What to Include in a Sub Tub for Your Substitute Plans

How to prep a sub tub for your substitute plans.

It’s the heart-dropping moment when you wake up and realize that there’s no way you can make it to class. Suddenly, you realize you have absolutely nothing prepared for a substitute.

Talk about a gut-wrenching moment that leaves you questioning whether you should just stick it out and head in any way. It’s a decision that no teacher should ever have to face because you need time off when you need it. 

So, being prepared for a substitute at any given moment will keep issues like this at bay. I know it may be at the bottom of your to-do list but I suggest you move it up a few notches so you can have peace of mind, in case of emergencies. 

{Disclaimer: Amazon affiliate links have been used in this post, but I only share items I actually use and enjoy!}

Why should you create a sub tub?

Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out what to include in your sub plans and especially, how to store it. I swear by using a sub tub! It’s a simple, yet effective way to have everything a substitute teacher needs in reach.

Sub tub using a hanging file folder bin and reading comprehension printables in green and white.

Sub plans are notes and content that help a short-term teacher figure out what to do with your class in your absence. Preparing sub plans and organizing them in a sub tub — a bin dedicated to substitute plans — in advance will give you peace of mind in times of emergencies or even planned absences. 

Your students will benefit from being able to still receive meaningful instruction in your absence. The substitute won’t have to feel unprepared or worried about what to do when they arrive. 

In the end, you’ll be setting everyone up for success.

Preparing the Sub Tub

Having a perfectly prepared sub tub means nothing if they can’t find it or navigate its contents. So, it’s important to keep it in plain sight and labeled well enough that it can’t be missed. 

Colorful hanging file folders used to hold substitute plans.

For this purpose, a hanging file folder bin works wonders. You can use hanging folders to divide your plans into subject categories.

Black internal folders with white labels to hold activities for substitute plans.

Inside, you can use regular folders to house each activity inside the files. Use labels to help your substitute navigate the contents of the sub tub. This is an effective way to have items clearly marked and available so no one is left scrambling.

Sub Tub Contents

Now, what do you include in your substitute folders? Here’s a quick list of items to use for your plans and add to your sub tub!

  • Lessons
  • Materials needed for lessons
  • Picture book
  • Examples of activities (for substitute’s reference)
  • Student copies

Activities and printables for substitute plans to be placed inside a sub tub.

Substitutes may not be familiar with the things you’re teaching so it’s important to include examples of the completed activities so they know what your expectations are. With those items, they can step in to assist students, as needed.

Another helpful way to assist substitutes is by leaving any additional notes or instructions on sticky notes inside the folders or on activities. This is helpful when you have some minor details or specific steps for each activity.

Colorful reading printables in green, pink, orange and blue for the book Truman.

Lastly, you should always have student copies printed and ready to go. I know printing copies is a bit more work on the front end but it will make this a truly seamless process when the day comes. 

Shoot for little to no prep activities to make this as stress-free as possible!

Sub Tub Supply List

The following items are not required for creating a nesting place for your substitute teacher’s plans, but they can prove helpful if you’re looking to stay organized. I’ve listed all the items included in the sub tub I created below. 

You can also find a complete clickable list with additional options on my Amazon storefront.

Truman book with reading activities and lesson plans.
  • For this sub tub, I used my Truman read-aloud unit which features one day of activities for reading, math, grammar, and science. The items I had fit perfectly inside a white file folder box.
  • If you’ll be including more items than that or you’re looking to prep for multiple days, then you may want a larger bin box.
  • Inside the bins, you can use colorful hanging file folders to organize your subject areas and make them easy to identify. 
  • Then, use interior folders to hold each individual activity inside the hanging folders for each subject.

Here are a few additional items that can make this an easier process.

  • These no-cramp scissors make prepping the materials so much easier.
  • Using Astrobrights paper will make your activities come to life!
  • A picture book to tie it all together — check out Truman by Jean Reidy, it’s my current favorite with such a fun story of friendship, bravery, and being small in a big world!

Not sure what your substitute plans should look like? Have a look at Rock the Read-Aloud: Truman! It’s a full day of lesson plans and activities for reading, grammar, math, and science.

Don’t forget what to include in your sub plans, save the image below to prep your sub tub later!

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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.


Sample a day of Rooted in Reading with these lesson plans and activities for Reading Comprehension, Vocabulary, and Grammar!