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Mrs. Magnuson Is Missing! A Winning Sub Plan

By Allie Magnuson on August 27, 2010
  • Grades: PreK–K

I remember the feeling I had as a guest teacher in classrooms that had no plans or instructions. A sense of anxiety at not knowing what was expected of me kept me from doing my best teaching. I promised myself that when I became licensed, I would never let that happen to anyone who had to cover for me. Now I'm a pro at creating sub folders, and I'm going to show you how to be one, too.

0590118773_lgMiss Nelson is Missing is a great book about substitute teachers. Read it to your class before you have your own substitute.

There are several ways to go about making an informational folder or packet for your guest teachers. You could write everything by hand or print out hard copies of a Word document for a physical folder, or you could get digital and put everything the sub needs to know on the computer. You could make a basic folder or a more detailed one. Whatever your preferences, the important thing is to provide something, so that your guest teachers are not fumbling around in the dark. 

Most substitutes would agree that, if nothing else, you should at least leave a schedule and some kind of plan whether the exact lessons you had originally prepared for the day or a set of activities to take their place. The last thing a guest teacher wants to do is to guess at what you want; to come up with appropriate and well-timed activities on their own and on the fly.



Miss Bindergarten makes a great guest teacher.

9780525463962_lg Sometimes Miss Bindergarten fills in as a guest teacher for others, and sometimes she needs a guest teacher herself. In Miss Bindergarten Stays Home from Kindergarten, she gets sick and her students have to get along without her for a day.

When I know ahead of time that I'm going to be gone, I read the book and we review our rules and routines. I remind my class that they should behave just as they normally would, and that I expect them to treat the sub the same way that they treat me. I count on them to make the day run smoothly.



This post shows you a sample substitute teacher folder in both physical and digital format, so you can see a few of the available options. These examples may be too complex or too simple for your needs, and the numbers of pages and the amount of space for photos and writing is minimal. Adapt these examples to suit your own needs.

To see the digital sub folder in large, full-color book form, visit Mixbook.


Subfolderphysical01 Subfolderdigital01


Physical Folder                                                Digital Folder

1. Welcome Page. Start with a welcome page that includes your name and room number.

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Physical                                                                        Digital

The clip art I used in my physical folder was licensed from the Clip Art Gallery at Discovery Education.

2. Class Roster. Include a class list, preferably with student photos so your guest teacher can match names to faces easier and quicker.

Above and beyond: Place student photos throughout the folder, in the sections on students with health needs, etc. If you are assembling a physical folder, go ahead and print, Xerox, or develop a few copies of each child's photo to insert where needed. The subs will appreciate it more than you know.

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Physical                                                              Digital

The silhouette clip art comes from Designed to a T and the Polaroids were created with Poladroid.

3. School Personnel. Highlight key staff members, those whom it would be beneficial for your guest teachers to know by name and be able to locate. At my school, for instance, they would need to see the office manager for the room key.

Above and beyond: Add the names and locations of the other kindergarten teachers in your school, teachers in classrooms close to yours, and anyone else who could be of assistance to your guest teacher.

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Physical                                            Digital

4. Important Student Information. Something to always include in your sub folder. It is vital that anyone in charge of your class be aware of health and allergy issues and of any kids with special needs.

Above and beyond: Make note of students with behavior problems or students who use the bathroom twenty times a day.

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Physical                                                               Digital

5. Behavior Management. This one is easy. What is expected of your students and what happens when they don't comply? Your students will be more likely to respect your guest teachers and do as they are told if they know that the same rules and consequences apply.

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Physical                                                                 Digital

6. Materials. It would be frustrating for guest teachers to not be able to find anything. Be kind and point out where the basics are kept.

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Physical                                                      Digital

7. Classroom Procedures. Jot down your procedures to help your guest teachers avoid looking awkward and losing their air of authority by giving directions and signals your students don't understand.

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Physical                                                              Digital

8. Emergency Procedures. This is another necessary addition. In an emergency guest teachers need to have the information necessary to take effective action to protect your students. They especially need to know where to go and how to get there  if they have to leave the room.

Your school should have available action plans that include policies and procedures for the most common emergencies such as fires, power outages, illnesses and injuries, severe weather, and any events that could occur in your specific region or district, such as shootings, bomb threats, and lock-downs; tornadoes, earthquakes, and floods; and biological and chemical disasters.

Be responsible for what could happen in your absence by providing guest teachers with the most complete emergency information possible.

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Physical                                                   Digital

9. Schedule. List what happens throughout the day, including times. If each day of the week is different, write out each schedule.

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Physical                                                         Digital

10. School Map. If you have a big school, provide a map so your guest teacher doesn't spend all her prep time and lunch break walking the school needlessly, trying to find the lounge, office, or bathroom.


Physical                                       Digital

11. Seating Chart. Do you have your students sit in certain spots during circle time? If so, make a seating chart.

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Physical                                            Digital

12. Class Favorites. This is always a good idea in case the sub needs to fill time.

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Physical                                                   Digital

13. Dismissal. Tell your guest teachers what happens at the end of the day and how your students get home. This could potentially be the most stressful part of the day for a sub.

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Physical                                                             Digital

14. Review & Thanks! The last things you may want to consider putting in the folder are a review form and fifty cents or a dollar for the vending machine.

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Physical                                                                   Digital

Maintaining the Sub Folder

You're going to have to update the folder a few times a year to include new students and take out old ones, add new student information, edit the schedule or procedures if those have changed, put the new locations of materials if you've moved them, etc. This might influence your choice of method in making the folder, since you might not want to put in so many details if you're just going to have to change them later.

Remember, it doesn't matter if it's a little or a lot, or if it's high-tech or low-tech: what guest teachers want the most is for you to give them something to teach.

Do you make a folder for substitute teachers? If so, how do you make it and what do you put in it? Let me know in the comments.

Have a sublime weekend!

~ Allie

Comments (20)

Allie, I've always written seperate lesson plans when I've had a sub, but I've often though I should do even more to ensure (s)he has a great day. Thanks to your post, I'll be sure to provide them with just what they need.

Cami ~ It is so hard sometimes to prepare for a sub - you wonder if sometimes if it's even worth it to be out. However, having a detailed plan really helps. Thanks for reading. ~Allie

Sometimes I'm so worried about what I'm leaving for a sub. Is it enough information? Not enough? I just don't know! Thanks for the help and great info!

Sarah ~ Thank you for reading. I am glad you like the ideas. I hope you continue reading.


Thank you for all of the helpful ideas!

Susan - I am glad you enjoyed this post. I hope I inspire teachers by offering tips that are helpful. I am sure you will be a wonderful teacher. Best wishes and keep reading.


As a substitute teacher and M. Ed. student, I love when teachers leave me detailed sub plans. Usually the group of teachers that I sub for are very good at leaving me detailed plans, but now and then I take an assignment and find out that there is no seating chart or class roster, and sometimes no plans. I promise that when I get my license, I will always leave detailed plans for any guest teacher that I have. Thanks!!!

Linda ~ I am so glad you enjoyed it. I hope you continue reading. Next week I will be sharing something fun. Stay tuned.


absolutely excellent !

Joy ~ thanks for reading and sharing your ideas too. We want good subs to come back so the more we do to make them feel comfortable the better we are.


Allie, I love your sub folder suggestions. I make very detailed plans which include exactly what the sub should say. I have this on the computer and I leave blanks for objectives and teacher edition page numbers. Then when I'm out, I fill those in. I loved you idea about leaving money for the vending machine. Its just a nice little thing one can do.

Nancy ~ Thank you for your kind words. I was wondering what happens if you need a sub and you can't get one? Do the kids get a free period?

Have a great weekend!


Nancy - I appreciate your comment. I bet your folder looks pretty similar to mine.

Thanks for reading - catch me next week for something fun.


This is insane!! You are the Queen of Organization - I am so jealous. We don't even HAVE subs at my school because of budget cuts - but this is phenomenal! Maybe now that we got Race to the Top here in Mass (after compromising our wonderful standards), we will get some money for them, and I can put some of your techniques to use!

Allie, I love your digital version! I use something similar for my sub plans in a binder. Thanks for the ideas!

Nancy Jang

Wow, what an amazing digital folder! You have covered all of he bases. I know that I would love to sub in your room!

Mary ~ Thank you. Yes, I agree that sub folders have many similarities and differences but in the end, the substitutes truly appreciate them. Thank you for reading.


Brent ~ thank you. I just remember when I didn't have any plans and I never want that to happen to anyone else.


Allie,This is awesome. I just started putting my sub folder together this week. It is surprising how similar and different a sub folder is between Kindergarten and 6th grade. Thanks for the comprehensive list.

Looks like you have all bases covered! If I were a subbing for you, I would be very appreciative.

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