Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Planning for a Sub

Having adequate, meaningful and detailed plans when you are going to be out of the classroom is absolutely essential. Sub plans are fresh on a lot of teacher's minds. In fact, last week when I mentioned something about getting ready to make a Sub Tub, Jodi over at Littlest Learners let me know that her focus this week was on a sub kit as well. Great minds think alike, no? :) [BTW, she has a set of reproducible sub activities that you can buy for just $3 so check her out. All of her stuff is so adorable. She's super momma!]

I opted to purchase a set of Emergency Sub plans from Teacher's Clubhouse last week and ordered the books to go with the activities from Amazon. Even though they separate the books by a grade level and design activities for that specific grade, as with most things, you could adapt up or down depending on your students. One year, I had a very bright group of 4th graders who could easily have done 5th/6th grade work with just a little scaffolding. I purchased the 5th grade set this time simply because I like the books although I am also considering the 4th grade set in the future.

As it was, I had a container up in storage that I thought would be just perfect for my Sub Tub. We have window ledges in my new school where we're required to have our Sub Binder/Tub. I was so happy about my new-recycled treasure. Until the books arrived from UPS and I realized that since they're all hardcover, they're not gonna fit in that tub and allow it to shut.

I could have cried. I could have thrown a fit. I could have run to the nearest store and bought a new, super cute tub. Instead, I marched back up to my storage area and selected another container instead! I think I like this one better anyway because it holds hanging files so I can keep my binder inside as well as have several days worth of activities already copied and ready to go. I know sometimes our subs don't have time to get to the copy machine in the morning so that will be handy for real emergencies.

It always amazes me how much time it can take to prepare for a substitute, even when you know you are going to be out ahead of time. I always appreciated, when I was a sub myself, when teachers left super detailed plans so I could ensure the students had a good, productive day of learning. Many of my former colleagues are all about "busy work" when they're out and I'm convinced this is why there are so many behavior issues when teachers are gone.

If I know I will be out, I always take a few minutes before we dismiss the day before I'm due out and actually go over the entire day with the children. This way they know that I am the one who put this work together and I often emphasize that this is the same work we would be doing if I was there. Of course, sometimes that's a tiny white lie but most of the time, it is true because of the way our curriculum is structured: new teaching, review, review, new teaching. With the exception of this past year's group of children (who came to 4th grade with a reputation for making subs walk out by noon), this always worked in my benefit. The children had a good day, learned something and the subs were always grateful for the awesome plans that guided them through the entire day.

A sub tub/binder is something I have always thought I'd get to "some day". But I know from experience that some days you just can't know that you're going to wake up with a 105 degree temperature or a child who is vomiting all over the place. Peace of mind is priceless.

EDIT TO ADD: I finished my box this afternoon! Of course copies have to be made once I am back at school and some other little things have to be done (generic schedule outline once I have a schedule, class list, etc....all stuff I won't have until I'm actually back at school). My plan is to keep my sub folder on my tech cabinet at all times so if I ever AM going to be gone, it's always there and ready. Inside that folder will be the real pertinent stuff (schedule, etc) but also a cute little letter explaining where to find sub plans if none are left out. I have 6 days worth of sub plans here. 3 are thematic activities surrounding picture books (Jumanji, The Math Curse and The Eleventh Hour: A Curious Mystery) and the other three are generic activities that can be used anytime, even during regular instruction. I labeled a folder for each day and gave it a number or letter (A, B and C are the generic plans and 1, 2 and 3 are the books). The sub can just grab the folder and be ready for the day! I'm going to make all of the copies and just store them here so we never have to worry about a copy machine being down when a sub needs to make copies.  I really love how it turned out!

If you look real carefully, you can see the picture books sticking out behind their folder.


  1. this is great!! you did an awesome job. this is on my to do list. :)

  2. Thanks! Even though it isn't 100% done, I am SO happy I took the time to at least start this process. It makes me feel better to know that if I am ever really sick, I don't have to rush down to school to put together sub plans.