Substitute Plans

Emergency Substitute

Substitute Plans again?!! I am sure my admin is tired of hearing that I am going to need a substitute again today. I really despise making substitute plans because I feel like they need to be specific and get all the details. Also, I don’t want my class falling behind our curriculum, but sometimes you just can’t help it and you need a back up plan. Can you relate?

Substitute Plans

I don’t know what the deal is, but my family has never been so sick before. In the last nine weeks we have had 11 bouts of sickness in our house. I think I have about used up all my sick days just on my family being sick.  Being a mom and a teacher is hard, adding in substitute planning to it makes it even harder. There are not many jobs where you have to make plans for someone else to do your job, let alone make these plans when you are feeling like death.

I know it will be funny later but right now it is incredibly frustrating. To look at the positive, I am getting quite good at making sub plans and have created an entire packet to be used for those last minute days like today.

Today began like any other day, I got up did my work out, my quiet time, and got myself ready. My six-year-old daughter came in the room and told me that she had a bad tummy ache, I believed her but there really wasn’t much I could do. We needed to get out the door on time.

My eight-year-old daughter had woken up yesterday with the same tummy ache, she had a good attitude about it and I sent her to school anyway.  I fortunately work at the same school as my kids and I knew if I needed to, I could pull her and have her sleep in my classroom. Yes, have my child who is sick sleep behind my desk in my classroom. This is what you do when you have limited days to call in sick and really don’t have the time to be out of the classroom. She was pretty much fine throughout the day and didn’t come to me and complain of feeling sick.

So, since my next child woke up with the same pain I figured it was the same deal. I made her get ready as usual and we rushed out the door. On our way to the car she threw up all over the floor. Plans halted! Not the way to start the day! I clean up the mess, clean her up, finish loading the car and grabbed a big giant bowl for the car ride to school. Now I know what you’re thinking. You can’t send your child to school after they have just thrown up. I wasn’t going to. But I did have to get the other two kids to school and get last minute sub plans done.

On my way to school I called “The Lady” who schedules are subs, “I am going to need a sub today, again!.” Why have I made that call so many times this school year?

Once I got the other two settled into their classes I went to mine and quickly made up my sub plans. I say quickly because last year at this time it used to take me up to two hours to make some plans. I’d say I have gotten much faster, more efficient, and more organized.

Making substitute plans ahead of time is a drag and as a teacher we simply don’t want to take the time to have this done. I am usually just trying to stay afloat for that week or the next let alone planning for a maybe. It is like insurance, except, this will be a guarantee usage!

Substitute Plans

Here is what I have started to do …

On my computer I have a document titled “Substitute Schedule”. It is a detailed schedule by the day of the week, because each day is different. Between specials, RTI, pull outs, recess duties and all the other responsibilities each day looks a little different. In this document, I include my classroom management routine (I change it a bit for a substitute), rules on the bathroom, kids that are good helpers, kids to watch out for, medical or allergy information, and a teacher name if they have questions. I even leave my phone number too, because most of the time I am available for questions. This document is on my computer ready to customize if I have time. But I also have it printed out for those days that I don’t have time.  This sits in the front folder of my substitute crate.

I have an emergency substitute plan packet that I created. It is universal, is easy to use with any sub, on any day, and still fits numerous ELA standards.  I think it works best in 1st or 2nd grade, which is perfect since those are the grades I teach, it is even differentiated! All you need is a non fiction book. You can have the substitute use a whole group book (I keep a few in the crate), basal reader, Reading A-Z books (pre-made in the crate), or students can pick their own book to read. I have 3 days worth that the substitute can grab if it is one of those days where I can’t plan.

The other advantage of these packets being pre-made, is that I can guide another teacher from home to that folder and have them grab the sheets that they will need. I even have the copies made so they don’t have to mess with the photo copier.

However, they don’t have to be pre-made either. They can easily be emailed to the school and another teacher can run off the copies. This route is more challenging, but I have done it before.

My favorite part of this Substitute Unit is that it is fully differentiated. The levels in my classroom range from a kindergarten reading level to a fourth grade reading level. It was important for me to make a unit that had a range for various levels. Pre-made differentiated plans for a substitute will benefit your students so much and it is less frustrating for a substitute.

Substitute Plans

Here is how the Substitute Unit works:

There are a few options.

  • The teacher can use class readers, basal readers, mini books, books from Reading A-Z, leveled readers, a book of their choice or a read aloud. I make Reading A-Z paper books and have them already printed and in the Substitute folder. I also have a read-aloud book in the folder as well. This gives the substitute a choice in how they want to run the class.
  • Choose the sheets from the unit that you want your students to focus on. This area depends on what part of the year it is. What have you already covered in class? If you are out a short time, it is best not to have your substitute teach a new concept, review work is much more successful.
  • A few areas in the unit are differentiated to levels 1, 2 and 3. You can make differentiated packets or make them all the same.
  • Examples of the sheets are; Character Descriptions, First.. Then.. Next, Summary, Most Important part, etc. The sheets focus on various ELA standards that students need to practice in 1st and 2nd Grade.
  • Make the packets and leave for your substitute to use. If you can’t make the packets, they can be emailed and the substitute can quickly make them.
  • When I make the packets, I clip them together and put a sticky note for who each one belongs to.

It depends how many sheets you choose, but this project can last all morning or all afternoon. If you add a math lesson, then most of your day is planned.

This packet can also be used for Literacy Centers!

These papers are a great addition to your literacy center as well. I use them weekly. The students will read the weekly story, answer the questions that go along with it and then I give them a one of these sheets as practice for their testing skills.

Substitute Schedule Sheet Includes

  • Kids to watch out for (IEP, Allergies, 504 Plans, sneaky ones)
  • Helpful Students
  • Our class rules
  • Our class routines (bathroom rule, classroom management, how we line up)
  • Daily Class Schedules (I always highlight the times and names of students who do pull outs)
  • Go home procedures- who goes where and when
  • Medical Info
  • Recess Duty Schedule
  • How does lunch work
  • School Emergency Plans

Organization Ideas

  1. My weekly lessons and copies are always done one week before. This pre-planning allows opportunity to keep on track in some subject areas, it makes it easy to grab those sheets for the substitute or to guide another teacher to grab them for you. I put my copies for the week in my weekly lesson crate in folders. There is a folder for each day, then one for math, ELA and one called other.
  2. I keep my math teacher’s manual in the classroom on my desk, so that it is easy to access. I can just tell the substitute which lesson to turn to. My book is available online as well so I never need to bring this book home.
  3. Sticky Notes are my best friend! I put these on all the stacks of papers and label them. Such as “Math: Use 1st”. Take all the guess work away from your substitute.
  4. I rarely grade any work that is done with a substitute. Keep in mind that if it is a new math concept, your likely going to need to re-teach it.
  5. I always include a few read aloud books for the substitute to use. Here are a few of my favorites: The Wonderful Things that You Will Be, How to Babysit a Grandma, and the Most Magnificent Thing

Substitute Plans

Substitute Crate or Basket

I suggest having a substitute crate or basket. Keep it accessible behind your desk or in an area of your curriculum.

Here is how mine is set up…

I have multiple file folders in the crate, they are labeled as follows:

Substitute information:

  • Substitute Daily Schedule as described above
  • General School Info
  • Emergency Plans
  • Rainy Day Schedule

Daily Folders

  • One for each day of the week. Inside is the schedule for that day. If I am able to prepare, I will put the copies of the papers that are needed.

Extra Folders

  • Math – Extra worksheets that we never used, Fluency Worksheets, Game Ideas- I add to it throughout the year.
  • ELA- This is where the ELA packets go.

What about math?

What about math? I personally think Math is the easiest to plan for the substitute because I use Engage NY and the teacher manual is very descriptive in how the lessons are taught. I leave the teacher’s manual and tell them which lesson we are on, if I am short on time. If I have time, I will outline it for them and tell them a game to do, have them practice a counting concept and then will highlight in the teacher’s manual the section to teach.

I also put extra math sheets in the math section of my crate; sheets that we didn’t use for math, fluency pages, extra homework pages, etc,. The teacher can grab a class set out of there and be ready to go.

Teaching is one of the few jobs that you have to plan for if you are sick. It is a huge drag!



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