January 28, 2012

Avoid Sub Disaster by Planning Ahead

Guest Post by Rachel Friedrich

It’s inevitable. As much as you don’t want to, you will have to miss school occasionally. And I know many teachers stress and worry about what will happen in and to their classroom when they are not there. Teachers and subs alike have plenty of horror stories to share. However, you can plan ahead to avoid some of those horrors.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when preparing for a sub. Use my checklist to make sure nothing is forgotten. You can download this checklist for free from the Odds N Ends page on Laura Candler's Teaching Resources.

Here are eight tips to help you avoid sub disaster:
  1. Make sure all pertinent information is handy. That includes a class list (with pictures if possible), seating chart, class schedule (including anything out of the ordinary like library, guidance, or assemblies), a description of your classroom procedures, a description of your classroom management plan, and a list of helpful numbers around the school (helpful teachers, office, nurse, custodian, etc.).
  2. Make sure forms and office supplies are within sight. That includes nurse passes, attendance forms, lunch count materials, pen, and notepad.
  3. Write detailed lesson plans… the more the better. Probably the worst thing you could write in the lesson plans is: “The students know what to do.” As a teacher, I know you would much rather a sub not get to everything on your list rather than “wing it” with some possibly questionable activities. If you are in a bind, there are free emergency sub plans for grades K-5 available at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Rachel-Friedrich Each grade level has a warm-up, a reading lesson, a language arts lesson, a math lesson, a science lesson, and a social studies lesson. Instructions along with reproducibles are included.
  4. Make sure all the materials and supplies for the lessons in your plans are available.
  5. Unless you know the sub, don’t plan lessons that heavily rely on cooperative learning or manipulatives. Yes, those are best practices, but when a sub is there, those things tend to get misused even with good classroom management.
  6. Don’t forget dismissal procedures. This is extremely vital in the elementary school setting. Many times little ones don’t know where to go, and the older ones try to fool a sub by convincing them they get to go home with a friend.
  7. If technology is to be used for morning announcements, videos, or other parts of the lesson plans, make sure instructions to use the technology are clear and straightforward.
  8. Leave a list of special students. That includes helpful ones, ones that need medication or have other health restrictions, ones on behavior plans, and others to keep an extra eye on.
Although it may take some work, it is much better to do the work on the preparation end, rather than try to fix what went wrong. And many of these items can be prepared ahead of time and will change infrequently. Take the time to give you some peace of mind and your students will be ensured a good day as well.

—Rachel Friedrich at Sub Hub, http://www.subhubonline.blogspot.com


  1. What a great list! Thanks for sharing!

    Sally from ElementaryMatters

  2. Very helpful list. I used to sub and always appreciated when teachers had detailed instructions of what was going on.


  3. Great tips and reminders! I have always said as a teacher that often times it is soooo much harder to have to MISS work than to just power through the day! Since it can't always be avoided (even those "mental health" days), I would much rather OVER-explain & leave TOO MUCH than not enough instructions or plans!

  4. As a sub myself, I would emphasize how helpful it would be to have even just a few notes for the sub on classroom management techniques used and dismissal procedures. Those two things are key and are often not explained at all for a sub!


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