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How to Prepare for a Substitute Teacher

Updated: May 22, 2020



I don't know about you, but 9 times out of 10 I do not PLAN to be absent from school! Which means I also never had a chance to plan for a sub!! It seems like common sense to have all of your necessary information and plans set up before you ever have a chance to miss school, but for most teachers (including myself) the idea of putting together a sub binder or sub tub sounds great... but then we never actually get around to creating one.


9 times out of 10 I do not PLAN to be absent from school! Which means I also never had a chance to plan for a sub!

I'm going to share with you some tips for creating your own substitute binder for your classroom. I've finally made my sub binder, and hopefully after reading this post, you'll feel inspired to make yours finally too!



Try to imagine yourself as a substitute teacher. Imagine coming into a new school and a new classroom with all new faces. You might not now anything about the school, the layout of the building, the procedures, and you definitely won't know where anything is located within the classroom itself. Need to find math manipulatives? Good luck! Looking for dry erase makers that actually work? HA! Yeah, you're never finding them.


Need to find math manipulatives? Good luck! Looking for dry erase markers that actually work? HA! Yeah, you're never finding them.

My biggest tip is to have a binder full of all of this information that you don't necessarily think about telling your sub. Include a page that explains the layout of the school. Make sure to write the room numbers of the specials that your students will go to. Include how to find the teachers lounge, bathroom, and the nearest drinking fountain. Explain where to take the kids to recess (because as normal of a routine it is for you, your sub will have no idea which door to take the students to). Also be sure to mention any extra duties that they may have as a sub in your room, such as recess or bus duty! Oh, and including a list of any passwords that the sub might need would be SUPER to include! It's easy to forget about that type of stuff when we are the ones doing it every day, but a sub would come in and have no idea what to do if they have to log in to a program just to take attendance. And ABSOLUTELY include a page that tells your sub where all of the random important things are located in your room!


In my personal sub binder that I created, I included a welcome page thanking the sub for coming in on such short notice. I also have a class list, our daily schedule, and even student schedules (because a big challenge for subs is keeping track of kids when they end up coming in and out of the room for different subjects or extra curricular activities).


I also include a seating chart (although this is not AS important), basic school info such as the school address, the principal's, behavior support's, secretary's, and nurse's name and number. I also ALWAYS include a page designated to "buddy teachers" and helpful students. This might be the most important page to include because even if your sub don't know anything else, they will at least know what kids are responsible and reliable and what teachers will be able to give him/her advice!


I also always include emergency plans for fires, tornadoes, or intruders (but if this is posted in your classroom regardless, this might not be necessary to add to your sub binder). Including basics such as classroom rules, common procedures (like how to get the students' attention, how you go about going to lunch, etc.), and even outline of how students go home (bus, walk, etc.) would be very beneficial to have in your substitute binder!


One thing I also include in my substitute teacher binder is a page per IEP. This is a page that just gives a really quick overview of the IEP my student is on, allowing the sub to get a quick glance at what to expect from this student. On these pages, I simply include the student's name, their diagnosis, the support we provide, their strengths and challenges, and any additional tips for the sub.


And OF COURSE, I include the lesson plan (or at the very least a full day and half day example so that if I am gone unexpectedly, the sub at least has something to kind of go off of)! I also include the expectations for homework and TIME FILLERS! Oh my gosh, this is such helpful for subs! If you are a sub coming in last minute and you don't have an actual lesson plan to use, having time fillers is a Godsend! I include a bunch of ideas that the sub can do, such as 4 corners, Simon says, GoNoodle, books from the classroom library, etc.


At the very end of my sub binder, I like to include a "Rewards" page that has a little pocket with reward tickets that the sub can give to my students if they are being great leaders! The students will turn the reward tickets into me the next morning and they get some type of special reward! And then, of course, I include a thank you page with a little gift (chocolate, $5 gift card, or two flair pens) and a page that the sub can fill out to tell me how their day went!


Ultimately, there are SO many ways you can create and put together your substitute binder! It's all based on personal preference! Hopefully this gave you a few ideas on how to create your own! If you still feel lost or overwhelmed (which don't we all when we try adding even more to our already busy teacher lives?!), feel free to download my editable substitute binder template. It offers 27 unique pages and also includes a binder cover, spine, and tabs! They also come in three different colors! Pinked theme (which is what I use), blue themed, and gray (great if you don't want to print with extra color)!




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