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How To Write Sub Plans (That Keep Subs Coming Back!) [episode 6]


Click below to hear how to write sub plans:

Welcome back and happy Friday! Fridays always make me happy, and another thing that makes me happy is talking about everything sub plans. This is something I’m very well known for here at Wife Teacher Mommy, and it’s something I’m passionate about. Therefore, in today’s episode, we’re talking about how to write sub plans that actually keep subs coming back to your classroom!

One of the biggest stressors as a teacher is creating sub plans, but an even bigger stressor for a sub coming into your classroom is not having sufficient or easy-to-find sub plans and other important information. Throughout this episode, I unpack all the ways to easily write sub plans and have materials ready for any time you need to be away from your classroom.

Two of the most important items to have are your actual sub plans, which are the teaching and grade level content, and having a sub binder that includes information regarding your class, such as roster, seating chart, schedule, school information, and so much more! We cover all of this and have resources available for you to use at the links below. 

Being prepared with emergency sub plans and binder, how to efficiently write sub plans, and keeping these items organized and available will ensure your sub and your class will have a smooth and successful day while keeping them wanting to come back to your classroom!

There are so many exciting things happening at Wife Teacher Mommy, and one of those is our virtual summer event: Educate & Rejuvenate. This is an event we’re hosting and it’s going to be so fun! We have sessions including life coaching skills, talking about teacher burnout, and learning amazing teaching strategies that you can implement in your classrooms. Another bonus is you can get PD credit and tickets are only $5! Check out the links below for more information!

Key points I share about how to write sub plans:

  • All the information you need to include in your substitute binder
  • Small ways to get subs keep coming back to your classroom
  • The importance of already having emergency sub plans
  • Disprove the myth about subs not wanting to teach on their day in your classroom

Resources mentioned:

How to write sub plans related podcast episodes and blog posts with lots more substitute teacher ideas!:

Connect with Kelsey:

Read the transcript for episode 6, How to Write Sub Plans (That Keep Subs Coming Back!):

Hello, Hello, teacher, friend. If you’re listening today, as this episode drops, I hope you’re having an amazing Friday. Doesn’t Friday, always feel so great? And if you’re listening later, and it’s not Friday, don’t worry, Friday will come. But before we really dive in today, I have a quick announcement to share. I feel like we’ve had announcements on almost every episode so far. But we’ve had a lot of exciting things happening over at Wife Teacher Mommy lately. So we just released registration for our summer event, Educate and Rejuvenate this summer. And I’m so excited for this event is so passionate about it is our first time doing it. But it is going to be such a great time, we have an amazing speaker lineup. And the whole purpose of the event is to help you learn amazing strategies for teaching. That’s educate part, but then also rejuvenate over the summer, so you’re ready to teach again next school year, how we’re going to do that is we’re going to have sessions also about like burnout, and we’re going to be learning life coaching skills. It’s going to be so amazing, and so fun. And tickets are only five bucks, and you’ll be able to get some PD credit. It’s going to be so much fun. And I’ll be talking even more about it later and having guests come on the podcast. But honestly, I would not delay to grab your ticket, go check out the show notes and grab that link. I really hope to see you there.

Okay, so today on the podcast, I’m going to be talking on a subject that I’m really well known for his Wife Teacher Mommy, which is sub plans. I talked about it on episode two of the podcast, I’m really excited to be talking about it again today. But I will also be doing a full session going over absolutely everything for sub planning during educate and rejuvenate this summer. So if you find this episode helpful, definitely be sure to check out that event in the show notes. And I really hope to see you there.

I feel like sub planning is as important of a topic as ever because things are a bit different now than when I started writing ready to go sub plans and binders back in 2014. While there has always been a sub shortage here or there in some places, there is one unlike ever before now, which we discussed in episode two of the podcast and how you shouldn’t feel guilty about sub shortages. So this episode is kind of a follow up to that one, where we are going to dig in even deeper on how to write your actual sub plans themselves, so your sub will love you and keep wanting to come back to your classroom again and again. Because even in a sub shortage, there are still some subs and if you can get those ones to prioritize your classroom, you’re going to have a much easier time finding a sub, because let me tell you as a sub, these things make a big difference.

When I had my oldest child, I took a break from teaching to sub while being home with him instead of working full time. So I know a lot about that substitute side of things. I subbed at local schools, and there were times where not enough plans were left. One time, I actually thought I had no plans and I was kind of in a panic. But then I did find them later lesson :learned that you should make your plans easy for your sub to find. But really teachers who left good solid plans and if I knew I could depend on them, those are the teachers I would say yes to any day. So how exactly do you write sub plans that will keep your subs coming back?

Well, first, there are two main parts that you’ll want to make sure that you have as a part of your emergency sub planning: your sub plans and your sub binder. Now some people use these terms interchangeably. But here at Wife Teacher Mommy here is the definition of these two things. So your sub binder is a binder full of information about your class. So this would include things such as a class list, seating chart, all the schedules, anything like that. And then your sub plans are the actual teaching content that you leave that includes like the lessons and the activities, grade level content. So those are the difference between those two things.

Okay, so first, let’s talk about what you should include in your sub binder. You will want to include things such as all of your school schedule And this includes like all the different variations that a sub might run into. So like your regular schedule. But if you have an alternate schedule, like for a short day, or a special schedule, you’ll want to include those as well. Then you’ll want to include info about school and staff. So are there staff members that they should know about people who they could go to if they need help. Then you’ll want to include information about your class that they’ll need to know. So classroom info, like where are things located, how many kids are in your class, all of that. Then you’ll want to make sure you also include a class list. So they know all of the kids that are in your class that can take attendance, all of that jazz; you’ll want to include any information about students who might get pulled out of class so they know what to expect there. And then any behavior management things they might need to know about. Like if you have an individual student on any sort of contract or anything. You’ll also want to include any student health info or any other needs that a sub might need to know about. Next, you’ll want to include any class rules and behavior management strategies. As a sub, I really found it helpful when I knew the attention prompts that the teacher used in the classroom. So include those there, if you have regular ones who use that the kids know that will be very helpful for your sub. And then how you run transitions. If you have the sub transitioning at all, you want to make sure you include that too. And then of course, procedures for things such as arrival and dismissal, attendance, bathroom, lunch, assembly, lockdown, fire, when there’s indoor recess, what would they do things like that, that will help your sub be prepared, whatever situation they might find themselves in. And then also, I love to include a little form for the subs to fill out, this way they’ll more likely leave notes and I leave that in the sub binder about how to their day go. I like to have little emojis on it so they can circle kind of like overall how did the day go. And then they can list like students who did really well, students who struggled, what in the plants they got to, what they didn’t, things like that. And then if you want to include even more in your sub binder, like for example, if you’re going on long term leave, or if you just want even more detail that your sub might want to know, you can include a tour of your classroom, like some pictures of where things are, you could include student profiles about your students, like have a picture of each one; this can help you know the stereotypical, like kids seeing a different name or whatever. This can help them put a name to a face and know any of the things that that student might need. You can put your class jobs so that your sub will know what they’re supposed to be doing. You can include how students get home, bus information, all things like this are great to go in your sub binder.

Okay, next, let’s talk about your sub plans. So remember, these are the lesson plans and the student activities. For the lesson plans, I like those to be clearly laid out of what you want the sub to do, and what you want the students to do. So easy step by step instructions, but no more than one page since your sub will not have a lot of time to read it. So we want to keep it short and concise. A lot of times as a sub, I would have students silent read at the beginning Why looked over the plan so that’s a good routine to set in place for your class if they’re old enough. So make sure your plans are short enough that your sub can completely understand them with only about 10 minutes to look over all of them. And that said, it really is great to leave actual lesson plans for your sub. I myself, and I’ve heard from other subs, that they actually do like to teach contrary to what some people might say that subs don’t like to teach, they do. And they want to actually do meaningful things with your class. So you can if you’re able to plan ahead and include some actual lesson plans, so it’s not just a busy workday, it will be great for your students, and great for yourself.

Now for your student activities, you want to include those as well. So the actual worksheets, or graphic organizers, games, any materials that will be needed for the day, put these together in a sub tub. And if you’re able to do that ahead of time, it will make it so you don’t even have to stress when you need to call in sick, you just have the sub tub, have it somewhere in your classroom clearly labeled, so you wouldn’t even have to come in, and the sub would be able to find it. Like I said, it’s very important that it’s easy for them to find, so your sub doesn’t end up in a panic thinking there’s nothing, but you can have it somewhere very clearly labeled so they can find that.

Now a quick note about sub plans needing to be what you would be teaching that day. Now I can see that being the case if it’s a planned absence. But here’s the thing. We’re talking about emergency sub plans. So we’re talking about like you are sick last minute, you shouldn’t have to be writing these lesson plans and making sure it’s exactly what they would have done if you were there that day. It’s okay. Your class will be okay if they do the sub plans who have prepared ahead of time. And honestly, it might even be better learning activities because we’re able to actually put in the prep than just like scrambling last minute. It might be even better that way.

If you need help getting your sub binder and your sub plans started, we have something really awesome that I can’t wait to share with you. We have a free sub planning starter kit and it includes printable and digital activities for pre K through sixth grade. And these will be great examples of the clear lesson plans and activities that I’ve been talking about. And you’ll also get editable forms that you can use to get started with your sub binder. Our ebook Sub Planning Made Simple, which really walks through our full process for sub planning and so much more. So make sure to grab that I will link to it in the show notes.

Okay, now some other things you want to include in your sub plans. It’s a great idea to have some kind of behavior management strategy in place specifically for when you have a sub. So a couple ideas, one of them is to have a word of the day. And what you would do is have your sub, or you, pick a word that they will spell out throughout the day, and they will get one letter for whenever the sub deems that they’ve earned it. And then you’ll have some sort of incentive that if they are able to spell out the full word, they will get that. And if you want something to make that really easy, I mean, you could just do it with writing on the board. But we do have a really fun little packet that can help you with setting that up. Another great idea is substitute punch cards. So all you would need is to print out these cards, and your students will have them and then have a whole punch for your sub. And this is a great individual one,the word of the day, there might be certain kids who are acting up, but other kids are doing great. And actually those are included in the free sub planning starter kit. So make sure that you grab that. And then another great thing to do is leave a thank you note for yourself. This will make them feel super appreciated and everyone loves a thank you. And we have some printable thank you cards available in that free kit, so make sure you grab it, because you’ll get all the essentials in that free starter kit. And if you want me to do all of the planning for you, because let’s face it, sub planning is no fun at all. You can grab our full sub plans, binders and sub planning resources in the show notes as well. We have printable and digital sub plans for pre K through sixth grades. There for all subjects we have departmentalized too, then we have monthly themes, sub plans, maternity leave sub plans, and so much more. And really over 50,000 teachers have purchased and used our sub plans. They are tried and tested in so many classrooms. Teachers love them, so it’s a great way to get your sub planning done.

Okay, so let’s recap. The two main parts to your sub plans are your sub binder, which is a binder full of all the information your sub needs to know about their class at their fingertips, and your sub plans which are clear lesson plans and activities organized in a sub tab. And then be sure to also think about a behavior management tool and include a thank you for your sub. Having all of these things will make your sub and your class have such a smooth and successful day while you’re away. And this will keep your subs coming back. So even in a sub shortage, you can at least know that your classroom is a top priority for the subs that you know. For help getting started with all of this, don’t forget to sign up for that free sub planning starter kit in the show notes. And if you found this episode helpful, there’s a lot more content where this came from. Don’t forget to sign up for Educate and Rejuvenate this summer. It’s only five bucks and you’ll hear from me and other amazing speakers such as Brianna from Honest Teacher Vibes, Amber Harper from Burned-In Teacher, our Wife Teacher Mommy club coach Chrissy Nichols, and so many more amazing speakers. Plus, we even have a certificate available for PD credit for those who attend the event. So check out the show notes to see the whole speaker lineup. And I will see you next week.

More about Wife Teacher Mommy: The Podcast

Being an educator is beyond a full-time job. Whether you’re a teacher or a homeschool parent, the everyday to-do list is endless. Between lesson planning, grading, meetings, and actually teaching, it probably feels impossible to show up for your students without dropping the ball in other areas of your life.

Wife Teacher Mommy: The Podcast is the show that will bring you the teacher tips, practical strategies, and inspiration that you need to relieve the stress and overwhelm of your day-to-day. Your host, Kelsey Sorenson, is a former teacher and substitute turned homeschool mom. Tune in weekly to hear Kelsey and her guests cheer you on and help you thrive as a wife, teacher, and mommy. Because with a little support and community, you can do it all. For access to every single Wife Teacher Mommy resource, join the club at

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Hey there, new teacher bestie! I’m Kelsey, and I created Wife Teacher Mommy just for YOU! I blog about teaching and create elementary school and homeschooling resources to make your life easier. Be sure to sign up for my FREE email newsletter!

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