6 Tips for Writing Substitute Teacher Lesson Plans

As most of you know, for just over a year I have been a substitute teacher. In this past year, I've seen many different versions of lesson plans written for substitutes. I thought it was finally time that I put together a list of tips for writing substitute lesson plans. Think about these things the next time you go to write a lesson plan for a substitute! 

6 Tips For Writing Substitute Teacher Plans:

1. Give information about the school.
It always surprises me how few teachers actually do this. As a substitute teacher, I can be at 5 different schools in one week! It's hard to keep them all straight. I've always appreciated when the teacher left some information about the school at the top of their lesson plan. Here are some ideas of what to add about your school: 
  • Start/End Times
  • Contact Information for the Front Office
  • Nearest Bathroom Location and Where the Teachers Eat Lunch 
  • The name of a teacher that knows how your classroom runs or what subject you teach in case the substitute has questions.
2. Include specific times for everything!
I can't tell you how many times I've read through a lesson plan before school has started and I have no idea how long the teacher expects each activity to take. By not putting specific times, it makes it harder on the substitute because we don't always know how long certain tasks take with your students. Here's an example of how it should be written:
8:30 Take Attendance

8:35 Begin Morning Work
8:45 Go over Morning Work with class
Just by looking at this schedule, I know that the students usually spend 10 minutes working on morning work before the class goes over it. 

3. Be as detailed as possible.
You can never have too much detail when it comes to writing lesson plans for a substitute teacher. Using my example above where I said "go over morning work with the class", you could expand on that and say "Pick 3 students, 1 at a time have them share what answer they got on the morning work. They can come up to the front of the room and show their work under the document camera". That's a super specific example that lets the substitute know exactly how you usually go over morning work. This is nice for the substitute and for the students because we are able to keep the procedures consistent with how the students are used to doing it. 

4. Have all materials organized and in a spot that's easy to find.
I always check the teachers desk first.  If you don't have room on your desk, leave a note on the keyboard letting the substitute know where the materials are. It also helps when the teacher labels the materials! For example, if you have a specific worksheet that you mention in your lesson plans and you call it "Math Worksheet", put a sticky note on the stack of papers letting the substitute know that's the Math Worksheet pile. I've been in situations many times where I'm trying to figure out what specific worksheet the teacher is referring to because maybe he/she calls it something different then what the title on top of the worksheet says. 

5. List helpful students and students to keep an eye on. 
I LOVE when teachers do this. It doesn't matter how organized the teacher is, as a substitute I usually still have questions or need help throughout the day. It's nice to have a list of students that I can ask for guidance when I need it. I am happy knowing that I can trust that student to give me the honest answer because the teacher gave me their name. I also appreciate having a heads up on the more difficult students. :) 

6. Leave your classroom management strategies and classroom procedures. 
Of course as a substitute teacher, I have classroom management strategies that I can implement throughout the day. However, the students respond better when I use strategies that they are used to having rather then something out of the blue. This same thing goes with classroom procedures. 
Here are some things to include: 
- How do you get the students attention? 
-What do you do when a student is off task? 
-What do you do about students that are on task? Do you reward them in some way?
-How do students ask to go to the bathroom? Do they sign out or just go? 
-Are they allowed to eat or drink in the classroom? Can they go to the water fountain whenever they want? 

I hope that these tips help you when you go to write lesson plans for a substitute teacher! If you follow these tips it will not only make the day easier for the substitute but also for your students. 


  1. Definitely sounds like great advice! I've heard complaints from both teachers and subs about lesson plans, these are some great tips!

  2. As a teacher, I totally appreciate this! We often do in-house subbing and I always leave the most detailed plans, almost even like a script that anyone could pick up and just read. Subs would really appreciate this.

  3. I have friends that are teachers who sub in and they say the same thing how it's so frustrating when things aren't organized or well explained. Great tips for teachers!

  4. I used to substitute teach and one of the challenges I found was when the teacher did not leave very detailed information. It made it really hard for me to teach the class.