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5 Reasons Your Substitute Lesson Plans Are Taking Too Long

As educators, we understand the importance of having substitute lesson plans ready in case of unexpected absences. These plans are the lifeline that keeps our classrooms running smoothly when we can’t be there in person.

However, have you ever found yourself wondering why it seems to take forever to put together effective substitute lesson plans? You’re not alone. In this blog post, we’ll explore five common reasons why your substitute lesson plans might be taking up more time than you’d like, and more importantly, we’ll provide practical solutions to help you streamline the process.

Let’s dive in and discover how to make your substitute lesson planning more efficient and stress-free.

Reason #1: You are preparing at the last minute 

Don’t leave writing sub plans until the unexpected happens such as an illness or a family emergency. If something like that comes up, any amount of time writing substitute lesson plans is too long. 

How long does it take to write sub plans?

If you leave things until the last minute, start from scratch every time, or have to prep extra materials like making copies, it can take a long time. 

Set aside time at the beginning of the school year, maybe 1-2 hours, and prep everything you could need for an unexpected day off such as a sub binder, lesson plans, and sub tub.

If you need more help writing your lesson plans, read my post How to Make Sub Plans in 6 Simple Steps.

Reason #2: You are starting from scratch every time

I’m going to let you in on a little secret, your sub plans DO NOT have to be what you would have taught that day if you had been there. 

If you are spending time writing out substitute lesson plans for every subject or class period every time you are absent, you are wasting your own time

Prepare substitute lesson plans ahead of time with activities that can be done any time of the school year, these lessons can be skill-based or review activities. Elementary students can always benefit from practicing things like math fluency or reading comprehension. Try to have these activities ready ahead of time to simply plug into your sub plans!

Have a substitute lesson plan template saved on your computer with the instructions for these activities to save yourself time. Or better yet… buy your sub plans all ready for you here!

Reason #3: You have to prepare your substitute lesson plan materials, too

Another reason your sub plans are taking too long is that you have to make copies or prepare other materials in addition to writing your lesson plans. 

No one wants to be making last-minute copies, especially when they are sick…

Put together a sub tub full of activities, worksheets, and any other materials.  Label each folder with what each folder has in it so that things are easy to find. Place your tub in a prominent location in your classroom, that way it will be easy for your substitute teacher to find. After an absence check to see which materials need to be restocked so that your sub tub is all ready for next time. 

Reason #4: You don’t have your classroom information in a sub binder

Save yourself time by having all the classroom information your substitute teacher will need in a ready-to-go sub binder. Your sub binder should include things like a class list, seating chart, schedules, and who to ask for help. Read to the end of my blog post, Create a Brilliant Sub Binder for a sub binder checklist, to help you put yours together.

Once you have prepped your sub binder, all you have to do is check that it is up to date from time to time and you’ll be ready for a day off. 

Store your sub binder in the front of your sub tub along with the rest of your substitute lesson plan materials, or in another marked place in your classroom.

Reason #5: You are being too detailed

Think about it, your sub may only have 15 minutes to read through your plans for the whole day. Keep in mind that they don’t have time to read 10, 15, or 20 pages of notes, and you don’t have time to write all of that either! 

How detailed should sub plans be?

Be specific, and keep it simple. Have your sub binder ready with all of the detailed class information a substitute may need ahead of time so that you aren’t wasting your time re-writing it all for every absence. 

For your substitute lesson plans, write specific, easy-to-follow instructions, that anyone, regardless of teaching experience can follow. Simple-to-follow activities make things easy for everyone. But remember, simple doesn’t have to mean not challenging! If you want examples of great lesson plans for substitute teachers, check out our free sub plans.

In conclusion, crafting efficient and effective substitute lesson plans is a crucial skill for educators. While it’s easy to fall into the trap of time-consuming planning, we’ve identified five key reasons why this might be happening and, more importantly, how to overcome them. By addressing issues such as disorganization, overloading, lack of flexibility, insufficient guidelines, and technological hiccups, you can significantly reduce the time spent on preparing substitute lesson plans.

Remember, the goal of substitute lesson plans is to ensure that your students continue to learn and thrive even in your absence. By taking steps to streamline the planning process, you not only save time for yourself but also provide your substitute teacher with the tools they need to carry out a successful day in the classroom.

Now that you’re armed with these insights, it’s time to put them into action. Take a fresh look at your substitute lesson planning process and make the necessary adjustments. You’ll not only save valuable time but also create a more seamless and enjoyable experience for both your substitute teacher and your students.

If you need more help with preparing your substitute lesson plans, check out Wife Teacher Mommy Club where you can get access to our full library of resources (including club exclusives that aren’t even in our TPT store) and group life coaching plus, an amazing community of teachers!

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kelsey sorenson

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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