You wake up and it's 5 am. Stuffy nose, sore throat, hacking cough-great. You thought you could make it one more day, but you feel miserable. Now you have two choices; take all the meds you can find in the medicine cabinet and tough it out, possibly risking making yourself worse; or wake up and try to cobble together some sub plans to send over and text your teammates hoping they can make some copies for you. Neither choice is ideal.
Ah sub plans, besides grading, probably the worst nightmare of every teacher. Waking up sick with nothing lined up for kids to do. I see it all the time in memes on Instagram, comments on Facebook. "It's better to drag yourself to work sick then make sub plans."
Whenever I see this comment I am genuinely confused. When I am sick, I stay home. Period. Not because I am some miracle worker who can whip up sub plans, but because my sub plans have been made and ready to go since August. They don't change.
This post is all about setting up reusable sub plans that will actually allow kids to get some work done, will take you maybe an hour to prep one time, with some maintenance mid-year, and then you set it and forget it. Kinda like a Crock-Pot! The next time you get sick you can take a blessed break without worrying about plans. Doesn't that sound lovely?
Ingredients for Crock-Pot Sub Plans
Some of this may take awhile to gather and sort out, but let's pretend it's the week before school starts and you're doing this in August. It can be done now, wherever you are in the school year, just don't get sick yet!
Putting It All Together
Here is the link to my emergency sub plans for the sub. This the bones of the operation, and I have gotten excellent feedback from many subs saying they are very thorough and easy to follow. All of the ingredients we gathered will be put together in this format. When you click on the link it will prompt you to make a copy. Be sure to read through them one time, and take note when I say to enter your specials schedule, daily schedule, etc. Sometimes I like to print them in color and laminate them for re-use.
These will go in a binder in the front. Next should be a print out of your daily schedule, split class list, duty schedule, Go Home List, and Pull-Out schedule. These are just for reference.
I like to put all my nurse passes, buddy slips, band-aids, and Caught You Being Good tickets in a plastic pencil case with binder holes and a zipper top in the very front of the binder.
I do not usually include a class list because our school gives a current one to every sub when they check in.
Ding! Supper's Ready!
At this point you're probably thinking, "Thanks for the free file Mae, but I still don't have anything for the kids to do! Where are these amazing reusable plans?!"
Here is where I am going to tell you to hop over to TPT and put in the search box "Reusable Sub Plans" or "Emergency Sub Plans." The idea is the same for them all, so you could easily make your own, but if you are like me then we are too lazy for that! Basically kiddos need a fiction book, any fiction book will do. In the past I printed fiction books on Reading A-Z to have ready, but I got too lazy for even that. So now I just prep my kiddos and tell the class "If a sub is here use a fiction book from your Book Box with the packet." I have also found ones where kiddos use a specially created website to search for different facts. It is well worth the money, I promise!
The worksheets you will find on TPT will cover things like characters, setting, writing, word study (how many nouns in your book, verbs, etc.) Almost all use the fiction book for math and science as well (graph how many times the word "the" and "very" and "and" are in your book.) It's genius really. I like to put the packet in order of our normal schedule, so if the first thing we usually do is writing, then the first page on the packet is the writing page. I always make sure to tell the sub in my plans to model the page and pull a small group, and I give the sub name of who to pull. There is nothing worse than my IEP kiddos struggling when I'm not there!
Once you set it up and throw all the printed packets and the binder into a tub, that's it. You're done. All you ever need to do is refresh the packet. Some plans are even multi-day ones for when you have a nasty flu.
I like to include my password to GoNoodle so my kids aren't doing seat work all day (which we all know breeds misbehavior) so be sure to put in the emergency sub plans when would be a good time to take a brain break or go outside for 5 minutes.
Brenda Kovich Independent Learning Modules Grades 3-5
Clutter-Free Classroom Emergency Sub Plans Bundle Grades 1-5
Teaching Made Practical Reusable Sub Plans Grades 3-5
History Gal No Prep Sub Plans Grade 8-12 World History
I really hope this post is clear and helpful. I want all my teachers to feel confident in their sub plans so that they can actually STAY HOME when they are sick!
In my first years of teaching I realized something about this profession: I really hate grading. There, I said it! I know I am not the only one, and in the beginning I was really horrible at it. I let piles and piles of ungraded work sit around for weeks until it was Report Card time. Then I frantically took everything home and graded hour after hour, feeling more and more irritated at myself for letting it go unchecked.
I would grow even more disappointed with myself as I graded papers from weeks ago, realizing that I missed so many opportunities to help my students. I knew I had to change what I was doing...I just didn't know how.
I looked on Pinterest for help in grading, what did other teachers recommend? I found tips on reducing what gets graded. I no longer graded homework, instead I started checking for completion every morning. I stopped grading every worksheet, instead providing master copies for students to self check.
In the end I realized that while I had reduced what I graded, there was still a lag between what I taught, and the evidence for learning that students turned in. Even if I graded an assignment a week later, which was a vast improvement over weeks and weeks (or months, don't judge!), we had already moved on by then, and I lost the value of Right There Feedback. Plus, I kept noticing how surprised students were when they got their Progress Reports or Report Cards back, and I realized: they had NO CLUE where they were in their learning goals.
Finally, I decided enough was enough. I was just going to have to make time to grade student work right then and there, in the moment. This thought came to me when I ran across a blog article on Pinterest about grading tests in the moment, and I had a lightbulb come on, why couldn't I do that for everything?
Halfway through last year is when I made the change. Every Sunday I went through our math lessons for the week and made a Master Exit Ticket for each grade level with the answers filled in, and sentences explaining my thinking. I trained my second and third graders to grab a crayon when they were done and come up to my desk to check their exit ticket against the Master Copy. One star for correct answers, two stars for correct answers plus sentences explaining their work.
The effect was immediate. Students no longer rushed through their Exit Tickets, and instead spent extra time double checking and writing explanations (Second graders!!! Third graders!!!) When they came to check their work they would whoop with joy at their progress, or ask thoughtful questions about errors. "Oh, I see...I didn't add these right. Why do we have to do this step first?"
For reading we used spiral journals to create Thinking Maps (this was prior to me figuring out blank paper and structured notes worked better.) As they completed their reflections I would sit in my rocking chair with a marker to star off work. I would give feedback to each child, mentally cataloging who I would pull the next day for remediation, or extend with a challenge. Again, instant improvement in their effort, and they seemed eager to know how they did, no matter if they struggled or did well (or thought they did well, I had a number of overconfident learners.)
I have continued these practices into this school year with my fifth graders. For every whole group reading lesson I grade them as they start to finish, giving feedback in the moment. Students have stopped being surprised at the end of trimester grades, as they have seen their progress daily since August.
Here is the key to this method: only grade what is vitally important. This will obviously depend on you, and what you feel is vitally important. When I taught math and reading I only took two grades a day, math exit tickets and reading reflections for our whole group lessons. Once a month was a writing grade for a final piece, and I did completion and participation for science. That's it. The only exceptions were module tests and reading tests every few months, and I did the same thing, grade it right then and there so they could see how they did.
Now that I teach strictly reading and writing, I only take one grade a day for each class, and only for our daily whole group lessons. Everything else is participation and completion. Now I have online reading tests with Benchmark that I transfer to Google Classroom, so they see how they did the next day.
Think outside the box when it comes to grading, and give yourself and your students some slack. Unless it is mandated by your district to take a certain number of grades, I would stick to just the essentials and make it meaningful for you and your students by grading and giving feedback as students turn them in. Use that data to push students, or to pull a small group the next day.
If you try this method let me know how it works out in the comments!
Make planning for partners, small groups, and extensions a breeze using my Bell Curve Group Planner. Data informed and easily customizable for any subject and grade!
I'm Mae and I am a Master Teacher who supports third through sixth grade in all subjects, Thinking Maps trained, with a Master's Degree in Elementary Education!