Teaching. The only profession where it’s more work to not go to work than it is to show up. I kinda thought that was a joke…until the night before my very first day with a substitute. I’m pretty sure I spent more time putting together my sub plans that night than I did writing my own lesson plans for that entire month. And if we’re being really honest here, I wasn’t smart enough to SAVE all of the notes that I left for my sub, therefore I had to re-do it again the next time I was out. And again the next time. And again the next time…

I have finally learned from my mistakes and not only have I started saving all of my documents but I’ve finally put them together into one sub friendly notebook. Since all of the important information is in one place, I’m able to just focus on lesson plans when prepping for a sub. I’m usually able to get that done in less than an hour because all I have to do is print/copy lessons and type up the directions.

Want to know how I set up the ULTIMATE sub notebook and how you can save time when putting together sub plans? Keep reading!

I use a 1″ binder and Iris project cases for my sub notebook and plans. The project cases can be found here and the binders can be found here. (These are not affiliate links.) I have tried using folders, clipping papers and writing on the table, and a “sub tub”, but I find that having one place for important information and containers for student work not only helps me while preparing my plans but it helps my sub locate everything when they arrive. 

The first thing you should have in your sub binder is a welcome letter. Mine simply greets the sub and gives a couple reminders about the class and ensuring that they read everything in the notebook before the day begins.
In my binder, directly following the welcome letter is a sheet with some information about the classroom. The very first thing that I make sure to point out to subs on this form is where to find the things they will need for the day. I also include a paragraph about not touching things in filing cabinets, closets, and my desk. While that seems like it shouldn’t be necessary, I’ve had subs go through those things and help themselves to my snacks, my coffee, and other materials/supplies that I purchase for the classroom with my own money.
This page also includes information about different areas in the room including the classroom library, book boxes, Makerspace, and classroom jobs. Make sure you add as much detail as possible! Although it will seem like overkill at first, I’ve found that the more specific you are, the less you scratch your head and think, “What in the world happened here?” when you return.
The next page is all about classroom procedures. This is one of the most important pieces of information that you can leave for a sub. I include every single procedure from our classroom on this page. When I say every single procedure, I mean every.single.procedure. This includes but is not limited to snack time, classroom management, DEAR time, getting drinks, using the bathroom, transitions, lining up, and walking in the hallway. Once again, this may seem like overkill but the more detail you provide, the easier it is for your sub to run your class like you would.
I also include a page about emergency procedures. (For confidentiality reasons, I have not included a photo of this page from my binder.) This page is so important. Your sub should have clear instructions on what to do in the event of an emergency. My emergency procedure page clearly outlines what the sub should do if there is a lockdown, fire/fire drill, or if my school needs to be evacuated. You should include these procedures as well as any other emergency procedures your school has.
Here’s a glimpse of the other sections in my sub binder. For privacy reasons, many of them have not been photographed. I use Post-It tabs to separate the sections of my binder. I prefer these over dividers because they are inexpensive and repositionable. I can easily add or take out a section if need be.
Since our school requires us to submit attendance electronically, I leave a stack of attendance sheets in one section of my binder. The sub simply pulls a page out, marks absent students then sends it to the office with a student.
Another helpful form to include in your binder is a teacher contact sheet. Choose a handful of teachers and staff members who are familiar with the way you run your classroom and would be willing to answer any questions that your sub may have. I like to include the staff members role in our school so if the sub has a question about something specific such as an IEP, they can reach out to the appropriate staff member instead of going through the list trying to find someone who can help.
A couple other helpful forms to include are a schedule of classroom support staff as well as an out of room schedule. These come in handy during the times that you forget to add these bits of info to your schedule and a random adult walks in the room or a student insists that they are supposed to be going somewhere.
Now, another incredibly important form that I was unable to photograph is the student information sheet. This acts as a cover sheet for IEP’s, 504 plans, and behavior plans. You must leave this information for your sub. Despite the fact that they are only teacher for the day, your sub is still legally responsible for following those plans and ensuring that your students needs are being met. My student information sheet not only includes a list of students with specialized plans but it also has a list of helpful students and students who need frequent check-in’s.
The feedback form section is quite possibly one of my favorites. This two sided form includes spaces for student attendance, nurse visits, student behavior, lesson reflections, and other notes. I leave a note on the first page of my notebook that asks my sub to fill this out. Substitute feedback forms are a great way to communicate the happenings of the day. My students know that this form is left for the sub every time I’m gone. They know what it looks like and I’ve found that it increases positive behavior because my students know that I’m going to be filled in on what went on while I was gone.
Now that we’ve covered the sub binder, where do the lesson plans go?!


I LOVE these project cases. I have a million of them and use them for just about everything in my classroom. One way that I use them is to store lesson plans for my sub. I trimmed down a page protector and taped it to the top of the case. Using a page protector makes it super easy to change out the subject covers if I need to.
These bad boys can hold a lot of work so I never have to worry about the assignments not fitting. When writing my sub plans, I just slip the assignments in the appropriate box with step by step directions on top. I find this to be easier than typing up the instructions on the schedule. Everything the sub needs for the assignment is inside the box (unless it’s something big and bulky and in that case, it sits on the table right next to the box).
Not only are these a super easy way to organize work for the sub to find in the morning but it makes it really easy to locate assignments that need to be graded when you return. I just make a quick note at the bottom of the directions page that asks the sub to collect the work when students are finished and return it to the box.
The last thing that I leave for my sub is a substitute teacher toolbox. I use this divided organizer from Sterilite. I fill it with Cates Cash (my classroom management tool), writing utensils, sticky notes, kindness tickets, k-cups, and some chocolate. It’s just an organized way to make sure that all of the little things that the sub may look for are right at their fingertips!
On every feedback form, my subs have commented on how organized and user friendly my plans were. It makes me happy to hear that they were able to use everything I left for them and that they were able to run my classroom just like I would if I were there! It took a lot of time to put together but it was well worth it.
 If you’d like to put together your own sub binder, GREAT NEWS! I’ve done almost all of the work for you! You can get my EDITABLE substitute teacher binder by clicking HERE!

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