Pete the Cat themed Sub Binder

Writing sub plans is one of those things I learned the hard way.  I don't remember any of my undergrad classes addressing sub plans, yet these are a big part of a teacher's job.  If you plan ahead, set up a system, and put in a little time you will be pleasantly surprised at how smoothly your class will run when you have those unexpected absences.  This system is also great when you are planning for a maternity leave.  If only someone would have shown me this earlier in my career, I would have saved myself countless hours!

See if this sounds familiar . . . don't do as I do, do as I say. You probably heard your parent say that a time or two when you were growing up. When I worked with student teachers or new teachers, I often told them not to do what I did when I was a new teacher. There were so many things that I did the hard way the first few years of my career.  I wasn't necessarily doing them wrong, but there are easier, quicker ways of doing things in our profession that seasoned teachers don't always remember to tell the inexperienced ones.

Plan Idea #1: In the beginning, when I needed a sub, I wrote out step by step directions of what the sub needed to do during the day that I was absent.  Yes, this works but it is not an efficient use of my time.  

Plan Idea #2:  I typed up a generic sub plan and then added the assignments.  This worked most of the time.  But, what happens if you or your child gets sick in the middle of the night and you can't come in and write the assignments and prepare the lessons?

Plan Idea #3:  Emergency sub plans - One day of lesson plans that are generic so they can be used at any time of the year.  One of the schools that I worked at, required us to organize these in a folder and give them to the secretary.  This is a smart idea if your secretary has the room to store them.  

Through trial and error, feedback from subs and co-workers I finally found a system that worked for me.  My binder has all the details of how I run my class.  Here are some of the pages.  

I put these in a Sub Resource Binder.  This is the "how to" for the sub.  It explains all of the procedures for how I run my class.  It saves so much time and the subs love it! Have you ever been pulled from class at the last minute for meeting?  Maybe the meeting is only for an hour or so, but when it catches you by surprise, it is hard to think of all the details you need to put in plans for the sub who will be covering your class.  When this happens you pull out your handy dandy sub resource binder and give him/her the materials that are needed to teach the lessons.  Quick, easy and painless for you and easy for the sub! 


  • In the front pocket of the binder keep a stack of "How was my day" notes so your sub can tell you about his or her day.
  • I also like to keep labels with students' names in the front pocket.  Your sub can use these as name tags.
  • In a binder pencil case, keep school supplies that your sub will need.  Suggestions:  pen, highlighter, and paper.
  • Keep a student supply box next to your sub binder with basic student supplies.  It is typical for students to tell the sub that they don't have a pencil or crayons so they can't do the assignment when you are not there.  With this box, you can eliminate the problem.  Make sure you tell a couple of reliable student plus a couple of teacher friends where you store your sub binder and supply box in case you are not able to come in to prepare for your sub.
I organize my weekly lesson plans in a tub like this:

Click HERE to read more about it.

I have the following folders in the tub:  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Centers. I put all of the papers, read aloud books, and other materials that I need for my lessons that I need for the day in the order that I will teach them in folders.  I show the special ed. teachers that I work with and a buddy teacher where I keep my stuff.  If there is ever a time when I am too sick to come in an organize my sub plans, I call one of these teachers who can pull out the day's folder and my Sub Resource Binder.  I know that my sub has all that he or she needs to have a successful day.

I think every teacher needs a set of emergency plans because you never know when something might happen.  My first 18 years of teaching, I made emergency sub plans and didn't need to use them.  It would have been easy to think that this was a waste of time to make them at the beginning of the year when I had so many other things to do.  But, then during my 19th year, my daughter got sick - really sick - in the middle of the night, my husband was out of town, and there wasn't any way that I could leave my daughter to go plan for a sub.  Luckily I had emergency sub plans.  

I think you have to look at emergency sub plans like an insurance policy.  You've bought car insurance for years yet you've hopefully not been in a car accident.  But, if you ever are in a car accident, you will be thankful that you not only have an insurance policy, but that you took the time to shop around to get the best policy possible.  Sub plans work the same way.  Take the time before school begins to make quality emergency sub plans.

  • I like to use the binder dividers like the ones in the picture that has a pocket.  I put my emergency assignments in those pockets.
  • I make extra copies of the charts that the subs will write on like the behavior, lunch count, or class work chart shown in the picture above.  I keep these charts in a page protector.  The sub can use the class work chart to document who finished their work. All of these forms are editable in Powerpoint.  Below are the charts:

I have 3 different binders.  The first one is Melonheadz themed, the second one is ocean themed and includes activities for A House for Hermit Crab.  This binder has the activities below for Pete the Cat: The Wheels on the Bus and Pete the Cat: Construction Destruction.

The books and cat do not come with the sub binder.
Click HERE to find out more about the Sub Resource Binder.

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE.
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