In my opinion, writing substitute plans is one of the worst things about being a classroom teacher. I love my job, but when I’m sick, I just want to be able to call off without planning the whole day. Writing sub plans also takes so much longer than doing regular plans because you have to include so much detail. Here are some ways to make writing substitute plans easier.
Substitute Plans the Easy Way
Tip #1 – Take a “mental health day” early in the year.
The first sub plans for the year always take the longest. Your schedule has changed, and some of your school’s programs may be new. This year, we have a completely new reading program, so I have to figure out what to do before I can leave plans for a substitute.
It’s a lot easier to write your first sub plans when you’re not really ill. Believe me, I learned the hard way. Getting the stomach bug at 3 am and trying to type sub plans and get everything in order isn’t fun.
Since then, I schedule a doctor’s appointment toward the beginning of the school year and get my sub plans in order when I’m healthy. That way, I just have to tweak them for future absences.
Get a copy of my substitute plans template at the bottom of this post. You will be prompted to make a copy so you can edit it.
Tip #2 – Make sure everything is easily accessible for the substitute.
I put everything the substitute will need in order in a pile on my desk. That way, they just need to grab the top item for the next part of the lesson plans. I also make sure they have easy access to the remote for the projector, pens, and post-its.
Tip #3 – Copy for the week ahead.
Sometimes you’re too sick to go in and set everything up for the substitute. You’re lucky if you can email your sub plans to another teacher. There’s no way you’re going in to school to set up an organized pile of papers.
That’s why I spend my planning time on Friday copying as much as I can for the following week. I have a tower of trays where I keep all my papers for the week. Monday goes in the top tray, Tuesday in the second, and so on. The other third grade teachers in my building know where my papers are and can show them to the substitute. Everything may not be in a nice neat pile, but at least they have what they need.
Tip #3 – Put together a slideshow to go with your plans.
This is something I just started doing last year. If you have a computer that is connected to a projector, create a slideshow to walk your substitute through the day. It starts with my morning message to my students and ends with the homework they need to write in their assignment books. Each subject includes the directions, so my students can’t argue, “That’s not how Mrs. Dusko does it”. It’s there in writing for them to see.
Tip #4 – Use Google Classroom.
If you don’t have copies ready and you can’t go to your classroom, Google Classroom can be a lifesaver. You can assign your students’ work for all of your classes through Google Classroom. They will just type their responses in a Google Doc instead of writing them on a paper copy. An added bonus is that you can check everything from home.
Find out more about how to use Google Classroom.
Tip #5 – Designate two students as substitute helpers.
If you’re trying to put plans together when you’re not feeling well, it’s inevitable that you’re going to forget something. Make sure your students know where materials are, and designate two of them to help the substitute. If all of your students are telling the substitute something different, it’s not very helpful. I choose two responsible students to answer any questions the sub has.
Last year, I had a substitute on a day the students were supposed to use fraction strips. I completely forgot to pull the fraction strips for my guided math lesson. Luckily, my designated helpers knew where the math supplies were and could find them.
Tip #6 – Have emergency sub plans ready – just in case.
Normally, I like to leave my regular lessons for my substitutes. They do the math, reading, and science lessons I would have taught. However, situations arise where there’s no way you can write plans.
My mom passed away suddenly a few years ago. I only found out at 6:30 in the morning, and writing sub plans was the farthest thing from my mind. Luckily, my amazing teammates pulled plans together for me for a whole week. I don’t know what I would have done without them.
Now, I’m prepared for situations like this. I have emergency sub plans ready. They don’t follow the regular lessons I would be teaching, but they are something to get the substitute through a day. I keep the plans and all the copied papers in a folder on my desk, and my teammates know where they are. I haven’t had to use them yet, but I feel so much better knowing they’re there.
What Do You Think?
Writing sub plans still isn’t my favorite thing to do, but using these tips makes it a lot easier.
What do you do to make writing sub plans easier?
Let me know in the comments below.
Substitute Plan Template
Download this template, and edit it to meet your sub plan needs.