Art Teacher Talk

Planning for Art Substitute Teachers

Free Template & Tips for A Successful Absence

Planning for a Substitute Teacher
Planning for a Substitute Stress Free

Planning for art substitute teachers is a CHORE. How many times have you said or hear a fellow teacher say, “It’s more work to be OUT of school than it is to be IN school!” I learned early on that having a rock-solid sub plan made my life so much easier. Whether your absence is planned or unplanned, the following tips and Substitute Teachers Template will bring peace to all future absences.

A Little Backstory (It’s short, I promise)

When I finished my teaching degree in 2008 the bottom had just fallen out of the economy. Imagine a cinder block in a wet paper bag. Kinda like that. This made finding a teaching job slightly more difficult, as you can imagine.

I decided the only way to get my foot in the door and some much needed classroom experience was to get on every sub list within a 30-mile radius. 

Many substitute teachers know that you either walk into calm or crazy. There’s not much in between. As I began subbing, I realized almost immediately that the teachers with a solid sub plan not only made my life easier, but the kids reacted seamlessly in my presence. No issues. No crazy. 

I began to take mental notes on what I would do if I was ever blessed to have my own classroom. How would I make my sub’s experience positive and seamless? I decided to treat the sub as a guest in my “home.” It’s imperative that this person want to return for another visit. News flash. Subs talk to each other. The word gets out fast which classes are premium sub experiences. And which classes are NOT.

Ok, enough backstory.

Let’s talk about actually planning for a sub

The Art Sub Plan

Once the “dust” has settled and all the schedule changes are complete – in high school this can be anywhere from 3 days to 2 weeks – print your attendance rosters and get a sturdy folder (I say sturdy because this folder will start to disintegrate from all the opening and closing over the year) and create your permanent location for all sub plans, aka – “The Sub Folder”. In this folder you should always have a current copy of your attendance roster, phone numbers for your hall teacher neighbors and the office, a set of instructions for emergency situations (fire drill, emergency evacuations, lockdown drills) and anything else your district requires. I keep this folder in the front of my desk drawer for easy access. Most districts will have procedures for you to print and put in your folder designed for substitutes. If you are new, ask your co-workers where to find these files.

If you are new to your district, start asking around for referrals on good subs. Collect a few names and phone numbers. Take a trip to the front office and find out which subs are on campus and who they are subbing for, and on your planning find these people to introduce yourself. Ask permission to text them ahead of time to cover your classes (for planned absences of course). In our district, we use the Aesop system for sub calling and we can actually assign the sub ourselves if they have agreed to cover for us ahead of time. It’s fabulous. In the beginning of my career, I made it a point to create relationships with five or six wonderful people who ended up being my go-to subs. As a result, I never had a problem finding coverage. Ever. I even had one lady who left me homemade cinnamon bread in my desk drawer. Yum.

The Sub Folder

Whenever I am planning for substitute teachers, I always have a Daily Schedule (printed out) on top of my folder right in the center of my desk. Not notes scrawled out on sticky notes. A typed schedule complete with class start and end times and everything in between. Here is a link to a FREE Sub Planner Template that I created just for you. It is great for both planned and unplanned absences, simply download and type in the gray boxes, then upload to your sub calling platform.

If your district does not use an online sub calling platform, email this schedule (and any assignments) to your front office staff (or a co-worker) to print and give to the sub. Easy peasy.

Things to include on the Daily Schedule:

  • Quick note of thanks 
  • Class times – start and end
  • Brief overview of what students will be expected to accomplish 
  • Location of any materials needed for the day (I try to have everything on my desk within reach if possible)
  • Students who are good “go-to’s” if the sub needs help with anything
  • Students who they may need to keep an extra “eye” on
  • Any Teacher Duties – hall duty, lunch duty, etc. (if subs are required to cover duties in your district)
  • Restroom location (for new subs)
  • Location of all school procedural info – lockdown drill, fire drill, tornado drill info (should be in folder)
  • Front office extensions with names of front office staff and one name of an admin and his/her extension – I type this at the bottom for quick reference
  • Ask your sub to leave detailed feedback on each class, including student names for both good and bad incidents.

If an absence is planned, it is much easier to gather materials and have them ready when the kids come in. Label everything. As I said in the beginning, planning for a sub is more work than being in school. If I do not know who my sub will be I plan as if this person has never subbed before. I explain everything in detail to the letter. I label each pile of work with sticky notes ad nauseam. Something to remember – we live in a world of “reviews.” The sub may be called on to “review” how well you prepared for him/her on the sub calling platform. Plan accordingly.

The Eternal Art Sub Plans Question

“What do I leave for the kids to do while I’m out?”

My best advice on this is make sure whatever assignment you choose, that it is relevant to the current “unit” or “theme.” And most of all, do not make extra work for yourself. If you leave an assignment that is separate and apart from the current “unit”, two things will happen. Number One, the kids will be less likely to do it because they will say, “why are we doing this?” and Number Two, you will have to grade it (and then be irritated because only half of them did it) – #moreworkandaggravationforyou

My go-to substitute teachers plans are one of the following:

● Art students continue working on current project

● Students complete an additional skill builder directly related to the current project

● Kids complete notes (based on a presentation uploaded to Canvas) related to the current project

In a nutshell, keep the boat floating in the same direction so your absence is seamless and your feedback from the sub is positive. The students will appreciate your giving them work that is relevant and meaningful. They can spot “busy work” a mile away. 

If you are in the middle of a drawing unit, check out some quick no-prep skill builder sub plans.

One last note on planning for substitute teachers and securing a good reputation. If you have a reputation for a smooth-running and problem-free classroom, you will have NO trouble securing a sub, even in a desperate situation. I have had emergencies where I have created an absence in the system at 5 a.m. and someone has picked up the job at 5:15 a.m. Conversely, there are teachers in the building who put an absence in the system, and no one picks up the job. Ever. Your reputation will precede you, whether you want it to or not.

I hope your year is going fabulously and that this information and sub planner template has helped your teaching experience.

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Have a wonderful and safe year and Happy Teaching!

Tiff 🙂

sub plan template

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sub plan template

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