How to Prepare for a Substitute Teacher


Preparing for a substitute long before you need one is a great way to make life easier on yourself. For when you really need one, and are in a pinch – you can feel better knowing that you’ve left behind explanations for all of the major things and can just leave some details and a set of plans.

Here are my top tips on how I set up for a substitute teacher so that you can do it easily too!

How to Prepare For a Substitute Teacher - I think this sounds really smart to work this way

Set Out Everything You Can

When I know I’m going to be out I make it as laid out as possible. I lay out the folder with plans on top. Surrounding my lesson plans and main folder are the day’s necessary lesson materials.

classroom life preserver {substitute prep} - KindergartenWorks

And I normally try to label the piles with a set of labels I created that match our daily agenda. This way, it ties it all together for either the sub or some helpful kinders. classroom life preserver {substitute prep} - KindergartenWorksThey are stored in a library pocket that I taped into the back of my sub folder so they are readily available.

Give them the Lowdown

I try not to expect that a sub has taught in kindergarten before, let alone my kindergarten classroom. We are so wildly different! We use alternative seating, we have literacy centers, guided math groups and our calendar time is foreign to so many subs.

If I want my substitute to be successful, I want to share everything I can in as short of time frame that I can because I know they have a lot on their plate when they first walk in.

classroom life preserver {substitute prep} - KindergartenWorks

I’ve recently updated the basic template that makes up my sub folder. It’s way cuter than these pictures. But my template includes the big picture things like procedures, routines and safety procedures.

Give as much as info in bullet points. Straight and to the point. If I was a substitute teacher, I think I’d like that.

Make Calling Students By Name Easy

I keep a picture class list in the sub folder. I’m a visual learner and think it’s helpful! This also gets copied and sent out to our specials teachers and lunchroom workers so they don’t have to work as hard.

And this just makes a substitute’s day go easier – give them a set of name tags. I make multiple sets of name labels at the beginning of the year and stash them away in this sub folder. The sub can use them if they want – and many do!

Other Key Things to Have Handy

Nurse Passes

Keep extra nurse passes handy so that your sub can easily communicate why they are sending someone down to the nurses office. (Seen below stashed away in front of the class list)

classroom life preserver {substitute prep} - KindergartenWorks

Materials Prep Directions

Include some type of easy cheat sheet (a post it note will always work) to attach to prep work if you’re out for multiple days or if something just didn’t get finished. I like to attach a quick prep sheet. It’s fat to fill out and they can take it with them to the teacher’s workroom.

How to Prep for a Substitute When You’re Sick

So what about the days when I have to call it in and can’t have every book and material laid out ahead of time?

Having these big picture items all prepared ahead of time and in my sub folder, makes it easy for the sub to grab and simply insert my plans into (when they arrive in the office).

Have Organization That Makes Grabbing Stuff Quick

Since I don’t love having a cluttered teacher space when I leave for the evening, I normally don’t lay out things for the next day. However, I can reference where things are in my detailed lesson plans and try to have most materials in my daily files to make them easier to find.

classroom life preserver {substitute prep} - KindergartenWorks

Use Pictures

My last tip is that I take pictures as the year goes on of places where I generally keep things. It’s so easy now with smart phones to have pictures of what you need that you can just drag and drop them into your substitute lesson plans.

I like to insert photos into my plans, making it more visual for a sub to be able to find things whenever possible.

Make a Digital Lesson Plan Template

No one likes to spend more time than they have to writing sub plans. Since my sub plans are a Microsoft Word document, I can save an old set of plans and change out the information to save writing time… This is huge, especially when you’re not feeling well at all.

Do you need a template to work from? I’ve got an editable lesson plan template and a whole sub folder that you can tweak to fit your classroom. It’s awesome and will help you prep for a sub!

Get the Substitute Prep Packet

How do you like to prepare for a substitute teacher?

I like this list of 6 Things You Should Have for a Substitute Teacher - I think it'd be simply to pull it together to have for any day I'm absent in kindergarten

Teach kindergarten like me? Then you’ll want to scoop up these emergency plans for a substitute in kindergarten – they’re free!

Supermonsters Training Day - FREE easy beginning of the year emergency sub plans for kindergarten

If you like what I do here on KindergartenWorks, then be sure to subscribe today. I look forward to sharing ideas with you weekly.

More on Teacher Organization


Similar Posts


  1. Hello! I’ve been looking all over your blog trying to answer my own question but I can’t figure it out! I love how at the top of your pages your have a chevron header with the title of the page. Do you have those pages available for purchase/download??

    Thanks in advance 🙂

  2. I love your behaviour sheets with I chose to..not to…do you have a printable copy of that? I really like it. Thanks.

    1. Hi Marcia,
      The sheet on the left in that picture which I have for a sub to track behavior and currently is just customized for my personal classroom. However the sheet that is a half-sheet (bookmark size) pictured on the right is available in the survival and thrive-al packet. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
      – Leslie

  3. I love all your ideas. I am going to tweak what I do based on your post. Specifically, I’m adding the names of the days of the week to my magazine holders as shown in your photo.

    When I know I’m going to be out I ALWAYS prep my lessons and room down to the nitty grittiest of details. Much like you, I lay out my plans and all necessary materials. I tag resources with sticky notes labeled with the same headings in my lesson plans. Here’s the thing though–my last sub (who is also a certified teacher) left me a 2-page typed report about all the confusing things in my plans and what didn’t work and what I should do differently next time. REALLY?!?!? I’m always told by subs that they love subbing in my room. Correction: “was” always told. :0)

    Thanks for sharing your process.

  4. I usually do prep work for teachers, because I have over an hour left after school. A few teachers were shocked when I asked to prep stuff because they hadn’t thought to use us lol.

  5. My sub plans are also very detailed even when I am typing w/ a sick kiddo at 2am. Its just not fair to my kinder friends to have a rough day b/c I cant be there. I have my template “pre ready” so that all I have to add is content for the day — which is usually “enough” for a 2am collect!

    Thanks for the TIPS! I LOVE seeing how others do things!!
    [email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *