You’re wrapped up in blankets with the chills and a fever. It’s time to put in for a sick day…. but is everything all set and ready to go at school? Will the day go smoothly? Should you try to drag yourself in to make sure everything is in its place?

In my case, my son has asthma. Sometimes his asthma attacks come on without notice and result in ambulance rides across the state to a children’s hospital. Usually I tried to print enough information in my daily plans, but I realized that there was so much information missing that I wished I could have just told the substitute to help make the day go more smoothly.  I knew that my substitute didn’t need ALL the background and information, but certain routines and procedures would have been super helpful for her.

As soon as I returned to work, I got busy compiling a substitute binder.

Here are the things I included in my binder for the elementary level (and a few more I’ll add when I return to teaching full time from my substitute status.)

  1. Student List– Leaving a list of your student names can help the substitute know who is supposed to be in your classroom.  I liked to leave a checklist sort of format so the substitute could jot down notes (like if a student left the room for services etc)
  2. Safety procedures– Check with your school. There is probably some sort of generic information you are supposed to leave. It’s not a bad idea to leave comments about how you handle these within your classroom.
  3. Adult contacts– It’s so helpful to leave a contact or two the teacher should go to if they have questions, as well as the extension for the nurse, secretary, principal etc.
  4. Class Schedule– Including a schedule for the day, including any special classes, is a very helpful overview and will definitely also help if your substitute needs to use your emergency plans.
  5. Services Schedule– If you have any students who receive special services, it is helpful for a substitute to have access to this information for safety reasons. If he/ she doesn’t know where a student is expected to go, it can cause confusion. It’s especially helpful to comment on whether an adult will call for or come to get the student, or if the student is expected to report to the adult’s room independently.
  6.  Basic classroom routines– Include information about how the teacher should take attendance and if they’ll need to access any login type programs throughout the day. also consider: What do student do when they come into the classroom? Are there any special transitions you use with your students? Is there a procedure if they need assistance with a student?
  7. Classroom Accommodations– Consider leaving information that will set your students up for success, particularly if the substitute is expected to follow certain protocols or provide certain accommodations. If, for example, a student benefits from sitting in a chair rather than on the floor for lessons, knowing this information can help prevent issues.
  8. Pertinent Medical Considerations–  If there are any medical issues that will require the substitute to monitor behavior etc. leave these accommodations. In fact, if a student has a medical plan, it’s a good idea to check with the nurse/ parents to get their input about information left for substitutes.
  9. Emergency Plans– This is a biggie. I have found it super useful to type up one day worth of plans that a substitute could use regardless of what day it is. Depending on how your schedule fluctuates you could either leave variations of the schedule using the same activities for different days, or you could leave plans based on subject and ask the substitute to refer to the schedule portion of your binder. For example, you could leave plans for reading time, math time, etc.
  10. Feedback form– Consider leaving a way for the substitute to leave you feedback. This can be done using a blank sheet of paper, or a more formalized form.

Remember that a substitute may not review all the information included. It may also be helpful to include a short cover page or table of contents so the substitute knows which information must be read (ie medical and safety information).

I’ve put together an editable substitute binder resource which you can add your own text to using Google Slides. If you’d like to check it out, click here!


There are also some other things to consider when writing substitute plans, read more here!