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Classroom Management to Make Sub Planning a Snap

Janelle Cox

There is nothing worse than being up all night with a sick child, or being sick yourself, and having to use classroom management to pull together substitute teacher plans in a matter of minutes. You know that the more detailed that you get with the plans, the more there is a chance that your students are going to tell the substitute that “She isn’t doing it like the teacher,” and “She’s doing it all wrong.” To avoid this dreaded scenario, it’s best to use classroom management to create a “Sub tub” when you are feeling well. Here is a how to use classroom management to make sub planning a snap.

Classroom Management: Create and Print out Your Basic Schedules

On your computer, create each schedule and procedure that you follow each day. For example, if you teach multiple classes, then create and print one for each class that you teach. If you are an elementary teacher and only teach one set of students all day long, then print out your daily schedule along with your classroom routine and procedures.  Make sure to include any specials and lunch times as well as any meetings or posts that you are required to do. In addition to that, include your discipline plan as well as the school’s plan, and any other information like who to contact in case of an emergency as well.

Stash Away Lessons You Never Got To

There are probably dozens of lessons or activities that you wanted to do with your students but you either never got the chance, or you ran out of time and didn’t get a chance to complete them. Take these activities and place them in a folder called “Substitute Lessons.” These will go into your sub tub for extra lessons and ideas when you are absent.

Create or Gather Easy Instant Lessons

Scour the Internet and your filing cabinet for easy, instant lessons that can go across the curriculum (if you are an elementary teacher). Look or create lessons that do not require a lot of prep work, tasks students can do on their own or in small groups, and that don’t require the substitute to teach for a long period of time. These activities should be short and sweet. Many teachers opt to give their students a “Choice menu” where they choose a specific amount of tasks to complete from a list of activities, or they have the substitute teacher hand out a list of tasks where they must go one-by-one down the list until the list is completed. As long as the lessons are short and to the point, then you are good.

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Create Your “Sub Tub”

To create your substitute teacher tub, all you have to do is gather all of the above and place into a plastic container. Make sure that you have enough stuff for the students to do all day long, as well as have your schedules, procedures, and any class lists in the tub for the teacher as well. You can create a few different “Sub tubs” to make your life a little bit easier. It’s also important to note that when creating your “Sub tub” to think about how you would teach if you were in the classroom. Consider what you do with your students every day and try not to steer too far away from that. The last thing that you want to do is make the day that you are absent so different that your students have a hard time keeping up because they don’t know what’s going on.

The teachers who substitute for your classroom while you are out will respond well to the substitute tubs because everything that they need will be right there for them. Make sure to leave a note telling the teacher that you don’t expect them to run your classroom as you would, and that it’s OK for them to put their own spin on things. This will help ease the substitute’s mind so they can have a good day with your students. Also, encourage the teacher to leave notes for you on how the day went and how far they got into the lessons that you left them. Usually, students enjoy when a substitute comes into the classroom because they get a different experience then they are used to. Plus, you never know when you just may need to dig into your own “Sub tub” when you have a few extra minutes to spare.

Do you have any classroom management tips on how to make sub planning a snap? Please share your ideas and experiences in the comment section below, we would love to hear what you do when you are absent.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds master's of science in education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to, TeachHUB Magazine, and Skyword. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators, or contact her at

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