it is flexible for the sub. Some ideas would be to list the times of your morning meeting announcements, each of your subjects that you teach, lunch, recess, specials, and when dismissal happens.

school supply desks

3. Be consistent with student schedules in advance.

While not everything is predictable, it does help to keep things pretty consistent in your classroom so that students know what to expect.

That way, if you do have to leave in a moment’s notice, they won’t be completely blindsided by what comes next – they would have a pretty good idea of how the schedule goes.

This makes it easy on your sub and on your students!

4. Find extra filler activities.

While it’s usually frowned upon to have filler activities during a regular school day, it is important to have something extra for students just in case they get done with something the substitute teacher assigns earlier than expected.

This can be something printable like a fun coloring activity or Webquest activity. It can also be an online digital activity that students can complete.

Make sure the substitute teacher and students know how to access these links or are able to make copies of the activities!

graphic organizers fiction 1

5. Put everything in a designated tub in advance.

Have a sub tub or folder with master copies, as well as copies already made for at least a couple days. Make sure students know where the sub tub is.

Even better, make sure teachers on your team and admin know where the designated tub is as well!

Some schools like to have a school-wide sub folder that any substitute teacher would be aware of if they taught at that specific school. This can be really helpful to do as a team or as a school!

6. Prep students when possible.

If you know you’re going to be out for a day or a week, try to notify students in advance. 

You don’t have to tell them exactly why you’re going to be out, but it does help to have them be prepared.

It’s also a great time to talk to them about expectations of behavior and making sure that they’re on track to have a good day with the sub.

Students with a substitute teacher can use technology.

7. Assign classroom helpers.

If you have really responsible and knowledgeable students who are good helpers, they may be good candidates for being good helpers for the substitute.

You can always list their names in the sub notes or sub plans. This is a really great way to give these students some autonomy, responsibility, and help move things along with the sub and the students smoothly.

Resources to Prep for a Substitute Teacher

Here are several resources that are easy to prep and perfect for sub plans!  You can utilize the printable version or you can assign through your platform of choice with a digital version! Just click on each picture to learn more!

Planning for a substitute doesn’t have to be a pain. It could be easy – if you let it – for your students and yourself! Try one of these tips and one of these resources to make it a smooth and painless process!

kirsten hammond

Kirsten is a former 3rd and 5th grade teacher who loves helping upper elementary teachers by creating resources and sharing ideas that are engaging, research-based, and TEKS-aligned. She is a work-from-home mama of 3 rambunctious little ones and loves running, true crime, and lots of coffee.

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