Simplify Your Approach to Sub Plans


Having a substitute teacher come in and help with your class is inevitable–but with widespread teacher and resource shortages this year, getting ahead of it is more important than ever. 

It can be gut-wrenching to even think about crafting those dreaded sub plans. The time it takes to write down everything you do each day and to prep the materials only to find all those beautifully labeled piles untouched. Or to find their independent work was completed as a class. Or half the class’ papers were turned in and the other half missing entirely. You get it. You’ve lived it. You dread it. But can you avoid it? 

Let’s prepare for it early and find some effective tricks to make sub planning a breeze this school year.




Compile everything you need to leave for a sub once! No rushing to prepare items. 


  • One time prep
  • Easy to locate in case of emergency


  • Lesson plans won’t reflect current learning objectives
  • Need to remember to update with class changes

Check out these helpful guides to creating yours.


A written plan only goes so far. Subs need materials! Passes to the nurse, stickers, candy (if your school allows), a pen, post-it reminders of the schedule. Leave everything in an apron, so your sub won’t be fumbling around trying to find materials instead of helping your students!


  • Organizes all necessary supplies
  • Keeps your teacher space clean
  • Plans can reflect current learning objectives
  • You can use this daily, too!


  • Will need to plan materials each absence
  • May not be ready in an emergency



We’ve all been there. The school year begins and the office is asking for you to bring down your emergency sub plans. You know, the file that sits and gets dusty all year. Let’s make these useful! There are definitely places you can find editable sub materials, like these, but sometimes it’s easier to craft yours your way.


Step 1: The Basics – class lists, helpful students, daily schedule, essential routines (homeroom, lunch, dismissal, etc.).

Step 2: The Skeleton Schedule –  as you write your daily schedule, fill in the bones of what each class entails. Bell ringers, hooks, whole group lesson time, independent work and rotations, and exit tickets. Whatever your class framework is, write it out now to have less to fill in later!

Step 3: The Meat – These are the assignments. What your students will be doing when you are away. Our opinion on the best ELA plans? Read alouds! Read Alouds. Read Alouds. Read Alouds. Students of any age will love sitting and listening to a story. Add a printable activity to target reading comprehension and you’re set.


When planning “the meat,” there are two routes you can take. Route #1 is to find pre-made materials to prep once and use whenever you have a sub. Route #2 is to plan new material each absence to reflect the current learning in your classroom. A great option for both of these routes is Legends of Learning teacher-created resources. These resources are sorted by subject, grade and standard. You can assign these at any time without running back and forth from the copier at 3:30 the day before an absence or sending your team materials for them to prep when you wake up sick as a dog one morning! Find these resources here.


Here are some other tips and tricks to making subs want to come back to your class!

  • Clarify your trusted student!
  • Create routines to make the classroom run itself daily. Daily rotations or a must do/ may do routine help students know their daily expectations. When you are gone, students will continue to follow the routines with minimal instruction needed.
  • Leave behind an incentive for students to earn all day! Gone around the holidays? Leave behind a string of lights on this kid-approved anchor chart to color in when students are working well on their goal!
  • Our favorite hack to crafting lesson plans for science and math? Legends of course! With Legends, you build assignments that align with the standards you are teaching. With games to engage the fun in students and standards based questioning to engage their thinking, students will continue learning, even in your absence. The best part, Legends logs student activity and performance. No more looking for missing papers or a note left behind saying how students performed that day.


With these tips and tricks, your need for a sub won’t be so gut-wrenching and hopefully these sub plans are for a well deserved fun personal day!


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