Surefire Ways to Make Subs Return to Your Library

Do Subs Want to be in Your Library?

Let’s play a quick game. Shall we?

Put up your hand. Drop a finger for every statement that is true for you.

Never Have I Ever…

  • liked writing sub plans.
  • gotten complaints about my sub plans.
  • had sub plans followed exactly the way I wrote them.
  • had subs ask to not sub for me.
  • thought a sub had to be my clone.

How many fingers are left up?

I don’t know about you, but I have ZERO.

Because for years my sub plans were a hot mess.

I jam packed everything in there. 10 pages long. I left a damn script.

Do you know what happened time after time?

I got complaints each and every time from substitute teachers. I can’t really blame them.

My even had to come to me an said my sub plans were too much.

That’s when I realized I had to do something to make these plans easier. And make subbing for me more enjoyable.

So I overhauled my sub plans approach.

The changes that I made, changed how substitutes viewed subbing for me.

Substitute teachers said they had fun being in the library.

When a sub is given a choice between being in the library and another space, they ask to be in in the library.

What Is It Like to Be a Substitute Teacher?

This is what really gets me. I should’ve known better. I mean, I was a substitute teacher for years!

It is nerve wracking to go into a strange classroom. And teach a bunch of kids that you know nothing about. Or to teach a curriculum that you were not trained to teach.

Not to mention, to not have the same set of management skills that a classroom teacher typically has.

It’s a lot to ask someone to come into a space with all of those unknowns.

Let’s be honest. Most of us educators expect other people to be like us. We like to think we are irreplaceable. And we have this belief that our way is the only way to do things.

Those are some pretty unrealistic expectations to lay on a complete stranger.

Even if you have building subs, like I do, it’s still unrealistic.

Who the heck could ever pull that off? I can say that when I was a substitute teacher, I sure the heck could not.

Tips for Great Sub Plans

When writing sub plans, it’s important to keep these tips in mind. They mentally prepare you for creating the types of sub plans that will make a sub want to return for you.

Less is more. Do not script what the sub should say. They have their own style and voice.

Don’t give them every little routine and procedure. They can ask the kids for that info.

Include only what they need to be able to successfully teach the lesson. Everything else is your own little spin on it. And they are not you.

Low stakes makes subbing low stress. Unless you have no other option, do not leave your substitute any high stakes work that must get done.

They shouldn’t be teaching something new, assessing your students, or making sure they get a super important research report done.

Your students don’t have the same relationship with a substitute teacher as they do you.

This can create an incredibly frustrating and potentially volatile situation that should be avoided.

Give substitute teachers some choice. Let substitutes choose a fun filler activity. Have them choose a question to ask after a read aloud.

Choice is a powerful motivator for human beings. Adults are no different. Choice will empower the adult taking your place for a day.

Sub plans used to be the bane of my existence.

They took hours to write. I was trying to impart to the person coming in for me every little thing to say and do.

I believed that every routine had to be included. NOPE!

After pulling together all of the needed materials the pile was anywhere from 6-12 inches. That would typically topple over with an accidental nudge of the desk.

Did I mention that I would also stress out over the sub plans I had left?

  • Did I remember to tell the sub everything?
  • Were the kids doing their work exactly the way I’d like them to?
  • Would I have to reteach everything when I returned?

No wonder I was perpetually sick!

Really great sub plans help out your substitute teacher, your students, and you!

They alleviate the time and worry that typically comes with writing sub plans.

Write Really Great Sub Plans

I have finally discovered the key to really great sub plans. It only took me about 20 years!

GENERAL INFO: Make sure your sub knows the schedule, any duties you may have, rules and / or expectations, and signals for attention. I typically put this in a welcome sheet separate from the day’s lesson plans.

SIMPLE ACTIVITIES: You don’t ever know who your sub will be.

Even if you request a sub, the front office may need to make some changes based on other factors. So don’t bank on that.

GRADE BAND ACTIVITIES: One of the things that makes subbing in an essential area easy is repeating the activity. To make your life easier, create lesson plans that can be done with multiple grades. For example, plan for PreK and Kindergarten to engage in a similar lesson.

ALTERNATIVE ACTIVITIES: Sometimes substitutes are uncomfortable with technology or certain content. Make sure there is a backup plan. As a rule, don’t leave any tech work unless your students can do it independently. There is no guarantee that your substitute will be tech versed.

GO TO PERSON: Always provide your sub with someone they can go to with questions and/or clarification. As an essentials team, we give each other a heads up if we’re going to be absent and pitch in to help out the sub. Making a substitute comfortable is important to their success!

What to Include in Sub Plans

When I create sub plans, I always include 2 major components.

I always make sure to include a general info or welcome page. Of course, the other thing I always include is a lesson for the grades that I’ll be teaching.

There’s one lesson for PreK and Kindergarten, a page for 1st and 2nd, and a page for 3rd-5th.

I create 3 days of plans that are ready to go and require zero prep. This keeps it manageable for me and the substitute teacher.

I had a family emergency this past year and didn’t have to worry about coming up with plans.

Ready to go sub plans made it possible for me to just focus on my family’s needs.

No prep sub plans have made my professional and personal life so much easier. Which is why I had to share them.

I’ve created ready to go sub plans that require no prep. The one piece of prep required is to enter the necessary information for your welcome page.

They are packaged by grade band, and are available as schoolwide sub plan bundle. Click the links below to see what my sub plans look like.

Storing and Managing Library Sub Plans

The best library sub plans are part of a whole package. And many experts will tell you to have a sub tub.

I have a sub folder that has everything a sub may need. Knowing full well that most subs will not even crack the folder. And that’s okay because every sub is different. Every sub likes different types of information and materials.

My favorite sub folder is an 8 pocket poly folder. There are enough pockets for:

  • My welcome sheet, schedule, lesson plans, and seating charts.
  • Emergency procedures and a map of the school.
  • Behavior trackers and our schoolwide reward systems.
  • Filler activities for different grades.

There are always early finisher activities included in the sub plans.

My students’ favorite tech filler activities are read on MackinVia, Scratch, Scratch Jr, and Interland.

These rely on the use of technology and/or WiFi. And things can happen. Devices don’t get charged, or the WiFi goes down.

Just in case tech isn’t cooperative, I keep copies of pixel art in the sub folder.

These take forever for them to do! Technically, they could take up an entire class. And are a great way to work on some conditional coding.