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Your Substitute Teacher Folder Checklist

By Rhonda Stewart on February 28, 2014
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

Normally during this time of the year I would not be thinking about substitute teacher plans, especially with all of the school closings in my district due to snow days. But looking at my schedule, I realized that I needed to revisit my substitute plans. Every September, I create a substitute plans folder for anyone covering my classes. It is filled with information about my students. For the most part, when I know ahead of time that I am going to be absent, I am able to produce my lesson plan for that day. In the event of an emergency however, I have a folder containing emergency plans. My thoughts when I created this folder were not about planning my lesson for the substitute. Instead, this folder contains information about documenting routines that allow for a smooth transition while I am absent.

Classroom management routines and procedures are not just for those times when I am present. They create a structure so that when I am not with my students, the class is able to exist as if I were. Most substitutes who cover my classes often tell me that my procedures are very easy to follow. This helps to make the day run smoother. Now I am not going to say that my students are perfect angels while I am out — they’re not. I do have some students who will try to take advantage of the situation. By having the routines laid out for the substitute, you can help to alleviate that likelihood.


Creating a “Sub” Folder

My sub folder can be found in the organizer on my desk. It is clearly labeled R. Stewart, Sub. Plans and contains the following:

  • Lesson plans for the day

  • Routines and procedures — You will need to include even the simplest of routines, from time schedule, class transition times, bathroom procedures, and more. Be sure to note procedures for fire drills, lockdowns, and other emergencies that might occur. 

  • Seating chart — Essential! There will be some students who will think that it is perfectly fine to change their seats and cause havoc. A seating chart eliminates this possibility. If you can, include a picture of each student. My district has a grading program that allows teachers to create a seating chart by class.

  • List of resources/materials — This is needed for the students to complete the assignments for the day. You might want to include a fun activity to change things up. The activity can be given at the discretion of the sub.

  • Substitute feedback form — This is extremely beneficial. (I have included a sample form.) It reinforces the relationship between the teacher and the sub. It gives you some insight as to how the students behaved during your absence and what needs to be tweaked for the future to avoid mishaps.

Pearls of Wisdom — Remember to let your "buddy" teacher know where to find your sub information in your classroom. This will help to prevent any confusion with the plans that you have prepared for your class.


Do you have any ideas that work your class during your absence? Please share!


Comments (7)

I include health care plans as well as diabetes and seizures protocols given to us by the school nurse. It's important especially if the student is prone to seizures or is diabetic. I also mark them on my seating chart.

As both a retired elementary teacher, and currently, a sub, I think that having seating charts is very valuable. (K-5) Older kids probably wouldn't sit in the assigned seat! Name tags would also be very useful for the younger kids.

Thanks Linda - Name tags/desk tags would be great for the younger grades - Thanks for sharing!

I agree wholeheartedly! Especially about the frequent flyer to the nurse. Fortunately, I have worked in the school district for a while and I am friends with these key people. (Nurse, cafeteria, counselors) Get to know those people and they will help you when you are in that classroom. Do not be surprised if they will not give you a lot of information....there is a thing called HIPA now. I would like to suggest that teachers should update their Substitute Folders every time there is a faculty meeting. I need to know that the cafeteria has cut off students from coming down to get a snack after first period. Things change during the school year...so keep updating it monthly!

Thanks Lauren - I would have to agree that anytime there are important procedures that may affect the flow of the classroom, it needs to be placed in the Sub folder. Thanks for sharing!

I have been subbing by choice for 17 years. The info listed above is all helpful, but I also need to know;

who in the class is reliable.
who has an IEP or 504? What do they say?
who in the class needs academic, emotional or behavioral support, does he or she act out when stressed or frustrated, how is that handled and who should I call for backup?
are there aides, support personnel, TSSs or other adults who will be wandering in and out during the day? How do they function?
who will stonewall but is capable, so needs to be redirected and made accountable.
who the "frequent-flyer to the nurse" students are, and how they are handled.
which students should not walk with, sit next to or be partnered with which other students.
building rules about electronics/phones/e-readers/tablets.
if I am giving a test, how much "help" should be offered when questions are asked. This is a minefield for subs-we did not teach the unit, and we may skey your results by giving hints you do not want given, or by withholding just the clue a student needs. It is really best if you hold off any big tests.
(Although I am state-certified [yes, had to sit through the class and pass the online test-I have documentation!] to administer the whole-state EOY tests and end up doing that every year. Those rules and procedures are hard and fast, though.)
if you want the test or other work scored?
who goes where during the day: ESL, resource room, tutors, music lessons, etc.

Thank you CeCe for your input. I appreciate the feedback.

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