chat center

Latest Posts Full Chatboard Submit Post

Current Issue » Table of Contents | Back Issues
Keep Your Sub Afloat - So Your Classroom Doesn’t Sink
By Tiffany Grizzle
January 1, 2008
In the teaching profession, the only thing harder than being in the classroom everyday is not being in the classroom for even a single day.  There is no just calling in and letting the in-box anticipate your return.  Being gone, even for a single day, requires a level of planning and organization that rivals stealth military operations.  When those times do arise that require a teacher to be out, our most beneficial ally appears - The Substitute Teacher.

I have experienced substitute planning from both the side of the sub attempting to decipher teacher’s plans as well as the preparing teacher.  During my year as a substitute and subsequent years in my own classroom, I have discovered several clever and uncomplicated ideas to make being absent less of a burden on all parties.  These are by no means a cure all - everyone has his or her own methods. However, the one thing I have seen time and time again in this profession is that sharing advice is the most valuable tool we have.  And so I present my breadcrumbs of wisdom I’ve picked up along the way...

The "Always Haves":

Not everyone has that magical folder of emergency sub plans, but EVERYONE should always have the following items:

  • A current class list & school map
  • Schedules for students that may see other teachers throughout the day
  • Names of students that have medication with the nurse (In case of an emergency)
  • The phone numbers to the office and a couple of "tag team" teachers that can help out in a pinch
  • Special instructions for arrival/dismissal
  • Procedures/map for emergency drills

This information can be made easily accessible when stored in a brightly colored folder either on your desk or with your plans.

Instead of a separate schedule, which is more than likely posted in your room, I prefer to incorporate the schedule into my plans (kill two birds, etc.)  This enables you to save sub plans as a template on your computer, and easily update plans the next time you are out.  I have found, both as a substitute and as a teacher leaving plans, that this is an exceedingly organized way to present information and a much less time-consuming way to prepare.

The Blueprints

I head lesson plans with a greeting, thank the sub for coming, and let them know of anything special going on (assembly, speaker, drill) if needed.

Give the names of a few of your most responsible students so the sub has a few "helpers" to rely on throughout the day.  Make sure to leave instructions for taking attendance as well.  If there are any handouts or worksheets included in my plans, I highlight the titles of those sheets to eliminate confusion.  I leave copies clipped together under the plans.  If Teacher’s Editions of the books are being used, I open them to the pages needed and mark those pages with a post it note for reference.  In order to keep things simple, I stack the TE’s and worksheets in the order they will be used throughout the day.

Good Morning, thanks for coming!

If you need any help in the room today, Jack*, Sarah*, and Kimberly* are very helpful. The bright blue attendance sheet (under these plans) needs to be turned in when the attendance bell rings at 10:00. Students are considered tardy if they arrive after 8:00.

Please note that anything highlighted in the plans denotes a worksheet, and those are clipped underneath these plans.

7:45-8:00Arrival. Students should place last night’s homework in the bin and get started on their morning warm ups that are already on their desks.
8:00-8:45Reading Groups. Students already know their assignment by their group’s placement on the blue bulletin board. They should have the needed materials, but if some do not, extras are in the folder marked “Reading Groups.” Every student needs to complete a Reader’s Response sheet today, please pass those out about 8:30. Our inclusion teacher, Mrs. West* will be in the room during this time, please feel free to ask her any questions you may have.
Be sure to include times, locations and procedures for recess, lunch, and special area/planning time.
12:06-12:36Lunch – our class sits at the table to the far right of the cafeteria, please stay with the class until all the students have made it through the lunch line.
1:30-2:15Special Areas – We go to Art with Ms. Kirk* today, her room is all the way at the end of our hall

Once you have typed in your schedule blocks and saved them as a template, new plans can be inserted when needed.  Certain blocks, like recess and lunch will remain the same every time.

As a thank you, I always tape some change to lesson plans next to planning time with instructions for my sub to have a soda or a snack on me, and include directions to the nearest vending machine.  If any work needs to be graded during the planning period, be sure to leave those instructions in the plans and include a key.

The last page of your plans can be left blank for the sub to let you know how the students fared in your absence, or you may prefer to head that page "Notes," or  "How Did It Go?"

A last page template may look something like this:

Our profession is one of the few where it’s almost more work to be absent than present.  Any and all tools used to lessen the load, especially when planning for your absence, should be utilized, manipulated, embellished, created, adapted, borrowed, and above all else, shared with other teachers!   It is my hope that the ideas I find useful will help fellow teachers likewise, I anticipate that with each new school year, I will be filling my bag with a whole new set of tried and true tricks shared with me by fellow teachers.

» More Gazette articles...

About Tiffany Grizzle...

After graduating from the University of Northern Colorado, Tiffany Grizzle went to work in the business sector before returning to her first love, teaching. Following a year of substitute teaching, Tiffany pursued earning her teaching certification while teaching third grade. She currently teaches fifth grade in Austin, Texas, where she lives with her husband, Jason, and their daughter Kaeleigh.

January, 2008

January, 2008

Cover Story

Wrapping the Year with Rap!

A few years ago, Alex was having a hard time teaching Algebra. The students would not pay attention, do their work, or retain a simple math formula. But, he noticed the students could recite every word of a new hip-hop song on the radio....

By Harry & Rosemary Wong


Teaching Literacy

Validating Writers to Motivate Them

4 Blocks literacy guru Cheryl Sigmon adds a new contribution to her collection of over 100 articles featured on Teachers.Net

By Cheryl Sigmon

Promoting Learning

Understanding Boys

Whereas good relationships are important to girls, success is more important to boys....

By Dr. Marvin Marshall

Instant Ideas for Busy Teachers

Six Easy Resolutions for 2008

These resolutions are a snap to keep and will make your teaching life easier!

By Barbara & Sue Gruber

The Busy Educator
The Busy Educator's Monthly Five

Five new websites for educators that are easy to read, simple to use and worthwhile to know

By Marjan Glavac

Ed-Tech Talk

Becoming the Technology Leader and the Electronic Janitor?

Do you want to be a technology leader or do you want to be left alone?

By Dr. Rob Reilly


Barb S. HS/MI
Apple Seeds
Today Is...
January Events
Live Chats

From the Teachers.Net Gazette Archive

Teachers.Net Chatboard Poll

Teacher Classified Ads

Help Wanted: Teaching Jobs

Teachers.Net Recommends - Free Drawings for Teachers, Students

This month we discovered a new web-based resource for kids, parents and teachers - offers more than two thousand cartoon style drawings FREE for teachers....

Featured Lessons
Martin Luther King Lesson Plans

Just in time for the Martin Luther King celebration, we present eight MLK lesson plans from the Teachers.Net Lesson Bank

Teachers.Net Favorite
3-D Snowflake Craft Project

From the January, 2003 Gazette, one of our most requested craft project ideas ever.

By Mizletts

Streaming Video
Teachers.Net Video Bytes

What does a teacher make? Science Experiment: CO2 Is Heavier Than Air; What is the Multiple Intelligence Theory? Teaching English with Games; What Teaching is to Me; Early Literacy Activity: Egg Carton Game


52 Character Building Thoughts

52 thoughts designed to help children build character

By Leah Davies

Keep Your Sub Afloat

In the teaching profession, the only thing harder than being in the classroom everyday is not being in the classroom for even a single day

By Tifany Grizzle

Mentoring Pre-service Teachers

Special educator Susan Rismiller offers a collaborative approach to improving the practice of teaching

By Susan Rismiller

Planning to Present a Workshop? Here's How!

Teachers know the importance of developing carefully thought out and structured lesson plans for teaching students. Hal Portner offers advice for structuring effective workshops as well.

By Hal Portner

Book Excerpt

Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire

From the inspiring roadmap that encourages parents and teachers to look beyond discipline and to bring passion, excellence, and joy back into education.

By Rafe Esquith

The Gazette is a collaborative project published by the Teachers.Net community. Submit your work to the Gazette