How to Prepare for a Sub with Simple No Prep Activities

Getting time off as a teacher can certainly be easier said than done. But I want this school year to be the year that you finally let go of the guilt and take advantage of opportunities to just take the day off. To do that, it’s important that you are always prepared for a substitute and it’s easy when you take advantage of no prep activities.

The key to getting breaks throughout the year is to “stay ready so you don’t have to get ready!” Ha! 

One of the most important things you can do for yourself at the beginning of the school year is to organize a dedicated space for your sub plans and choose independent-friendly activities for your students to complete in case you are ever away.

Here are a few ideas for preparing for a sub using no prep activities and strategic organization.

Perfect Printables for Substitute Plans

Printables will be your best friend when it’s time to prepare for a sub. And the time to prepare for a sub is all the time. You never know when you’ll wake up barely able to make it out of your bed and the last thing you need to be worrying about is lesson plans. 

That’s what makes staying ready so important. Here are a few activity recommendations that make figuring out what your students will do when they have a substitute teacher a no-brainer.

Grab and Go Math Stations

printable math stations that can be used to prepare for a sub

Math stations are the perfect activity to leave behind for a substitute, particularly when they are no prep. Because math stations tend to focus on spiraling several skills for review, you don’t have to worry so much about how they will fit into your plans for that week.

Math station printables also make for wonderful independent activities. If you include student directions, you can minimize some of the struggles that may come from your absence. 

With my no-prep math stations, we include digital files as well. If your school allows it, you could set the substitute up for success by having click-and-go digital stations available.

Here’s an easy way to store your math stations and keep them easily accessible! (Psst…there’s a free math station in there, too!)

Directed Drawings and a Book

Directed drawing of a school house and The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade picture book to pair it with.

Picture books and directed drawings make the perfect pair. Beyond that, the duo makes for a stress-free activity that substitute teachers can handle with ease. 

Simply grab a few books from your library, add a directed drawing that goes with the overall theme of the book or one of the characters, and pair them together in your sub tub (more on that later!)

You can really up the ante by using a set of directed drawings paired with writing pages! Simply leave writing prompts related to the book or lesson for students to complete with their drawings and you’ll still be able to monitor key writing skills, even in your absence.

Set yourself up for success by grabbing directed drawing bundles that include a variety of options to suit your need throughout the year.

Reading Response Pages

Reading response page for making connections paired with Basket Moon book.

While directed drawings help reinforce your lessons, using reading printables ensures students are practicing their reading comprehension skills. The use of reading response printables works great when prepping for a substitute!

Consider grabbing a bundle of reading response pages that can be pulled at any time to correspond with any book and based on the skill you need to teach at that time. 

You could choose to add this along with the directed drawing and picture book combo or have it stand on its own. 

They also work perfectly for reviewing skills you’ve already covered, which is great since you may not have time to plan for an emergency off day!

Create a Sub Tub

Once you’ve gathered easy, no-prep activities that your students can easily navigate in your absence, you’ll need a way to make it easy for the sub to grab and go.

When I was in the classroom full time, having a sub tub was the best thing I could have done for myself!

Prepare for a Sub with a sub tub basket filled with printables and books.

The sub tub is just a simple way to keep everything your substitute will need right in reach in one handy-dandy bin or folder. You can use tab file folders to house the sub plans, books, and printables that can be pulled out as needed.

Be sure to label your tub and keep it in plain view. Additionally, you can inform your fellow teacher pals of its whereabouts so they can ensure the substitute can gain access to it while you’re away.

You can see how I set up my sub tubs in more detail plus a look at a sample sub plan with these additional ideas for planning for a sub.

Keep Your Weekly Materials Organized

Organize weekly classroom lessons and materials into separate daily bins.

One of my tried and true time-saving tips for teachers gives the extra benefit of being a lifesaver in case you have to be out of school unexpectedly.

On Fridays, or some day that works best for you, go ahead and prep your materials for the week ahead. That includes having your lesson plans made, copies printed, and activities sorted.

Staying organized for the week ahead ensures you don’t feel overwhelmed at the thought of having to catch up on getting your plans together when you return to school. You can pick up where you left off.

Plus, they can be easily accessed by anyone who may need to chip in during your absence!

Start the next school year off right and go in prepared for whatever comes your way with these tips and no prep activities for planning for a substitute. You deserve it.

Save the image below to ensure you’re prepared for a sub with no prep activities!

How to prepare for a sub with no prep activities.

Hi, I'm Amy

Hey, y’all! My name is Amy Lemons and I am passionate about providing students with both engaging and effective standards-based Math and ELA lessons.


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