Sub Folder Essentials

Kari PitstickBlog, Lesson Plan Better, Manage Better


  • This post includes a number of essential items for your sub folder including a map of the school, bell schedule, rosters with nicknames, accommodations, and health information.
  • Be sure to clarify your restroom, cell phone, computer, flexible seating, and emergency procedures and policies.
  • Keep your sub plans concise but make sure you are addressing any questions the sub may have.
  • Consider having an emergency sub plan prepared and put away in the event it is needed during the year.

Teaching is one of the few professions that requires more work to take a day off than to just be at school. Despite that, I have learned a lot over the last several years that have helped me feel less overwhelmed when I do have to take a day off. 

Even if you have already started your school year, it’s never too late to make changes to your sub folders and plans to set yourself up for success. Click To Tweet

To start off, I want to share some essential information that you should include in your sub folder.

  • Map of school
  • Bell schedule
  • YOUR schedule for the day (various classes, supervisions or extra responsibilities, lunch & plan time, etc.)
  • Phone numbers of essential staff members (administration, nurses, office secretaries, counselors, a nearby colleague the sub can go to with questions, etc.)
  • Rosters including student nicknames, accommodations, and health information
  • Seating chart
  • List of reliable students in each class period who the sub can go to for reference

In my sub folder, I have an Important Information page that gives in detail the following:

  • Attendance instructions 
  • Restroom/leaving the room, cell phone, and computer policies
  • Emergency procedures (fire, lock-downs, etc.)
  • Flexible seating explanation 
  • Behavior procedures
  • Other classroom procedures that would be important for someone to know who has never visited your classroom

The information above will be the staple items of your folder. Your sub plans will change depending on the day(s) you are absent from school.

For my daily plans, I start by typing my name, room number, and date at the top. Then I include a detailed list of our routines and goals for learning for the day. Having subbed for other teachers in my building, my main advice would be: Make sure to give enough detail so your sub isn’t left confused or with questions. However, it may not always be necessary to type a 4 page single-spaced document for 1 class period. Try to keep it concise but give the information your sub needs to achieve your plans with the students. 

When crafting my sub plans, I put the plans for each class in its own table. I include a separate section at the bottom of each class for the sub to record absent students and record notes of how the class period went. Below is an excerpt from a previous sub plan document.

Create an announcement.

Whatever LMS your district uses, create an announcement with the plans for the day so that students can access and see the plan as well.

My last piece of advice is to consider having an emergency sub plan set off to the side.

I use the Grid Method in my classroom. Should an instance occur where I need to take a day without advance warning, students can often still progress through this self-paced framework. However, things don’t always work out that nicely, as there are times we are between Grids or there are other things standing in the way.

Having an “emergency sub plan” in your file cabinet or desk can leave you prepared in an instance where you have to be absent from school at the last minute, and students are not currently working on something that is conducive to your absence. The emergency plan should contain a written out lesson plan with enough copies for students. This would only be used in an absolute emergency situation, and you may (hopefully) never need it—but it’s nice knowing it’s there.

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Diving into my 7th year of teaching, I am sure my sub-preparation practices will become even better and more effective over time. 

Even if you have already started your school year, it’s never too late to make changes to your sub folders and plans to set yourself up for success. I’d love to know some of the tips or strategies you use when preparing for a substitute. Tweet me @MissPitstick and tag #TBBlogger and #TeachBetter.

About Kari Pitstick

Kari Pitstick is a 7th grade English Language Arts teacher and track & field coach in Illinois. She’s also the Director of Digital Content for the Teach Better Team. She graduated from Illinois State University in 2015 with a bachelor’s in Middle Level Education, and American College of Education in 2018 with a master’s in Curriculum & Instruction.

She knew she wanted to teach at the middle level since she was in middle school herself. One of her main missions is to provide a safe and friendly environment for students to explore their passions as learners and as people.

Kari is an avid reader, spending most of her free time reading and writing, and she hopes to share that passion with all those around her—students and adults, alike!